The History of Wandsworth Common


of Wandsworth Common



November 2023 contents:

— "Pitches for the playing of football, hockey, and rugby netball at the London County Council parks and open spaces will be fully marked out by the council's staff free of charge", 1913  . . . 

— Girls (from Clapham County School?) playing hockey near Bolingbroke Grove, c 1910  . . . 

— The Royal Masonic School for Girls, 1852   . . . 

— The Peabody estate, 1934   . . . 

— Heritage-washing  . . . 

— Ballooning from Wandsworth Gasworks, c.1900  . . . 

— Remembering local people who died in WWI and WWII  . . . 

— Oscar Wilde recollects his humiliation on Clapham Junction Station, 13 November 1895  . . . 

— "Fine Cell Work: Designer Charlene Mullen brings her signature style to the iconic Wandsworth prison. Complete with escape rope and ‘getaway’ helicopter this intricately embroidered and truly unique design is a focal point for any space."  . . . 

— Outrage continues over the destruction of gorse and trees, the planting and mowing of grass, and the erection of fences  . . . 

— Engraving of the "Windmill" and RVPA, 1932  . . . 

— Cyclist thrown from his bike by runaway horse, 1897  . . . 

— David Bromwich's poem "Wandsworth Common" published fifty years ago this month, 1973  . . . 

— Young girl assaulted when out with her governess. Her furious father writes to the South Western Star, 1904.  . . . 

— Cholera deaths in a tent on Wandsworth Common, 1866  . . . 

— Wiseton Road cows at fault, 1922  . . . 

— Calls for the 5-acre "Railway Enclosure Piece" to be returned to the Common, 1892  . . . 

— Pedestrianism— Double v. Moore [fracas], 1849  . . . 

— St James's Drive: A Victorian postbox is sited on the Common, but only after much debate.  . . . 

— November 2022 stories  . . . 

— November 2021 stories  . . . 

I have a bit of a thing about the shaping and re-shaping of Wandsworth Common to meet the insatiable demands of sport (almost always those played by young men). You may have noticed.

This includes the disciplining of the greensward through the marking out of pitches.

Here, we have the announcement by the London County Council of their intention to paint lines not just for lawn tennis (a gender-mixed sport which they had undertaken at least since 1913) but for other sports too — football, hockey and rugby-netball.

The Sportsman — Thursday 6 November 1913

On or after Saturday next all reserved pitches for the playing of football, hockey, rugby netball at the London County Council parks and open spaces will be fully marked out by the council's staff free of charge, as is already done in the case of other games, such as lawn tennis.

[BNA: Link]

If you're not familiar with the fascinating (and wholly homegrown) sport of "rugby netball" have a look at some notes I wrote in my Chronicles for February 2023:

— Rugby-Netball  . . . 

And on tennis, see e.g. May 2023's Chronicles:

— Tennis . . 

But here I'm going to take off at a few tangents to tangents starting with the presence of hockey in the list. I've ever seen it played on the Common. But it certainly was in the early twentieth century.

Girls playing hockey near Bolingbroke Grove. Unknown date [c.1910?].

(Card House 17513. Loobey Collection, Wandsworth Heritage Service.)

Local historian Cathy Rowntree and I have been musing about this image for some time. We initially wondered if it might be Clapham County Girls School, on Broomwood Road (1909-1991). Cathy, who is the archivist for the school, thinks this is unlikely because it was surely closer to walk to Clapham Common (which is where she remembers playing in the 1950s).

However, she did send an early postcard of girls playing on Clapham Common; but were they from Clapham County School?

School-girls playing hockey on Clapham Common, 1909-1914? The girls seem to be dressed in much the same way as in the Wandsworth Common image. So are they both Clapham County Girls, or another school entirely?

(Image courtesy Cathy Rowntree. I'd very much like to get a clearer scan of this card.)

(Click on image to enlarge)

At first glance, I thought I knew your Hockey picture, but when I searched it out, I realised the difference, in that mine says Clapham Common. I think I might have purchased it from Ron Elam and on the reverse is written in biro (not printed) 1909 — 1914.

They are very similar in terms of longer skirts, long plaits etc., but on your one there is what might be the Three Island Pond in the background and on mine the buildings to the right are taller.

The Clapham County building in Broomwood Road was opened in 1909, with girls who had originally come from Battersea Polytechnic, but in the interim they were accommodated in two of the larger houses on Clapham Common Northside — Clarence House from 1904 and Woodlands from 1906 as numbers on roll increased. It would have been logical to play games on Clapham Common. Both houses have now been demolished.

When the Broomwood building opened, the land between the school & Alfriston Road was empty and it had been hoped that this land could be acquired for a sports field. However, funds were not available & hockey continued on one or other of the commons.

Clapham County School for Girls — Tennis and Hockey teams, 1928-1929.

[Image courtesy Cathy Rowntree.]

(Click on image to enlarge)

Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of sports in action, but plenty of the teams being posed, such as these from 1928/9. By this time the gym slips were considerably shorter, but legs were still carefully covered. There was plenty of room in the playground to the rear of the building for netball and tennis courts to be marked out, as in my time (1958-65). We still went up to Clapham Common for hockey (sometimes with an audience of undesirables — the teacher had been known to chase them off) and when older we walked to the tennis courts on Wandsworth Common.

Before the war, these courts had also been used by Honeywell Girls when they attended up to the age of 14. CCS had a playing field at The Maples, Clapham Common Southside until 1958, when the land was taken for the building of Marianne Thornton School.

[Email, CR to PB, 09-09-2022.]

Although they look as though come from much the same period, Cathy's Clapham Common postcard is numbered 4162, but Wandsworth Common's is 17513.

(Click on image to enlarge)

[On the not-unreasonable assumption that cards were numbered chronologically, could we not find other Card House cards with postmarks that would help to narrow the date down? (And of course help date all Card House postcards.)

But if so, why such a big jump between the numbers of the Wandsworth Common (17513) and Clapham Common (4162) pictures, since they look much the same date? And I have another Card House card, numbered 4316, that was posted in 1926, which seems too late. Hmm... Perhaps the numbering system was not chronological after all. Definitely more research needed.]

But if not Clapham County Girls, then who?

I've since wondered whether they are in fact from the Royal Masonic School for Girls, an older establishment which also had little space for field games. The school faced a triangular part of the Common, but was only a few hundred yards away from the playing fields.

The Royal Masonic School for Girls moved here from Somer's Town, St Pancras, in 1852. At this time, there was no Clapham Junction station — only the misleadingly named "Clapham Common station" a couple of hundred yards away.

For many decades only a footbridge crossed the lines. I wrote about this here.

The school may have lost some land on its western side because of the cutting of the Crystal Palace branch of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (the "Brighton Line") — opened June 1854.

Aerial view of the Royal Masonic School for Girls, 1930.

Notice St John's Hill and Clapham Junction Station on the left, with just a hint of Arding and Hobbs at the top.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Just as the school had moved from crowded Somer's Town, St Pancras, to leafy Wandsworth Common in the 1850s, so it was transplanted to even more spacious grounds in Rickmansworth, Herts, in 1926. (And who can blame them?)

The Royal Masonic School for Girls, Rickmansworth, Herts.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Some resources and links:

— Wikipedia: The Royal Masonic School for Girls.)

— RMS For Girls: Home Page.

— Daily life of the 19th Century Pupil at the Royal Masonic School for Girls (pdf). A charming and well-illustrated account (unknown origin and date).

— Dermot Jones, "The Royal Masonic School for Girls —1852-1934", Wandsworth Historian no.89, 2010 (Wandsworth Historical Society).

The Peabody Estate

The Peabody Trust (founded 1862) built an estate on the site in 1934.

[There seem to be very few photographs of the estate, which is odd. If you have any, please let me know.

I'm sure some smaller buildings once part of the RMSG remained even after the Peabody buildings were constructed — a gatehouse and walls? They don't seem to be here now. When did they disappear?]

Here is a photograph taken in the middle of the Second World War of the central area turned over to Dig for Victory allotments. The estate was enclosed by a high wall and some of the blocks surround a square — in a sense, the blocks are turning their back to the railway and surrounding houses to create a protective space that enhances a sense of community (or, depending on your point of view, increases public surveillance).

(Click on image to enlarge)

The uniform, rather austere and spread-out blocks have since been demolished one by one, with new buildings replacing and adding to them — nearly doubling the number of flats but much diminishing the spaces in between.

Aerial view of the new Peabody estate — artist's impression, 2021.]

(Click on image to enlarge)

For the recent history of the redevelopment of the Peabody estate, see the excellent articles written by Cyril Richert for the Clapham Junction Action Group, which you can see here.

The Peabody Trust has written about the redevelopment, e.g. here. The article starts:

In 1934 we bought the site, formerly home to the Royal Masonic School, for £57,000 and built 353 homes across 13 blocks. The blocks were modernised in the 1970s and in 2012 planning permission was given to fully regenerate the site in three phases.


The 1930s homes no longer meet modern living standards – small rooms, inconvenient layouts, damp and condensation were just some of the problems experienced in the old estate. After extensive consultation with residents and the wider community, we began an ambitious regeneration project that put residents at the heart of the new development.

The regeneration of St John's Hill into Burridge Gardens involves replacing the original 351 homes with 599 new homes with balconies or gardens, as well as a new community centre, commercial space and an extra care scheme. Around 10% of the homes will be wheelchair accessible.

54% of the new homes will be affordable and there will be more social rent housing than there was on the old estate. The blocks will also be more energy-efficient with solar panels and a district heating system. Existing Peabody residents living at St John’s Hill are able to move to into the new homes.

Why Burridge Gardens?

William Burridge owned the site during the late 18th and early 19th century when it was a market garden providing fruit, vegetables and flowers for London. One of these crops was lavender which is where Lavender Hill gets its name (this was still grown up until the 1840s).


The 1930s estate included a high perimeter wall and inward-looking blocks. This excluded the surrounding community and contributed to antisocial behaviour.

Our design removes the perimeter wall and creates routes through the estate to encourage connections with the wider community. The new homes are designed in an Edwardian style to fit in with the surrounding area.

[Peabody: About St John's.]

[Heritage-washing? I must try to find out more about this chap Burridge, said to have been a local market gardener. I've recently noticed several examples of new developments harking back to what was on the site well before the present, often skipping one or more (less "heritage"-worthy) stages in between.]

(Click on image to enlarge)

For example, the appalling blocks between Smugglers Way [incidentally, why "Smugglers"?] and the Thames near Wandsworth Town station (opposite the Dump) were built on the site of a B&Q DIY superstore. But the information panels somehow fail to mention that — referring instead to earlier examples of Wandsworth's glorious past, including the Gas Works (from which balloon flights often set off) and market gardens. I MUST go down there again and take some photos.]

The balloon Vivienne III ascending from Wandsworth Gas Works. The date is uncertain: Wandsworth Borough Photos says 27 November 1906, the London Picture Archive gives 1898.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Remembrance Day, 2023

"This weekend, as the nation remembers its war dead, please pause to think of nearly 250 Old Emanuels, and several staff, who lost their lives in both World Wars and 1700 in total who served their country. "

Here is a link to a fine article recently written by Tony Jones, archivist and librarian at Emanuel School. His study focuses on the Old Emanuel First XV of the 1938/39 season, most of whom had very recently left school, and the fates of some of the players.

(Click on image to enlarge)

In 2020, Tony wrote an account of Geoffrey Cholerton Smith (1897—1917), who died at the Third Battle of Ypres (also known as Passchendaele), in Flanders. Geoffrey lived at 2 Honeywell Road (he was baptised at St Michael's, on Bolingbroke Grove), then Magdalen Road.

Geoffrey Cholerton Smith (inset right) and fellow-members of the Emanuel First Eleven, 1913, from Tony Jones's 2020 article.

(Photo courtesy Emanuel School.)

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"On 31 July 1917, the opening of the Third Battle of Ypres, the weather was treacherous for observation due to low lying cloud and rain. Having to fly particularly low due to the poor conditions, Geoffrey and his pilot were wounded when hit by ground machinegun fire whilst above German lines at Messines . . .  Geoffrey died of gunshot wounds to the chest and is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. Geoffrey’s pilot also lost his life.

(Click on image to enlarge)

See also, in previous editions of these Chronicles:

— Remembering Eddie Fisher ["Sir Edmund Tintacks"](1899—1916). In 1905 Eddie was living at 8 Dents Road, and in 1911 at 8 Loxley Road.

— Edward Thomas (1878—1917 ). Edward grew up near Wandsworth Common— first at Wakehurst Road, then Shelgate Road. At the time of his death at Arras, his parents were living on the corner of Rusham Road and Sudbrooke Road. His wife, Helen, had lived with her parents on Patten Road.

— Bernard Holloway (1888—1915) grew up in Burntwood Grange. His family were responsible for building most of the houses in the area enclose by Lyford Road, Magdalen Road, Ellerton Road, and Burntwood Lane.

Bernard, who played first-class cricket for Sussex, can also be found, along with many other local men who died in the First Wold War, on the fine Rood Screen at St Mary Magdalene Church, Trinity Road (within sight of his home). I strongly encourage you to read their biographies on the SMM website.

To help locate people who might have lived near you, Stephen Midlane and I have listed the names on the Rood Screen, with their addresses, where known. Follow the links to the SMM biographies.

The altar and rood screen at St Mary Magdalene Church, Trinity Road.

(Click on image to enlarge)

[See also War Memorials Online: St Mary Magdalene, Trinity Road.]

You may also be interested in my article on the Bolingbroke Grove-based sculptor Thomas Rudge, who invented a mechanical hand to help ""every soldier who has had the misfortune to be maimed." He was responsible for many fine memorials after the First World War, including St Mark's, Battersea Rise:

Thomas Rudge's WWI memorial at St Mark's Battersea Rise, installed 1920. The church must have been in sight of his workshop.

(Click on image to enlarge)

[See also War Memorials Online: St Mark's Church, Battersea.]

In time, I would like to add information about other local memorials, including St Anne's Church, Wandsworth. Others?

Does St Michael's, Bolingbroke Grove, have a memorial? If so, it appears not to be listed in War Memorials Online. There are some small images of its interior on the Geograph website, but none shows a memorial.]

Oscar Wilde recollects his humiliation on Clapham Junction Station, 13 November 1895 . . . 

Rainbow plaque commemorating Oscar Wilde at Clapham Junction Station.

[Source: London Remembers Plaque: Oscar Wilde — Clapham Junction.]

(Click on image to enlarge)

[I'm puzzled. My copy of De Profundis, which I have quoted from below, says November 13th, yet the plaque says 20 November, a week later.]

[Wikipedia: Link.]

De Profundis (Oscar Wilde's letter written "from the depths" in 1897, published posthumously 1905).

Everything about my tragedy has been hideous, mean, repellent, lacking in style; our very dress makes us grotesque. We are the zanies of sorrow. We are clowns whose hearts are broken. We are specially designed to appeal to the sense of humour.

On November 13th, 1895, I was brought down here from London. From two o’clock till half-past two on that day I had to stand on the centre platform of Clapham Junction in convict dress, and handcuffed, for the world to look at. I had been taken out of the hospital ward without a moment’s notice being given to me. Of all possible objects I was the most grotesque.

When people saw me they laughed. Each train as it came up swelled the audience. Nothing could exceed their amusement. That was, of course, before they knew who I was. As soon as they had been informed they laughed still more. For half an hour I stood there in the grey November rain surrounded by a jeering mob.

For a year after that was done to me I wept every day at the same hour and for the same space of time. That is not such a tragic thing as possibly it sounds to you. To those who are in prison tears are a part of every day’s experience. A day in prison on which one does not weep is a day on which one’s heart is hard, not a day on which one’s heart is happy.

 — "George from Ireland" has filmed a short talk on Oscar Wilde at Clapham Junction in front of the plaque.

 — Wikipedia: Rainbow Plaque.

 —  The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain: Kit Heyam: Rainbow Plaques: Making Queer History Visible.

 —  Mayor of London: Mayor announces new rainbow plaques to celebrate London’s LGBTQI+ communities (June 2023).

Wandsworth Prison Cushion by Charlene Mullen, —175.

"Designer Charlene Mullen brings her signature style to the iconic Wandsworth prison. Complete with escape rope and ‘getaway’ helicopter this intricately embroidered and truly unique design is a focal point for any space.".

(Click on image to enlarge)

"Fine Cell Work trains prisoners and prison leavers in high-quality needlework skills, and then supports and pays them to create beautiful handmade products, designed by world renowned artists. These luxury products are sold to the public, designers, artists, and heritage organisations, many of whom commission bespoke pieces.".

Outrage continues over the destruction of gorse and trees, the flattening of the lands, and the erection of fences, 1925

Daily News (London) — Thursday 12 November 1925

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Vandalism in the Parks.

LONDON takes a legitimate pride in its parks and open spaces, but the habit of fencing off certain portions of the common land is developing into a nuisance.

I believe I am right in saying that when the parks were taken over by the L.C.C. the Act of Parliament laid it down that no part of the land intended for the public was to be enclosed.

To the annoyance of thousands of people in south-west London sections of the parks and commons have been fenced in to such an extent that it is only possible to walk on the footpaths.

Wandsworth Common is one of the chief sufferers. Not only have large portions of the Common been fenced round, but the natural beauties have been laid waste. Lovely gorse bushes have been destroyed and trees cut down.

Protests have been raised against this vandalism on the part of the L.C.C.

[BNA: Link]

(Click on image to enlarge)

Daily News (London) — Tuesday 17 November 1925


Sir, I fully endorse "Newsman's" remarks in regard to the fencing in of Wandsworth Common. The pleasing undulations, dotted with red and white hawthorn, which made an especially beautiful picture in the spring, have been ruthlessly cleared.

The Common, which I always understood was an open space in which the public might ramble at will, is now a series of level fields intersected by a few narrow footpaths fenced in on either side.

G. HIPKINS. Wandsworth Common.

[BNA: Link]

The "Windmill", 18 November 1932

[Info. to be added.]

(Click on image to enlarge)

[Source?: Link.]

Cyclist thrown from his bike by runaway horse, 1897 . . . .

Stamford Mercury — Friday 12 November 1897

Serious Bicycle Accident

On Monday, while a man named Selwood, living in the New Kent-road, was riding his bicycle along Trinity-road. Wandsworth Common, he was thrown from his machine by a runaway horse, the rider having lost complete control of the animal. When picked up Selwood was found to have sustained concussion of the spine and injury to his ribs and side. After being medically treated he was removed to his home.

[BNA: Link]

David Bromwich's poem "Wandsworth Common", published fifty years ago this month (November 1973) . . . .

Wandsworth Common

Geese in the pond are drifting, five
Angelic couples lie at rest
In scattered intervals. Above
A kite skips from its line by chance:
Walk by there slightly apart lest
      You stop short, hearing an absence.

This is the first verse. You can read the whole poem on the invaluable Poetry Foundation website.

[Incidentally, I'm puzzled about the phrase "five angelic couples". Swans seen as angels, yes, but Canada Geese? But if swans, surely there were never as many as five couples on the lake — and now, of course there are none.]

Young girl assaulted when out with her governess. Her father writes to the South Western Star, 1904.

"I hope this letter will be read by the culprit, and if so, he may thank his lucky stars the father did not catch him, or he would now be either in hospital or the Battersea Mortuary.

I am, Dear Mr. Editor, yours truly


South Western Star — Friday 11 November 1904

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To the Star:

Will you permit me to encroach upon the valuable space in your widely read paper, to bring before its readers a growing danger.

Last Saturday my little girl, aged swim was out with her governess and her younger sister for a run with her hoop, and when on Wandsworth Common, decided to run round the bushes. Upon doing so, she was stopped by a lad, who threw her down and assaulted her.

She cried out out and he immediately covered her mouth with his dirty hand leaving marks on it.

Having completed his dastardly act, he thanked her, and ran away.

The poor, frightened and injured little child returned to her governess, crying and saying what had happened.

The L.C.C. keeper was at once informed and replied that it was not the first complaint he had had of a similar nature, and it was impossible on Saturdays, when the Common was so crowded with children, for the few keepers present, to be where they were needed.

I have written to the London County Council to ask them for extra officers on Saturdays and so prevent other parents having their helpless little ones outraged by these rising young hooligans.

I hope this letter will be read by the culprit, and if so, he may thank his lucky stars the father did not catch him, or he would now be either in hospital or the Battersea Mortuary

I am, Dear Mr. Editor, yours truly


[BNA: Link]

Cholera deaths in a tent on Wandsworth Common, 1866.

There is much to unpack in this short newspaper clipping, but for the moment I'll just transcribe it. Perhaps readers might like to comment?

South London Press — Saturday 17 November 1866

Gypsy Life as it is.

On Saturday, Abraham Smith (12), whose feet were naked, and who appeared destitute of underclothing, and Edward Cherry (13), both living in the gipsy encampment near the Wandsworth Railway Station, were brought up on remand charged with soliciting alms off foot passengers on Wandsworth-common . . . 

(Click on image to enlarge)

In answer to questions, Police-constable Smith, who took the prisoners into custody, said he had made inquiries about them.

He went to the tent in which Cherry lived, and found his sister in it with a child, which was “stiff” from cholera. There was a man in the tent, also suffering from cholera. Prisoner had father, but not a mother. The father had four children, and they all lived and slept in the tent

In the case of the other boy he found 10 persons, consisting of two families, all sleeping in one small tent. There was piece of canvas in the tent used to separate the families, but it was full of holes.

Mr. Dayman: How do they get their living?

Constable: my making few pegs and selling them.

The father of Cherry came forward and stated that he was employed on the sewer works, and that he was obliged to live in the tent, he was unable to obtain lodgings.

Mr. Dayman said there were great complaints about little boys, who, under the pretence of sweeping crossings, made it a means of begging, and they had become quite a nuisance to the inhabitants. He would have to send some of those children to reformatory, and make an order upon the parents to contribute towards their maintenance, if the nuisance continued.

He told the father of Cherry that it would be better to send his children to school than for them to go out sweeping crossings.

Smith's mother said if his worship would let her boy go this time she would send him to school.

Mr. Dayman remarked that time for boys to to school was when they were young. It was their only opportunity, for when they grew older they would expected to earn their own living. Prisoners were then discharged with caution.

[BNA: Link]

Wiseton Road cows at fault . . . .

South Western Star — Friday 17 November 1922

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Before Mr. Marshall at the South Western Police Court on Friday Herbert Twilley, 17 Wiseton-road, Wandsworth Common, was summoned by Wandsworth Borough Council for selling milk which was 7 per cent. deficient in fat. Walter Lucas, roundsman, of the same address, was summoned with respect to the sale.

Twilley admitted the offence.

Mr. B. Ward. prosecuting, stated that if Twilley took the responsibility he would not proceed against the man Lucas.

Twilley agreed.

Mr. Ward added that the deficiency of fat not large there was nothing else against Twilley.

Twilley said the milk came from own cows. He asked Wandsworth Borough Council to take a sample from the cows, but they replied that they could not; he most ask Battersea Borough Council. He asked them and the sample was found to be deficient in fat.

Mr. Ward remarked that defendant's statement was probably true. Cows which were kept in an a shed were likely to give milk deficient in fat unless they were very well fed.

Mr. Marshall dismissed the summons on payment of 14s 6d costs He remarked that defendant would not be treated so leniently if it occurred again.

[BNA: Link]

You may recall that the name "Twilley" or "Twilly" has cropped up a number of times before in these Chronicles:

— Arthur Twilley's first race . . . 

— Twilley Street and the Twilley asteroid.

— See also May 2023's Chronicles on Wiseton Road abattoir and nearby cowhouse.

Calls for the 5-acre "Railway Enclosure Piece" to be returned to the Common, 1892 . . . "

A snip at just £7500.

For me, one of the most interesting parts of the history of Wandsworth Common is how different the Common would have looked if other decisions had been made in the past. How some areas were saved and others lost — and in a few cases lost and then "restored".

The best example of restoration is the Cricket Pitch, once called the Extension, which had once been part of the grounds of the Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylum for Girls, but had for some years been farmed by the Neal family. (This is roughly area "1c" in the Wandsworth Common Protection Society's map "Wandsworth Common as it was and is (below).)]

Part of the yellow area "3" has also been restored as the "Prison Banks". (I discussed their origin and development as part of Neal's Nursery here.)

But around the same time there was a move to incorporate another area of open land — about 5 acres — on the other side/to the east of Wandsworth Common Station. This is the area over which Mayford and Ravenslea Roads now run  . . . 

here is the area shown on  . . .  map

"Wandsworth Common as it was and is", c.1889.

This map was created by the Conservators and the Wandsworth Common Protection Society c.1889 (i.e. just before the Common was handed over to the Metropolitan Board of Works). The coloured areas as a whole show the the extent of the Common in living memory.

The pink areas have since been sold and built upon, mostly post-1850. The yellow areas are, as yet, open, but privately owned. Hence they are not part of the Common. These could be returned to the Common.

The "Railway extension" in question is the yellow area "4" on the original map.

Bedbug ha ha no no but they live tracks bedbug bite doesn't I don't know what it is but it isn't a big hug bite that I feel pretty convinced

This was land purchased [date?] by Commons-campaigner James Anderson Rose (who lived in the next house north of Fernside) from the London and South Western Railway. Having excavated its gravel (leaving a lake behind), and using it for a while as a coal depot (you can see the railway sidings on some maps), by this time the company had no further use for the land. Anderson Rose expected the land he'd bought would be returned to the Common after his death.

[I've written something a little more detailed about James Anderson Rose and his relationship with James McNeill Whistler here].

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Stanford, 1891

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South Western Star — Saturday 12 November 1892

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The enlargement of Wandsworth Common by the throwing into the "Railway Enclosure Piece," which originally formed part of the Common, is a very desirable object and one to which I hope the Vestry will extend the most sympathetic consideration. £7,500 is the sum required and the committee hope to get £1,000 from the Battersea Vestry, £1,000 from the Wandsworth Board of Works, half the purchase money from the London County Council, and the remainder by public subscription.

Everything which tends to make the locality more attractive pays in the long run, and a thousand pounds expended in this will find its way back again in rates largely increased by the fact that there are few empty houses in the parish.

Moreover, the value of property increases and the rateable value in proportion. It pays to have open spaces and attractive commons, and if only from that point of view the project is worth supporting.

[BNA: Link]

London Evening Standard — Friday 18 November 1892


At the Board of Works for the Wandsworth District, Mr. B. Wise presiding, the clerk (Mr. H.G. Hills) reported the receipt of a letter from the secretary of the Wandsworth Common Protection Association in favour of the acquisition of the "railway enclosure piece" (adjoining Wandsworth common Railway-station), with the view to its restoration to the common, stating that the price asked for the five acres by the trustees of the late Mr. Anderson Rose is £7,500. The matter was referred to the General Purposes Committee for consideration and report.

[BNA: Link]

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper — Sunday 20 November 1892.

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A movement has been set on foot, which has for its object the acquisition and incorporation with Wandsworth common of five acres of lind adjoining Wandsworth Common raiway-station, which is now in posession of the trustees of the late Mr. Anderson Rose.

The ground in question was originally part of the common, but formed a portion of that which was statutorily acquired by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway company when constructing their line to Victoria.

Not being necesssary for the purposes of the line it was sold, and Mr. Anderson Rose became the purchaser, that gentleman having declared on many occasions that he bought it up in order to save it from being built upon.

His trustees are now willing to sell the five aeres for the sum of £7,500, of which the Battersea vestry are asked to contribute £1,000, Wandsworth vestry a like sum, and the County council £3,750. Battersea vestry have sent the matter to a committee, and the decision of the other bodies is awaited wvith interest.

[BNA: Link.]

O4, 1895, 60-inches to the mile.
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As we shall see next month, the sum of £7500, although modest, was not acceptable to the representatives of local democracy. And before too long...

Stanford, 1905

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[I've just realised that I partly covered this story before, in December 2022.]

"The match to walk three miles, for £5 a side, between F. Double and L. Moore (both of London), the former giving 10 yards start, came off on Monday last, on Wandsworth Common, but appears it ended very unsatisfactorily . . .  Double's party took down a number of roughs to make sure of a win.

Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle — Sunday 18 November 1849.

(Click on image to enlarge)


The match to walk three miles, for £5 a side, between F. Double and L. Moore (both of London), the former giving 10 yards start, came off on Monday last, on Wandsworth Common, but appears it ended very unsatisfactorily.

Moore, it is said, led for upwards of two miles, but was compelled to give up the contest at that distance, through a number of roughs surrounding him and not allowing him to go any farther; therefore Double went ahead and came in alone.

We have received a vast number of letters concerning this disgraceful affair, and it appears that Double's party took down a number of roughs to make sure of a win, if not to bring it to a wrangle.

One fellow, a pugilist, is mentioned as being the foremost of the gang, one of whom struck Mr Smith, Moore's backer, a severe blow on the the face, and another person got his shoulder dislocated, being knocked under a cab.

We have, however, received the following:

Mr Editor: Being appointed referee in Moore and Double'a walking match, I have to state that Double won, after a short contest, at two miles and a quarter, when Moore gave in completely exhausted. Double putting on his coat and completing the distance (three miles) easily, in a few seconds under 26 1/2 minutes.

Yours, &c, Thomas Pearson, 16, Bermondsey New-road

[BNA: Link]

St James's Drive: A Victorian postbox is sited on the Common, but only after much debate, 1892

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South Western Star — Saturday 26 November 1892

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The Works Committee brought up a report stating that they had received a letter from Mr. H. De la Hooke, Clerk to the Landon County Council, stating that the Post Office authorities had applied for permission to place a pillar letter-box on Wandsworth Common near St James's-road.

On the 14th September last the committee recommended that a similar application of the district postmaster should not be conceded on account of the narrowness of the footway, and were of opinion that a more suitable position for the box would be by the side of the paved foot—path crossing the Common.

They therefore recommended that the Council be informed accordingly.

The recommendation was adopted.

[BNA: Link]

And while we're here, what about this?

Boundary posts photographed in 2023. Only three remain of the five. Perhaps there were even more once?

Aren't the posts listed? Find and reference.
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The Google image clearly shows there are three posts or bollards (left), but an earlier photograph shows five:

Boundary posts photographed in 1978. At that time there were five posts, all standing proud. Now there are just three, looking rather sad. Where are the other two? Should we not show more respect towards our sacred relics?

You may also recall the fate of some of the posts marking the Battersea-Wandsworth parish boundary:

Battersea Parish boundary post on Clapham Common, erected 1874.

[Photograph by Stephen Midlane, 2023 — thanks, Stephen!.]

(Click on image to enlarge)

Much more on boundaries and perambulations, here . . .  .

November 2022 stories

— The Man Who Eats Grass, 1939

— Clive Branson, radical Battersea artist

— Shepherd fined for driving sheep to Wandsworth Common after 10 in the morning, 1920

— The death of Edward Archer, 1826

— The "primitive wildness" of Metropolitan Commons under threat, 1863

— Women Munition-Makers at Battersea Polytechnic, 1916

— Edward William Mountford, local architect

— A Bridge for Wandsworth, 1863

— Boys begging on Wandsworth Common, and cholera, 1866

— "Dr Livingstone, I presume . . .  " 1871

— Armistice Day, 1920

— "Pincher", a black terrier, lost. One guinea reward.1822

— Mayhem in Battersea Cemetery, 1873

— Grimm views of Wandsworth Common and Battersea Rise in the 1770s

— Walter Besant and the Black Sea's Killer Pike   . . . 

— A bizarre death at "Wandsworth Common" station, 1849

— "Dig for Victory" competition, 1942

— Fog and ice, 1920

— Photographs by Lewis More O'Ferrall, 2022

and more . . . 

November 2021 stories

— New Wandsworth Station closes after 11 years, 1869

— Cricket — Wandsworth Gentlemen triumph against the MCC on Wandsworth Common, "with not a wicket down", 1828

— "They hate trees and everything that is beautiful" — John Buckmaster, 1866

— The Battersea Tangle

— Arthur Rackham

— "London going out of Town or The March of Bricks & Mortar!", a satirical print by George Cruikshank, 1829.

— Strange visitor [a Bustard] shot on Wandsworth Common, 1846

— Shooting sparrows, 1850

— A soldier shoots a pet dog on Wandsworth Common, then flees, 1860

— Death of a grave-digger, 1894

— Henry Leonard Meyer, one of the greatest bird illustrators of the nineteenth century, buried in Battersea Rise Cemetery,

— Chartists rage against "inclosure": "The poor of this country do not possess so many privileges, that they can afford to be patiently robbed of them . . . here the rosy-cheeked, chubby little children may freely inhale the breath of Heaven."

— Remembering the life and death of Eddie Fisher ["Sir Edmund Tintacks"], who lived on Loxley Road and was a pupil at Emanuel School, 1916.

— Young boys remanded for begging at Wandsworth Railway Station, 1866

— Death of Conservator James Du Buisson, 1879

— Plea to repair the Heathfield Ground cricket pitch, but faces "shallow and puerile" objections from local footballers, 1875

— John Buckmaster to give a lecture on Cookery at the Assembly Room, Wandsworth, 1874

— Homeless woman accused of indecent exposure on the Common refused permission to be kept prison while the appeal is being decided, 1861

— In Moscow, the Prince of Wales is entertained by a "company of some forty gipsies . . .  who sit as unconcerned before the Royal party [as] if they had been encamped on Wandsworth Common", 1866

— Calls for local Conservators to hand control of Wandsworth Common over to the Metropolitan Board of Works, 1886

— Man recognises his dead animal —"These are the claws of my goose", 1834

— Call in House of the Commons for a great road to be built connecting Hampstead and Wandsworth Common.

— Thomas Hardy, recently moved to 1 Arundel Terrace, Trinity Road, is often troubled at night, 1878

SO many more stories still to tell. But that's all for now, folks.

If you would like to receive occasional notifications of new Chronicles, let me know.

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

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

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")

Chronicles, talks, videos etc so far . . . 

New videos from The Friends of Wandsworth Common

In October, I gave two talks on pioneering local photographers to/for the Friends of Wandsworth Common. As usual, they were filmed by the wonderful John Crossland — thanks, John! You should be able to view the videos on the Friends website.

On Tuesday 24th October, at Naturescope, Chris Allies and I talked about the amazing Battersea photographer Paul Martin, and his partnership with Harry Dorrett at their studio facing their Common on Bellevue Road ("Athol House", no.16).

Talk given to/for The Friends of Wandsworth Common, October 2023, at Naturescope.

Paul Martin, "Surrey Tavern (on Trinity Road), Wandsworth Common, 1896. The negative of this was taken by moonlight (40 minutes exposure). Keep rather bright and strong."

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Talk given to/for The Friends of Wandsworth Common, 4 October 2023, at Naturescope.

"Seeing and Believing: Pioneering photographers on and around Wandsworth Common, 1845—1875."

Including Geoffrey Bevington, Hugh Welch Diamond, Peter Le Neve Foster, Lewis Carroll, John Thomson, and Henry Morris.

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November 2023

October 2023 — The Rustic Bridge etc

September 2023 — part two — Zeppelin Raids, 1916 etc.

September 2023 — part one — "Galician Gypsies"

August 2023 —part three — "The death of Sarah Tonks, aged 18, who was found on Saturday morning sleeping on Wandsworth Common", 1909  . . . 

August 2023 —part two — "Wandsworth Common: Written on a sand-dune in the Sahara, near Timbuctoo".

August 2023 —part one — Whatever happened to Neal's Nursery?

July 2023 —part two.

July 2023 —part one —In search of Benni, Bella and Ruth.

June 2023.

"Some matters arising from May 2023's Chronicles

May 2023.

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.

Down with the Fences Part II (May 2021) [link and info to be added].

Down with the Fences Part I (March 2021) [link and info to be added].

Wandsworth Common / WaterWorld (March 2021) [link and info to be added].

What a Carve Up (January 2021) [link and info to be added].

My very first video talk, in the early days of the first lock-down:

The Hidden History of Loxley Road (2020).

Some more videos, talks etc . . . 

P.Y. Betts: The Movie. Superb. Don't miss.
(Click on image to view the video on the Friends of Wandsworth Common website.)

"COMMON MEMORIES: Life on & around Wandsworth Common, 1930s-1980s"

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COMMON MEMORIES — Life on & around Wandsworth Common, 1930s—1980s

6/2023 — Over the past year, members of the Friends of Wandsworth Common Heritage group, led by Ros Page, have interviewed lifelong residents of the Common to explore their life and experiences and how the Common used to be.

The interviews were all filmed by John Crossland and the more than 20 hours of footage beautifully and sensitively edited down into this 'charming and engaging' film by Rosa Navas, a local film maker and Friend.

The film is interspersed with old images and film clips, bringing alive the narrative of the interviewees. The result is a fascinating insight into how life on Wandsworth Common has changed over five decades.

With special thanks to the production team led by Ros Page, including Stephen Midlane, Henrietta Gentilli, Louise Murphy, John Turner, cameraman John Crossland and editor Rosa Navas.

The film was launched on 6 June 2023 in the Fiennes Theatre, Emanuel School, and special thanks are due to Lisa Irwin and the school for their very generous support.

The video is now available to view via the Friends of Wandsworth Common website or on YouTube .

A DVD is also available, at £5.

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 top . . . 

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")