The History of Wandsworth Common


of Wandsworth Common

Leonora Kathleen Green (1901-1966), Crossroads from my window, 1932.

(Wandsworth Borough Collection, courtesy of Wandsworth Council)


I've loved Leonora Green's painting of the junction of Battersea Rise and Northcote Road ever since I first saw it in one or other incarnation of the Wandsworth Museum (probably the Old Court House in Garratt Lane).

But where is it now that the Museum has closed? Perhaps in the cellar beneath the old West Hill Library (which also once housed the Wandsworth Collection)?

Wherever it is, I fervently hope it (and all the other thousands and thousands of artefacts in the fabulous Wandsworth Collection) is safe, and will soon be on display again.

On Tuesday 9th May 2023, Philip Bradley will be giving a talk for the Tooting History Group on "Where is Wandsworth's Museum" (7.30pm at the United Reformed Church, Rookstone Road, SW17 9NO).

And on Friday 26th May, he'll be leading a walk on behalf of the Wandsworth Museum Action Group, as part of the Wandsworth Heritage Festival 2023. (Meet 2 p.m. outside Putney Library, 5—7 Disraeli Road, SW15 2DR.)

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Wandsworth Museum at the former West Hill Library, c.2010. This closed in 2015/6 and the Wandsworth Collection was handed over to the Battersea Arts Centre to create a "Moving Museum". In 2021, funding and other pressures caused this too to close. The Collection is currently homeless — but we hope not for much longer.

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For details of the (packed) programme of events, 20th May — 11th June, pick up a copy of the full programme at your local library, or download a pdf.

If you want to know more about the campaign to save the collection and reopen the Wandsworth Museum, email me, and I'll pass on your message.

Chronicles of Wandsworth Common — May 2023

— Leonora Green, View from my window, 1932   . . . 

— The early history of the Battersea Rise crossing   . . . 

— New hard tennis courts for London, 1923   . . . 

— Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary celebrated on and around the Common, 1935  . . . 

— Inwood v. Twilly on Wandsworth Common, with 2000 spectators, 1845  . . . 

— Twilley Street and the Twilley Asteroid  . . . 

— A Sign in the Wandsworth Heavens, 1939  . . . 

— Bowls — marbles for grown-ups, 1934  . . . 

— Wandsworth Fair, 1837...  . . . 

— A new railway station suggested for Trinity Road, 1914  . . . 

— On the Common, Broomwood Road celebrates the end of the war, 1945  . . . 

— The moving Dancing Green, 1934  . . . 

Last May's Chronicles — 2022

— Rough-and-ready index of all stories in the Chronicles so far.

Treasures of the Wandsworth Museum No.1

Leonora Kathleen Green (1901-1966), Crossroads from my window, 1932.

This scene near Clapham Junction shows the lowest point of Battersea Rise, with Northcote Rd to the right and St John's Rd to the left. It would have been well-known to the author Pamela Hansford Johnson (b.1912). Her home, at 53 Battersea Rise, is almost in view at the top of the picture.

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Here's a photographic view of the same crossroads, perhaps a few years earlier, from the other side:

Photograph of the crossroads looking north. (Date?)

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Notice there are no traffic lights. A policeman with white gloves stands "on point duty" in the middle of the road and controls by hand gestures the flow of cars, buses, cars, vans, motorbikes, bicycles, prams, people and dogs.

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[I wonder when lights were first installed? Am I right in recalling that PHJ writes about the coming of the lights in her first novel, This Bed Thy Centre (1935)? And is the original of the dismal pub she so gruellingly decribes the Northcote Tavern? Drat, I've mislaid my copy, so I can't check. Can anybody help?]

[The bus shown coming from Northcote Road is numbered 19, with the destination "Highbury Ba[rn]". The route between Highbury and Clapham Junction began in 1906, and was not extended to Tooting Bec (and sometimes beyond) until 1934, a couple of years after the painting. I only ever recall 49s going along Northcote Road, with 19s going up Battersea Rise (behind the viewer in the painting) in the direction of Emanuel School, Wandsworth Common North Side, Trinity Toad, and Tooting Bec Station. (Wikipedia: London buses route 19.]

[The white on black "TRAMS" sign is pointing towards the Falcon/St John's Hill/Lavender Hill, the nearest point for trolleybus and tram services. As I mentioned in Chronicles for July 2022>, there were plans to construct trams along Bolingbroke Grove but they came to nothing — possibly because the strip of grass opposite Battersea Cemetery, which planners might have assumed could be coopted, was protected by the 1871 Wandsworth Act.]

The pub on the right of the painting is The Northcote Tavern.

A recent photograph of the Northcote Tavern (aka The Northcote).

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In the 1881 Census, Charlie Chaplin's dad (also named Charles) is shown as a barman there and his uncle Spencer as "Manager to a Publican". (See PubWiki: Northcote Tavern).

Charles Spencer Chaplin (1889-1977), better known as Charlie Chaplin.

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Northcote Road as a street market

At the end of the nineteenth century Northcote Road became a popular street market — as it still is (though it's much posher now). When shops were built along St John's Road, the barrows were moved along to Northcote Road (which until 1890s had very few shops). Conflicts were endemic between shopkeepers and stallkeepers (costermongers).

In the 1950s, my mother frequently took me to May's stall on Northcote Road, just a few yards along from the pub. I recall they only sold potatoes. Mountains and mountains of them. Whites or King Edward's? Whites were cheaper. We were spoilt for choice.

Costermongers' carts, porters with great baskets on their heads . . . 

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I've tracked down a couple of adverts that feature in Leonora Green's painting — notice how detailed they are (even in this poor reproduction).

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Hoardings on the side of a house in Northcote Road — adverts for Ediswan light bulbs and Combes Brown Ale. I can't quite make out the other two adverts. Perhaps you can?

[Jason Hazeley was the first to suggest the poster top right was for Guinness — "Life seems brighter after Guinness" was their slogan at the time. Congratulations, Jason.

"So close, yet nowhere near", he writes. He suggests that the poster bottom right is for "Veritas Mantles and Burners". But no images have come to light yet.

[Here's a view of the back of a similar bus — notice the curving external stairs to the upper deck, with a "Buy Dunlop" advert, as in the Leonora Green painting.]

"Buy Dunlop", Punch, 1 March 1933.

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Leonora Green was perfectly placed to paint the scene. She lived at 70 Battersea Rise, with her piano-tuner/repairer father.

Leonora Green's home — 70 Battersea Rise — above what in 2020 was "Viva Styles". It was from one of these windows that she painted the crossroads.

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The crossroads in 2020.

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I would love to know more about Leonora Green, and to find more of her paintings. But it's proving very hard. I know she studied at Camberwell School of Art, and there is a suggestion that she may have been an RA (or at least exhibited at the Academy). Two marvellous still-lifes of food — from WWII, both in the Imperial War Museum — can be seen on the ArtUK website here.

Other than that, I've found very little. If you know anything more, please please let me know.

8 May 2023: David Aunsworth commented:

"Thanks for the article on the Battersea Rise painting. About 1974 I took a photo of the crooked chimney behind the Whitbread's pub, which I eventually gave to Wandsworth Heritage. It intrigued me (as to why that shape — function or decoration?), plus I may have had a new telephoto lens, or just a new pocket Rollei camera. The chimney was later removed (sigh).

I asked David for some more info. about this image:

"Regarding the photo, I have no copy now (I should have the negative, but know not where — loft probably). I hope that it is findable in Heritage's photos — I'm sure that I noticed it in the illustrations cabinets, when I worked there. I would think that it can only be under Northcote Road or Battersea Rise — unless it is under "Chimneys" (can't remember Dewey number for chimneys). It is not a great photo — just a note really. I guess the chimney shape was just a decorative flourish for the pub.

The very odd zig-zag chimney, now removed, that David Ainsworth photographed. It would be good to find this image in the Heritage Library.

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The origin and development of the Battersea Rise crossing

The Battersea Rise—Northcote Road—St John's Road crossing originated not in the meeting of roads, but where an east-west road crossed a northward-flowing river.

This road was once the main route from Kingston to Clapham and then on to London and Canterbury, and hence was called in the early 18th century the Canterbury Way. Since the late 1930s it has formed part of the zig-zaggy A205, better known (in defiance of geometry) as the South Circular. (It was somewhat supplanted in significance at the end of the 18th century century by a new turnpike road that today follows the line of St John's Hill, Lavender Hill, and Wandsworth Road.)

A river runs through it?

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the Commons almost met at the river crossing, with only a narrow isthmus separating them — as you can see in this Rocque map of c.1740:

John Rocque, mid-1700s. Wandsworth Common is to the left, Clapham Common to the right. The purple circle shows the position of the future crossroads. (Clapham Junction station is more or less where the words "The Wash" appear on the map.)

Notice the road is also a drove lane or track connecting two areas of "waste" or "heath" — Battersea West Heath (one side of Wandsworth Common) and Battersea East Heath (Clapham Common). You can tell because of the almost bird-beak-like funnels that helped Commoners herd their animals from one heath to the other.

Aerial view of the crossroads showing how St Mark's Church and infant school were built on Wandsworth Common, at the v-36M.shaped "bird-beak" entrance to a drove lane between the Commons.

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[Notice, incidentally, that the "Battersea Rise" marked on the Rocque map does not carry directly across from east to west, as it does today. At this time it denotes a zig-zag route running westward from Clapham Common, north along the west side of the lakes, crossing the Falcon Brook at the Falcon pub, then left up what is now St John's Hill past The Plough pub and on to Wandsworth.]

The stream (highlighted in blue) is the Falcon Brook (known to Anglo-Saxons as Hydaburna or Hidaburna, then Hydeburn, and more recently still as York Sewer). Towards the end of the nineteenth century this stream and the series of lakes was culverted and Northcote Road and St John's Road built on top. Not easy to imagine, is it?

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To the north, three quite large lakes (two with islands) lead into a marshy area, wittily named "The Wash" — which was notoriously pestilential. This was crossed by the "new turnpike road" between Wandsworth and London. (The famous Falcon pub was on the west side (there at least since 1733, but perhaps a lot longer).

The stream then continues northward (beneath Falcon Road) and then westward towards the Thames. Was the Falcon Brook crossed by bridges or fords?

By the 1840s, road corresponding to St John's Road has been created — the lakes have been drained and filled, and the stream re-routed a short distance to the west. (See the tithe map for Battersea.)

By 1869 the stream and lakes had been buried underground in a culvert — a fat pipe — and, over the next twenty or thirty years, Northcote Road and St John's Road constructed on top. (If you stand near the slotted sewer covers in the middle of Northcote or St John's roads, you can often hear the water rushing beneath.)

Drain cover over Falcon brook/sewer, St John's Road.

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BTW, the name "Northcote Road" appears to derive from the prominent Conservative politician Stafford Henry Northcote, though exactly why is not obvious (to me):

Stafford Henry Northcote, 1st Earl of Iddesleigh, Vanity Fair, 8 October 1870 — "He does his duty to his party, and is fortunate if it be also his duty to his country".

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South Western Star

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Daily News (London) — Tuesday 1 May 1923

New hard tennis courts open throughout London . . . 

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Fifty-Eight More Open in London Parks To-day.

There will be better facilities for lawn tennis in the London parks this season, which opens to-day. Fifty-eight new hard courts have been laid down by the L.C.C. Last year there were only 56 courts. This year there will be 114.

New courts will be found at . . . 

Battersea Park
Wandsworth Park
Tooting Common
Wandsworth Common

The registration fee for hard courts has been increased from 1s. to 2s. 6d., but the charge for playing on the black courts has been reduced from 1s 6d. to 1s. per hour.

For the admirable red rubble or green courts the charge is 1s 6d.

The rule that must players must prove residence in the county of London bas been relaxed.

[BNA: Link]

"Black courts . . .  Admirable red rubble or green courts"?

Part of the significance of this story is that it shows the London County Council spending money on popular sports at a time when private clubs were proliferating, but priced beyond the means of most local people. The LCC is finally able to improve facilities in the recently restored "Extension" area (which we now call the Cricket Field), commandeered during WWI and beyond by the Third London General Hospital. (See e.g. the Chronicles for April 2023

Tennis had become massively popular around 1900, but was generally organised ad hoc, on open ground rather than proper courts, as this photograph shows:

By 1913, the LCC had taken responsibility for formally marking out grass courts on the Common.

Neatly marked-out grass tennis courts. Detail of an aerial view of the Common (bottom right) and the wall between the Common and Emanuel School (notice, once again, Emanuel boys are playing cricket), and a corner of the RVPA's grounds (now a housing development).

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The people of Wandsworth and Battersea celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary . . . 

George V Silver Jubilee mug

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South Western Star — Friday 3 May 1935

An extraordinary range of activities throughout Battersea and Wandsworth were organised to celebrate the Royal Jubilee, including the distribution of 37,000 beakers and 7,0000 spoons sent to schools and colleges in the Borough, free cinema and zoo trips, tree-planting, and lavish celebratory meals. Battersea Town Hall was floodlit "from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. for the whole two weeks".

Flags, garlands and streamers adorned every street — none more so than Orville Road, one of Battersea's poorest streets.

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"Orville Road is exceptionally brilliant. Everybody in the road has united, with the result that that is possibly the probably the brightest side street in Battersea. Not only are flags and streamers and garlands lavishly displayed, the fronts of the houses have been brightened.

Of their own accord the men of the road have painted broad bands of red, white and blue round the doorways and the windows.

An appreciative postcard has been received from a gentlman, who signs himself "Mr X.". The children are to be given a tea in the road. "Mr X." hopes they will sing the King's favourite hymn, "Abide with me", as well as the National Anthem. They will, and will also sing "God Bless the Prince of Wales"."

A very jolly time was had by all — well, almost all (see the face of the baby in the high chair on the right)  . . . 

Orville Street celebrates the Silver Jubilee of George V.

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[For a superb account of late-Victorian Orville Road, see Keith Bailey, "Orville Road, Battersea: A Victorian Slum" — a Case Study of Charles Booth's Survey", Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society (LAMAS) Download pdf).]

At Bolingbroke Hospital, all patients were given a mug and allowed to have two friends to tea on Monday afternoon.

On Wandsworth Common, as elsewhere throughout the country, boy scouts were entrusted with a great beacon, to be lit at the top of Bellevue Road.

The Royal Jubilee in the South Western Star, 3 May 1935

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Wandsworth Programme . . . 


On Monday, May 6, the Mayor and Mayoress will attend the thanksgiving service at St Paul's Cathedral. At 10pm his worship will light the beacon at the top of Streatham Common. Similar beacons on Wandsworth Common and Tooting Bec Common will be lighted at the same time. The beacons are in charge of the boy scouts' organisations throughout the borough . . . 


Sir Henry Jackson MP will light the beacon on Wandsworth Common, opposite the "Surrey Tavern" at 10 p.m. on Monday . . .  .


[BNA: Link]

Thousands of beacons were lit on the night of 6 May 1935 — adapted from a map annotated by Cambridgeshire scouts.

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I have no idea what our Wandsworth Boys Scouts' beacon looked like, but here is a splendid cutaway illustration of the one lit by the king himself:

Illustrated London News, 4 May 1935

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Why the top of Bellevue? Well, probably because the stretch of road top of Burntwood Road and the corner of Bellevue is (almost) the highest point of the Common (c.34 metres), with views to Wimbledon to the southwest (before the houses were built on Sandgate Lane?) and London to the north.

Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle — Sunday 11 May 1845

Last month I mentioned a race advertised to take place in May between the "pedestrians" Inwood and Twilly — the latter's first professional race (that I know of). There must have been a good deal of excitement about the match, because the crowds was said to be "nearly two thousand", and "a good deal of money was laid out".

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The one mile between Robert Inwood of Tooting, Surrey, and A. Twilly of Wandsworth, came off on Monday last, on Wandsworth Common.

The men and their friends agreed to meet at the Plough Inn, according to articles, at seven o'clock in the evening, but the time running was not sent to us by the landlord of the Plough, which should have been done, that the spectators, who mustered numerously from London and other places, might not have been detained from three o'clock to seven.

Inwood, who had been in training under the care of the celebrated Robinson of Newton Moor, at Blackheath, looked in first-rate condition, but Twilly was fat and anything but up to the mark for a mile race. This made the odds in betting 2 or 3 to 1 on Inwood, which was freely offered by the knowing ones from London, but not so freely taken, although a good deal of money was laid out.

At a quarter past seven o'clock the spectators, who numbered nearly two thousand, many of whom seemed quite tired of waiting, had the pleasure of seeing the men stripped and ready for action.

The signal being given, the men were soon at work, Inwood taking the lead at a merry pace, and at the first quarter of a mile beaded his opponent by a dozen yards, and continued gaining ground fast, Twilly already seeming in great distress, and he, finding that he had not a chance, gave up at half the distance, dead beat, Inwood running in an easy winner.

Twilly's friends seemed thunderstruck at his giving up so early in the race, and many said he had not done his best to win; but this we are assured that was not the case, for he struggled to his utmost to keep going, and when he gave up he was quite black in the face.

Not to forget the supporting act:

Berry of Lambeth and Pope from the West-end, ran a race of 100 yards, for a small stake, upon the same ground, the latter receiving three yards start, which ended in a dead heat, after a well contested race.

[BNA: Link]

You may recall that last month I posed a couple of Twilley-related questions, including the whereabouts of Twilley Street:

As I'm sure you knew, Twilley Street runs on the east side of the Wandle and joins Garratt Lane — it's where you'll find the Wandsworth Royal Mail Delivery Office.

Twilley Street marked on an OS map of c.1950. (The pink dot marks the Royal Mail Office.) Completely irrelevant to this story, but see the fine collection of prefabs on nearby St George's Park.

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Does anybody know the origin of its name? There have been Twilly/Twilley families in Wandsworth for at least two centuries. The name looks as if it might be a corruption of a Huguenot name, such as "Tuilley", doesn't it. But alas none is listed on e.g. the Huguenots of Spitalfields website (whose coverage is rather broader than its name implies) — the nearest is "Tillet", which is perhaps too much of a stretch.

That said, my old friend John Jackson, who taught at Earlsfield (or Tranmere Road) School in the 1960s, recalls the longtime head teacher there, Royston C. Twilley, saying he was from local Huguenot stock.

And as for this image  . . . 

This is not 5500 Twilley. It's not even an asteroid. But you get the point.

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The asteroid (5500) Twilley, "Named 1995 Nov 07 for Royston C. Twilly (1914— )". (Johnston's Archive of Asteroids with Satallites Database.)

(Click on image to view the database entry.)

The explanation? Royston Twilley was the "inspirational teacher" behind astronomer Edward Bowell. Bowell went from Earlsfield * to Emanuel School, then University College London, the University of Paris, and on to become the principal investigator of the Lowell Observatory Near-Earth-Object Search (LONEOS).

[ * At least I think it was Earlsfield, but it is possible Royston Twilley taught at another local school (near the Wandle) before becoming head at Earlsfield. Can anybody confirm? ]

In a long career, Edward Bowell discovered 571 minor planets, the periodic comet 140P/Bowell-Skiff, and the non-periodic comet C/1980 E1. In 1981 the outer main-belt asteroid 2246 Bowell was named in his honour.

Dr. Edward "Ted" Bowell (Emeritus), Lowell Observatory.

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There's a marvellous interview with him on the Lowell Observatory website in which he talks about his influences growing up in our part of south London. Here's an extract:

My father was what in Britain is known as a schoolkeeper. That might be called a caretaker in the U.S., but it was a more glorified job than that, because he had to take care of buildings and grounds and hiring and firing of cleaners and that sort of thing. Anyway, the connection with astronomy is that I lived in what were called schoolkeepers’ houses until my father died in 1959 when I was fifteen.

That meant that when all the kids went home, I had the run of these huge playgrounds. One of the things I used them for was looking at the night sky when everyone had disappeared. There were dark places in these very large playgrounds.

To go on from there, my father bought me a one-inch telescope when I was twelve, and the first thing I looked at was Jupiter, and I saw its moons, and I did exactly what Galileo did in 1610 or whenever it was, and followed the moons, without knowing anything about astronomy, but I could see from night to night that things had changed. I didn’t figure out that the moons were in orbit or anything advanced like that, but I could see things changing. And that, in a sense, began a fascination with planetary astronomy, which has been my field, and is still my main interest to this day, even in retirement. [00:04:35]

Teachers, yes, I had one teacher who was absolutely seminal in my development. His name was Roy Twilley, T-W-I-L-L-E-Y, and I first came across him when I was about eight years old. He had an idea that little kids ought to learn how to do original research. And in my case, what that consisted of, was to walk the whole length of a short river, a tributary to the Thames, called the Wandle, W-A-N-D-L-E.

That river was nine miles long, and we went as a group after class, one evening per week, and we stopped along the way and looked in public libraries at the libraries’ archives, and we made notes and so on. And one of the most astonishing things I remember from that episode was to learn that in the 1700s there were 200 water mills along this nine-mile stretch of river. Now, that’s one every fifty yards or something, so I don’t know how they did that. But the even more incredible thing was that there were still a couple of them operating in the 1950s, and so we visited those. One of them was a tannery, and the other one was a paper mill.

But anyway, I mention all of that which has nothing, apparently, to do with astronomy, but it does have something to do with learning how to learn, how to find out original facts that you wouldn’t readily find in books or walking around the street. And so that inculcated into me an idea of how you go about finding out something.

[The interview continues with his time at Emanuel.]

[Lowell Observatory: Edward "Ted" Bowell.]

Isn't that wonderful?

Cover of Royston Twilley and Michael Wilks,The River Wandle: A guide and handbook, 1974 (with photographs by John Jackson).

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And while we're talking about space stuff . . . 

South Western Star — Friday 26 May 1939


0n Sunday night many people, especially those walking across Wandsworth Common and other open spaces, saw the meteor which flashed across the sky about nine o'clock on Sunday night. It was green with yellow and white sparks, and was shrouded in what looked like a mist. It has been stated that the meteor was probably about 50 to 100 miles from the earth.

[BNA: Link]

Bowls — marbles for grown-ups . . . 

South Western Star — Friday 11 May 1934

The Bowling Green, Wandsworth Common. Unknown date, but after 1930.

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It is not a thing we should like everybody to know, but it is a fact none the less — that the bowling green at Wandsworth Common is a very pleasant place. And why shouldn't that be known to everybody?

Well, we believe it would cause pain to many excellent and charitable people in the provinces if they knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Battersea and Wandsworth children have grassy spaces to romp on, beautiful trees to look at and even to climb (when the keeper is not about), and clumps of flowery furze among which to play hide and seek.

Those people in the provinces have been brought up to believe that children born and bred in London's industrial areas never see a blade of grass and never have the delight of gazing on opening buds in springtime. And it gives those good people much joy to try and better the lot of the poor children in London...

All the same, the bowling green at Wandsworth Common is an extremely pleasant place. particularly when the sun is shining, and the lower borders are blooming and the birds are warbling, and when rival teams of bowlers are strenuously striving for cups and medals.

Among the many people who enjoy the pleasantness of the bowling green at Wandsworth Common is Mr. W. S. Sanders, ex-M.P. for North Battersea, and prospective candidate for the further representation of that desirable constituency.

We do not know if Mr. Sanders plays bowls — a form of marbles for grown-ups — but he watched the games on Saturday with peculiar interest. And while he watched he talked, which a man who has taken up politics may do with ease to himself and with pleasure, if not with profit, to those who listen. ...

[BNA: Link]

Wandsworth Fair, 1831  . . . 

The title page of Pierce Egan's Book of Sports and Mirror of Life, 1832 shows the traditional "climbing a greasy pole for a leg of mutton".

"We ought to take care . . .  to preserve our NATIONAL HABITS, MANNERS and CUSTOMS. From the union of these has arisen our national spirit, our love of indepence, of justice and of our country".

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Weekly True Sun — Sunday 21 May 1837

What a wonderful first sentence (and indeed the rest) . . . 


Wednesday, Wandsworth, decidedly the best suburban fair west of the metropolis, terminated, after three days' duration, during which it was visited by thousands of the middling and lower classes of society, without, we are happy to say, the slightest infringement upon the rural games being attempted by any would-be overbearing aristocracy; and it was gratifying to find that the nobility, gentry, and magistracy resident within the vicinity promoted the manifold amusements, to the great delight of the visitors, who, relieved from the cares and fatigue of their several occupations, determined to have a "jollification," being impressed with the idea that relaxation at times was positively necessary for the body as well as the mind, in order to create fresh vigour upon return to business.

There was scarcely a landlord either in Battersea, Wandsworth, or Putney, but sent forth his programme of amusements for the entertainment of the town and country folks.

A variety of prizes were given by the hosts of the several inns and taverns for donkey racing, climbing a greasy pole for a leg of mutton, jumping in sacks, running for a shift, gingling matches, single-stick, wrestling, &c., and the candidates in general were very numerous, and their exertions likewise produced considerable fun and laughter.

There were aquatic sports on "Old Father Thames," and the numerous rowing and sailing matches afforded plenty of life on the water.

Pierce Egan's Old Rustic Sports — rowing races on the Thames at Red House, Battersea, 1827.

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In the fair there were a large number of eating and drinking booths, and the edibles and potables were disposed of with a rapidity that would have astonished the renowned "Dando" *, had he been present. The hall rooms, dancing booths, or "hops," as they are technically termed, were crowded almost to suffocation; but, nevertheless, they were fair specimens of good nature, pleasure, and happiness.

It is true that at each assembly a master of the ceremonies attended from the metropolis, to arrange the dances and keep good order; but the fact was, there was nothing like ceremony about it. Pride was out of the question; every man was as good as his neighbour, and the female portion of the company, the delicate votaries of Terpsichore, were all alive and merry on the " fantastic toe!"

The assemblies generally commenced with quadrilles and terminated with country dances; and there was no time nor room for criticism respecting the steps — every one did his best, and hops, skips, and jumps passed unnoticed. There were a number of theatrical shows, and on this occasion "the tag-rag children of Thalia, Melpomene's poor mob," mustered strongly, and great were their endeavours "to astonish the natives."

A branch of the renowned "Muster" Richardson's show, in which were the united companies of the late hero of Bartlemy and Scowton, shone conspicuous, and some — idea may be formed of the celerity of the movements of "the heroes of the' — sock and buskin, " when it is stated that in many of these practical theatres a five-act tragedy, or melodrama, in which three murders were perpetrated, and as many ghosts in blue, green, end red fire made their appearance, and vanished through vampire traps, together with a comic song, a terrific broadsword combat, and a pantomime, was flayed in the short space of twenty minutes by Shrewsbury clock.

The equestrian and tight and slack-rope performances were good.

There were also Jim Crows, conjurors, fire-eaters, learned pigs, wild Indians, white-haired infants, and fat boys in abundance.

Such were the humorous features displayed at this rustic fete at Wandsworth. It was all happiness; everybody appeared pleased and satisfied, and not the slightest disorder occurred.

[BNA: Link]

[* Edward Dando (c.1803 — 28 August 1832), born Southwark — infamous for his voracious appetite. He would order and eat to excess at food stalls and inns, then reveal that he had no money to pay. He was particularly fond of oysters. He once ate 25 dozen (300) of them at a sitting, and would have eaten more but his ruse was discovered.

Dando put up a spirited defence of his actions:

I refuse to starve in a land of plenty. Instead I shall follow the example of my betters by running into debt without having the means of paying. Why, some men live in great extravagance and luxury, owe money and cheat their creditors, yet they are still considered respectable and honest. I only run into debt to satisfy the craving of hunger, and yet I am despised and beaten.

You will not be surprised to read that his life was soon cut short. He is said to ave succumbed from cholera (which appropriately enough is spread by water) during the first British epidemic. Read the Wikipedia article about "Edward Dando", and AllThingsGeorgian, "Dando: the celebrated gormandizing oyster eater" — both really good.]

Alexander Adriaenssen, "Still Life with Oysters", 1630s (Web Gallery of Art, public domain).

(Click on image to enlarge)

A new railway station is suggested for Trinity Road . . .  if one is not forthcoming, there are fears that a bus service down Earlsfield Road would cause the houses to fall down . . . 

South Western Star — Friday 22 May 1914



The hon. secretary reported that since the last meeting he had had a letter from the general manager of the London and South Western Railway, stating that the company had carefully considered the association's proposal of a station at Wandsworth Common, near Trinity road, but were unable to adopt the suggestion.

Mr. Robertson thought that the association should persist. Five hundred people had signed the petition for a station, and if each one contributed a shilling the £25 might act as an inducement to the company to open a station.

Mr. Thomas said that a station would cost at least £1000...

Mr. Plumridge remarked that the company might be informed that if a station were not established the residents in and near Trinity road would consider the advisability of asking the motor bus companies for a service.

Mn Robertson: If the buses are to come down Earlsfield road I, for one, shall oppose it, especially if my house falls down . . . 

Happy evening on the Common — Broomwood Road celebrates the end of the war in Europe . . . 

South Western Star — Friday 25 May 1945

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(Click on image to enlarge)


Broomwood Road's Celebrations

The Mayor and Mayoress were present for nearly an hour at a party on Saturday given to about 40 children of Broomwood-road. Owing to the traffic which uses the road the party was held on Wandsworth Common.

On arriving the Mayoress was presented with bouquet of tea roses, which, she said were her favourite flowers. They were given to her by six-year-old Joyce Runacres.

The highlight of the tea, which included sandwiches, pastries. jellies, blancmanges, and trifles was a large iced "victory" cake with an iced "V" motto on top.

After tea there were races for money prizes. The small tots enjoyed themselves on a rocking horse lent by Mrs. Lawrence.

As soon as it was dark enough came the event for which every boy and girl had been waiting expectantly — a firework display given by Mr. Lillistone.

The organisers of the party were Mesdames Runacres and Murphy, and Mr. F. Griffiths, assisted by Mesdames Runacres, jun, Griffiths, Dagley, Lawrence and Brown. Miss Runacres, and Messrs. Dagley and Lawrence.

[BNA: Link]

Other local celebrations (pdf).

A Dancing Green for Wandsworth Common.

In our ongoing quest to locate the elusive Routh/Baskerville bandstand, take a look at this . . . 

South Western Star — Friday 27 May 1921

The Dancing Green "at the rear of houses in Baskerville road" should move to "south of Routh Road . . . more remote from private residences", South Western Star, 27 May 1921

(Click on image to enlarge)


At the meeting of Wandsworth Borough Council on Wednesday the Cemeteries Committe reported that on April 22 the Mayor, with Councillor Robinson and Alderman Buchanan, met the chairman of the Parks Committee of the County Council, accompanied by Councillor Cooper Rawson and other members of the County Council, on the portion of Wandsworth Common at the rear of houses in Baskerville road which had been selected by the County Council as a site for a dancing green and bandstand.

Representatives of the residents in neighbourhood who petitioned against the proposal were also present.

After prolonged discussion it was tentatively arranged that as no other suitable ground could be available as a dancing green this season and as the preparations made by the County Council were practically complete, the site selected should be utilised for the purpose during the ensuing summer, but that in the meantime the County Council should take steps with a view to the dancing facilities being transferred next season to another portion of the common lying to the south of Routh-road and more remote from private residences.

Second thoughts prevailed with the County Council. A dancing green remote from houses has been provided.

There was no discusson.

[BNA: Link]

It appears to imply that in 1921 the dancing green (and bandstand?) were situated "at the rear of houses in Baskerville Road" (where it seriously vexed some residents) — probably where the children's playground is now. But that it was expected that it should soon be relocated "south of Routh Road". Did it move, and if so when? Possibly to a spot a couple of hundred yards away, near the Routh Road/Baskerville Road passage, where some older residents remember it was at last until sometime in the 1950s?

Coming soon — an annotated transcription of John Buckmaster et al's 1862 "Beating of the Bounds" of Battersea Parish.

(Click on the pic to find out more.)

There's encouraging talk about a pilot walk that could be tried out this summer with a view to organising a larger scale event next Spring. If you want to know more, let me know.

Some matters arising from May 2023's Chronicles . . . 

(Click on image to see May's Chrnicles)

Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments, queries, and further info.

After writing about Leonora Green's fabulous painting of the crossroads of Battersea Rise, Northcote Road and St John's Hill, I came across a video of flooding at this very spot — to be expected, of course, because the sewer pipe that carries the Falconbrook runs just a few feet beneath, and St John's Road was once a chain of ponds. Perhaps it's only a matter of time and it will be so again?

Tweet by David Savizon, 26 July 2021, as seen in Cyril Richert's admirable Clapham Junction Action Group blog. CR comments, "With climate change, are we taking enough notice of flooding zones?" Definitely worth subscribing to Clapham Junction Insider.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Leonora Kathleen Green (1901-1966), Crossroads from my window, 1932.

(Wandsworth Borough Collection, courtesy of Wandsworth Council)

More on the adverts . . . 

I had identified a couple of the adverts on the hoarding (right) — Combe's Brown Ale and Ediswan electric lamps — but couldn't quite make out the other two. I asked for suggestions . . . 

(Click on image to enlarge)

Hoardings on the side of a house in Northcote Road — adverts for Ediswan light bulbs and Combes Brown Ale.

Speedy Jason Hazeley was the first — the poster top right was for Guinness: "Life seems brighter after Guinness". But there were others who knew their 1930s Guinness adverts including Barbara Sanders, Fred Pearce, Stephen Midlane and my daughter, Rebekah. Cheers to you all.

"So close, yet nowhere near", wrote Jason about this version of the Guinness ad. He also suggested that the poster bottom right is for "Veritas Mantles and Burners". But no images have yet to come to light.

I was also curious about the "Buy DU . . . " at the back of the bus. Here's a view of the rear of a similar bus — notice the curving external stairs to the upper deck, with a "Buy Dunlop" advert, as in the Leonora Green painting.

"Buy Dunlop", Punch, 1 March 1933.

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David Ainsworth recalled photographing the curious chimney in the 1970s (he donated the image to the Heritage Library):

The very odd zig-zag chimney, now removed, that David Ainsworth photographed.

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"Thanks for the article on the Battersea Rise painting. About 1974 I took a photo of the crooked chimney behind the Whitbread's pub, which I eventually gave to Wandsworth Heritage. It intrigued me (as to why that shape — function or decoration?), plus I may have had a new telephoto lens, or just a new pocket Rollei camera. The chimney was later removed (sigh).

I asked David for some more info. about this image:

"Regarding the photo, I have no copy now (I should have the negative, but know not where — loft probably). I hope that it is findable in Heritage's photos — I'm sure that I noticed it in the illustrations cabinets, when I worked there. I would think that it can only be under Northcote Road or Battersea Rise — unless it is under "Chimneys" (can't remember Dewey number for chimneys). It is not a great photo — just a note really. I guess the chimney shape was just a decorative flourish for the pub.

It would be good to find his photograph.

Shortly after sending out last May's Chronicles I followed up with a (rather long) piece on John Buckmaster et al's perambulation of Battersea Parish in 1862: Beating the Bounds, 1862.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Stephen Midlane sent some superb photographs he had taken of Battersea boundary markers from Wix's Lane (at the top of Clapham Common) to Nightingale Lane. I hope to post these properly soon; but in the meanwhile, here are two:

Boundary posts on Clapham Common. Photographs by Stephen Midlane — for which many thanks.

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Definitely a case for some TLC.

Slaughter on Bellevue Road . . . 

I've mentioned abattoirs on Bellevue a couple of times in recent months. Stephen, who has been working on the soon-to-be-premiered video of reminiscences of local people, emailed to say that two interviewees had mentioned them:

Michael Taylor [born 1940]:

[Mr Miller] was a butcher in what is now (pause)  . . .  Chez Bruce restaurant and at the back in the little alleyway that goes round there he had a slaughterhouse which I don't remember him using but he did have grazing rights for sheep on Wandsworth Common, and when people started arguing he didn't, he borrowed some sheep and kept them up there for one night, on Wandsworth Common.

It was about six sheep he had. And being a schoolchild I went to look at these sheep. [laughs]"

[What an interesting story. Strictly, the 1871 Wandsworth Common Act put an end to all "grazing rights", including presumably those previously enjoyed by the Millers and the Roughs. However, at least for a while, ratepayers could pay to graze their animals. Here is the tariff published in June 1872.]

Dora Littlechild [born 1928]:

"I remember that the butcher used to graze their sheep on the common and they were killed there in Wiseton Road and chopped up in the abattoir there."

As Norma Barwis recalled, in the 1950s there were at least three butchers (in the sense of sellers of meat) on Bellevue; and there was at least one other just round the corner in Trinity Road. She wonders whether some sheep were penned on the Common to recover from the stress of being brought to London to be butchered.

The animals may well have been butchered on the premises, but were they actually slaughtered there too? It is generally supposed that they were, but I've never been so sure.

[The Survey of London: Battersea (two amazing volumes, 49 and 50, 2013) refers to an abattoir on Althorp Road but does not say where. I have yet to find any evidence for this (unless they meant Wiseton Road).

Until now I've been rather sceptical about these abattoirs. (See, for example, George Miller's attempt in the early 1880s to site an abattoir at 16 Bellevue Road, and Charles Newbury's proposed slaughterhouse for Wiseton Road, approved by the Metropolitan Board of Works in August 1879 (provided "that a trellis-work screen, of a height of at least three feet, be constructed and placed on the top of the whole of the boundary-wall in Wiseton-road").]

I had assumed that all would-be abattoir-builders had ultimately been denied planning permission. After all, as early as 1872 the MBW Committee "had before them a Memorial from some of the inhabitants of Wiseton-road, protesting against the Slaughterhouse within a few yards of their residences." Surely their voices were heard? Surely the addition of a mere trellis along the wall would not have satisfied local residents?

I was wrong. (Well, partly wrong.)

The slaughterhouse on the corner of Bellevue and Wiseton Road

Here is an advert from 1906, which implies there definitely was a slaughterhouse near the corner of Wiseton Road and Bellevue — where Sainsbury's is today. This would seem to be the one Dora recalls. (Though some sources say it closed in 1915, well before she was born.)

Notice also the reference to a terrace of three houses on Wiseton Road, probably partly concealing the slaughter-house.

Daily News — Saturday 16 June 1906

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WANDSWORTH COMMON (facing the Commmon)

Three Freehold Houses and Shops, Slaughterhouse, and Stabling. 27, 28 and 29 Bellevue road, Trinity Road, let partly on lease, producing £160 per annum.


2, 4, and 6 Wiseton-road. Bellevue-road, producing £92 per annum.

[BNA: Link.]

Bellevue Road and the area nearby on a mid-1890s OS map. The green line is the (then-) boundary between Battersea and Wandsworth, which appears to have gone through 23 Bellevue ("The White Lodge").

Att that time the two boroughs had different policies towards private slaughterhouses. Significantly, Wandsworth was more permissive.

(Click on image to enlarge)

But however many private slaughterhouses there were, it was only a matter of time before they would disappear altogether.

From 1828 until 1899, the slaughterhouse reform movement campaigned vigorously to abolish private slaughterhouses in London in favour of public abattoirs. Private slaughterhouses were typically small facilities that were owned and operated by independent butchers and located behind or beneath a retail meat shop. Public abattoirs were large municipally owned facilities that included a slaughter hall, a lairage to house animals prior to slaughter, facilities for processing livestock by-products and, by the turn of the century, refrigerated storage for fresh meat.

[Ian Maclachlan, "A bloody offal nuisance: the persistence of private slaughterhouses in nineteenth-century London", Urban History, 34, 2 (2007).]

"In February 1882, Dunedin sailed from Port Chalmers New Zealand with 4,331 mutton, 598 lamb and 22 pig carcasses, 246 kegs of butter, and hare, pheasant, turkey, chicken and 2,226 sheep tongues and arrived in London after sailing 98 days with its cargo still frozen. After meeting all costs, the NZALC company made a £4,700 profit from the voyage." (Wikipedia: Reefer Ship).

(Click on image to enlarge)

There may even have been a significant difference between the top of Bellevue (which is/was in Wandsworth), and the bottom (Battersea). Battersea prided itself on having very few private slaughterhouses, with the intention to speedily get rid of them altogether; Wandsworth seems to have been more indulgent (after all, much of the Wandle was lined with any number of "offensive trades"). That may be why the Wiseton Road/Bellevue slaughterhouse persisted well into the twentieth century.

Offensive trades between Garratt lane and the Wandle, Medical Officer of Health's Report, 1907 [Wellcome . . .  ]

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In 1904 Battersea Council reported there were only seven premises in the whole of their jurisdiction that were licensed as slaughterhouses. The Medical Officer of Health's Report listed two each on St John's Hill, York Road, and Battersea Park Road, and one on Falcon Road.

In short, this implies that animals could not have been slaughtered in the Millers' butchers shop next to the Hope pub during most of the twentieth century.

What happened to the slaughterhouse site?

When the slaughterhouse on the corner of Wiseton and Bellevue was closed, the part of the site facing Bellevue was eventually redeveloped as a Westminster bank (rebranded "NatWest" at the end of the 1960s).

But when? Some sources say 1915, but although this might be true of the slaughterhouse the new bank building itself looks c.1930 though I could be wrong). Or did the slaughterhouse continue, er, slaughtering behind the bank? The terrace of three houses on Wiseton Road (2.4.6) continued to be inhabited. And, as we shall see, some of the slaughterhouse building and stables may have been repurposed.

Have a look round for yourself: Google Streetview — The corner of Bellevue and Wiseton Road.

Sainsbury's Local on the corner of Wiseton and Bellevue Roads. The building looks like a bank, because that's what it once was. The bank was built on the site of a slaughterhouse.

When the bank closed, a succession of restaurants took over (including Est Est Est and Piccolino), one of which [which? Can anyone remember?] added the impressive glass structure on the side that gave diners a wonderful view over the Common (now largely obscured by a old-map-frieze of Bellevue over the lower third of the windows).

One of the restaurants (Est est Est? Piccolino?) that inhabited the bank building before Sainsbury's arrived. This photo suggests just how impressive the glass box was.

(Click on image to enlarge)

I recall that everyone was amazed by the innovative use of immense seamless glass panels to create an external conservatory projecting forward from the window arches of the old exterior walls. (This remains there today in the Sainsbury incarnation, but with nothing like the same visual impact. This is largely because the bottom metre or so of glass is now covered by an old map of part of Bellevue.)

The glassed-in area created a fine area for diners to see out over Bellevue and the Common, and for outsiders to see in. As a result, when it opened [date?] you had to book weeks in advance (yes, really) to get a table in the window.

Sadly, the company made the mistake of handing out wax crayons, which meant the rather fine stone surfaces, so recently cleaned, were soon covered in a thick waxy murky scrawl up to the height of about 2 metres. I was told that this layer proved incredibly difficult even for specialist cleaners to deal with.

To the left of the building fronting on Wiseton Road is an easily overlooked but rather grand doorway (presumably leading to the flats above?). The name "Bank House" recalls its origins as a Westminster Bank (rebranded NatWest in the late 1960s). (Photo: PB.)

(Click on image to enlarge)

So when did the slaughter-house close? When was the bank built? I have a record of the Westminster Bank there in 1935, but it could be older than that (some sources say 1915, which I rather doubt). Bellevue Parade (opposite), which is in a fairly similar style, was built 1928-29. More research is needed.

Here is the building immediately next door to Sainsbury's. I won't write about this modernist development now (mainly because I know nothing whatsoever about it), but I've included this photo because it's clearly part of the history of the re-development of the old slaughter-house site:

30B Bellevue (although it is situated entirely on Wiseton Road). Photographed in 2022 (Google Streetview).

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Let's look at what has happened to 2, 4, 6 Wiseton Road.

Let's go back in time, with a series of photographs:

June 2023. Notice the new upper floor. (Photos: PB.)

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The same houses last year (2022):

2021. (Photo: Google Streetview.)

And 2009:

By 2009, nos. 2 and 4 had already been been combined. I wonder when, and how the windows and doors were originally configured. (Photo: Google Streetview.)

(Click on image to enlarge)

Now back to 2023 . . . 

What could this be in the garden at the rear of 2 Wiseton Road?

(Click on image to enlarge)

Surely it can't be the slaughterhouse, can it?

Any idea what whose initials these are? Or indeed what the initials are — WCF? WGF?

(Click on image to enlarge)

6 June 2023 — Jason Hazeley ruminated on this and related questions:

I’ve been thinking about that cartouche on the wall of the (very oddly shaped) outbuilding at 2 Wiseton Road . . . 

I think it reads (left to right) WCF.

If I’m right, the W is one with a loop in the middle – not unlike in Walt Disney’s signature. It’s possible I’m wrong, and that the C is a G, although I tend to think it’s a C with a small uptick serif on its terminal.

I started to wonder what WCF might stand for. And immediately alighted upon The Worshipful Company of . . .  Farriers? Fletchers? Farmers? Fishmongers? Well, all of them (like any livery company) has its own coat of arms, so the idea that a simple cartouche with the initials on it would take its place is rather fanciful.

And then, of course, I bumped head first into the notion that WC could stand for Wandsworth Common. And felt rather stupid.

A cartouche like that would, I think, be something a small commercial outfit might commission. (Although why it would adorn a slaughterhouse is anyone’s guess.)

Unless the history of the place is documented, it might be worth thinking about the way the building is designed. That window suggests it needed lots of light. And it suggests that the place was, at least in part, double height (i.e. one storey in a two-storey space).

I don’t know anything about the anatomy of a slaughterhouse, but I imagine it needed fairly substantial rails to hang carcasses from so they could be rendered. Could that account for its height?

This is almost entirely speculation, of course. And I’m no historian. But I know you don’t get anywhere without thinking this stuff out.

[PB: I completely agree about the shape/size/structure of the building in the yard — it certainly looks right for a slaughterhouse in which potentially very large animals had to be suspended to be bled/slaughtered/butchered etc. And a little more light than usual would certainly have been helpful for people armed with great meat cleavers.

A slaughterhouse scene by Lovis Corinth, painted c.1905. The scene depicted is in Germany, but I imagine practices in small private abattoirs were similar throughout western Europe at this time.

(The USA had already largely gone over to slaughtering animals on an industrial scale — see e.g. Upton Sinclair's cite>The Jungle (1906).)

(Click on image to enlarge)

As for the initials, I've assumed the large "C" might be the first owner's surname?

I've looked in the 1891 Census, but the butcher's name was William White. (Of course he might have been the manager, rather than the owner/builder/proprietor. Or the original owner may have sold up by 1891.)

A propos your interesting suggestion about the Worshipful Company of Farriers, in the 1891 Census no. 2 Wiseton was indeed a farrier (no. 4 was a carpenter, and no. 6 a County Court Clerk).

Of course this could just be chance. But it does rise the question whether this particular structure might have been a farrier's workshop. (I must declare an interest: my paternal grandfather was, for much of his life, a farrier, including during WWI.)

Farriers with bellows and furnace. Notice the arched window, as in the Wiseton structure. Complete chance? (I have no further info. about this painting, but I'm looking for some.)

(Click on image to enlarge)

One among many curious things is that the building plots on Wiseton and adjacent streets — they were laid out in the 1860s — the narrowest width possible to qualify owners for a vote — 16 feet. Some builders/developers bought two or more adjacent plots and built larger houses, but 2, 4, 6 appear to have been simple 16-footers. (See the Survey of London: Battersea, chapter on "The Deep South".)

Aerial view of the (possible) slaughterhouse in 2020.

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And today . . . 

No. 2 Wiseton Road is currently (June 2023) on the market for £6.25 million with a number of estate agents, including Savills, Hamptons, and Rampton Baseley (which describes it as "Wiseton House").

Each agent is distributing an illustrated sale brochure (pdf) of great interest. Check their websites.

There's also an interesting speeded-up video walk around the house at London Property Tours, with the promise of a "full commentated walkthrough . . .  coming soon". I very much look forward to it.

I was intending to continue this page with a discussion of "cow-houses" on Wiseton Road, but I thought better of it. That will have to wait. I hope you can bear the suspense . . . 

June 2023's Chronicles [coming soon]

Send me an email if you enjoyed this post, or want to comment on something you've seen or read on the site, or would like to know more — or just want to be kept in touch.

Philip Boys ("HistoryBoys")


I've made a rough-and-ready index of all stories in the Chronicles so far.

Or click on the links to the individual months below.

Plus there's a SEARCH box at the top of this page, and here:

 Back to the top of the page . . . 

June 2023

May 2023

"Some matters arising from May 2023's Chronicles

April 2023

March 2023

February 2023

January 2023

December 2022

November 2022

October 2022

September 2022

August 2022

July 2022

June 2022

May 2022

April 2022

March 2022

February 2022

January 2022

December 2021

November 2021

October 2021

September 2021

August 2021

July 2021

June 2021

Incidentally, a couple of years ago I made a short video (my first) from Edwardian postcards and photographs of the lake, set to music by Claude Debussy, which you can view here. Utterly self-indulgent.

HistoryBoys | Magic Lantern Show #1 | The Lake, Wandsworth Common . . .  also known as the Dog Pond, the Long Pond, or just 'the Pond'.

And here's one on the Three-Island Pond:

HistoryBoys | Magic Lantern Show #? | The Three-Island Pond

 Back to the top of this page . . . 

Send me an email if you enjoyed this post, or want to comment on something you've seen or read on the site, or would like to know more — or just want to be kept in touch.

Philip Boys ("HistoryBoys")