Mitcham Heritage Day Saturday 11 September 2021

10:00am to 4:30pm Saturday 11 September 2021

Mitcham Heritage Day is our annual celebration of local heritage.

Mitcham Heritage Day is a Covid-aware event. Please carry face covering and hand sanitiser and check government guidelines. Please comply with any actions requested at venues including distancing, queuing and waiting. Be aware that participating venues and their programmes may change at short notice – including right up to the day of the event.

Thank you to all the volunteers who are working hard to help make Mitcham Heritage Day 2021 happen.

Download our map for use on the day.

If you enjoy Mitcham Heritage Day do please consider becoming a member (downloadable form). Your membership fees will help us run Mitcham Heritage Day 2022, as well as supporting all the other work we do.

Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage
1.00pm guided walk around the gems of Mitcham Cricket Green.
Allow 1 hour.
Assemble on cricket ground opposite pavilion.

Mitcham Cricket Green Community & Heritage
10.00am to 4.30pm Heritage Shorts self-guided tour.
Learn more about Mitcham Cricket Green at a range of information points. Visit as a self-guided walk or check each location out as you are passing. All the information points can be found on the downloadable map on this page.

Mitcham Parish Church
10.00am to 4.30pm church open.
10.00am to 12.00pm bell ringing tower open with bell ringing demonstrations.
2.00pm Introduction to the Graveyard talk and tour, if weather is fine.
Exhibition provided by Merton Council’s Heritage and Local Studies service Mitcham Heritage: An A-Z.

Cricket Green School
10.00am to 4.30pm access permitted.
See the remains of the Grade II listed arch of 14th Century Hall Place in school grounds. DIY children’s activities.

Wandle Industrial Museum
9.30am to 4.30pm museum open.
Talks at 10.00am and 3.00pm on the 200-year history of the textile industry on the River Wandle and the methods used in printing. The museum has exhibitions on the history and heritage of the people and industries of the Wandle Valley.

Mitcham Cricket Club
Ladies and girls cricket festival on the cricket field.
The cricket pavilion is not expected to be open to the public.

Mary Tate’s Almshouses 
11.00am to 2.00pm display on front lawn of cottages showing a cottage interior.
12.00pm talk on the history of the cottages.
1.00pm to 4.00pm. Tea, home made cakes and live music from jazz singer Jenny Green. All proceeds to Macmillan Cancer Support.

The Canons
12.00pm to 4.00pm
12.00pm to 3.45pm timed tours of The Canons House. Booking essential. Book here.
11.00am to 4.00pm Digital Drama All the Fun of the Fair community heritage project including augmented reality experience of old photographs of Mitcham Fair brought to life, smartphone based audio trail soundscape of Mitcham Fair (bring headphones to use with your phone), and a chance to share your memories of Mitcham Fair. Digital Drama can be found near the Dovecote.

Mitcham Methodist Church
10.00am to 4.30pm church open. Volunteers available to tell people about the church and show them round. Organ music throughout the day.
3.00pm church choir singing.

Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church
11.00am to 3.00pm church open.
11.00am, 12.00pm, 1.00pm tours of the church and garden.
Exhibition of the church Consecration in the parish room.
Exhibition provided by Merton Council’s Heritage and Local Studies service Cricket Green, Snapshots of Local History.

Melanie’s Walk
Meet 11.00am at bus stop at entrance to Mitcham Junction rail station.
Approx 1.5 to 2 hours taking in Mitcham Common and various heritage sites.
Walk finishes at Wandle Industrial Museum.

Mitcham Heritage Day is part of Wandle Fortnight 2021 and Heritage Open Days.

Thanks go to Wandle Fortnight and The Canons (via the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund) for their financial support.



The Canons – end of the beginning

The next few years should be exciting ones at The Canons. Ten years on from our first proposals to invest in its future the £5m Lottery funded project will come to fruition. The landscape contractors have already handed their work over to Merton Council and those working on the house are about to do the same. The place is being slowly opened up to the public and there’s lots to enjoy and the promise of more to come. As the works finish so the promise of renewed community activity should come to fruition and we have the benefit of a full time community officer supporting things till the end of 2022.

An early priority is to ensure that the promised work has been completed and delivered to a high standard. With Friends of the Canons and Mitcham Society we’ve already drawn Merton Council’s attention to a multitude of “snagging” issues ranging from poor build quality and rutted ground to a failure to provide replacements for felled trees or finish the entrance from Cold Blows.

You can read our “snagging report” along with Merton Council’s initial response here.

There is also the not so small matter of whether Merton Council has planning permission for the landscape work now completed. The simple answer is that it doesn’t. A key planning condition attached to the original planning permission has yet to be signed off and a request to do this has only just been submitted despite the works already being finished. We’ve been asking about the lack of permission since before the landscape contract began, including through use of Freedom of Information requests, email requests and The Canons project Steering Group, without success. Important details are still missing and fewer plants in the walled garden and around the car park have been provided than promised in the application. We are also concerned the new trees in the expanded car park have too little space to flourish.

The new opening by the obelisk is also causing concern. The original plans extended the railings as well as the hedge to provide a secure boundary and there are road safety concerns and worries about a traveller incursion with the unfinished boundary now in place. We’ve also asked for evidence that The Canons has a long term Management and Maintenance Plan capable of delivering what’s needed for the long term in place. Our requests for a copy have been rebuffed to date.

You can read our comments on the application to discharge the landscape condition here.

The next few years will also be a test for how well the investment will bring the lasting change we all want. The real test will be how well Merton Council can care for The Canons in the long term and a successful transition is critical. As the Lottery funded contractors leave site so the landscape gets handed over to Merton Council’s own contractors idverde to care for it in the future. The landscape idverde is being being given back is infinitely more complex and challenging to manage and they will need to step up.

There are some worrying early signs. As Friends of the Canons has reported, the wildflower areas along Commonside West and next to the walkway south of the track have been wilfully mown instead of being left to flower and then set seed. The rural character of the rough path running through Bellamy’s Copse has been damaged by cutting a double swathe through the vegetation and herbicide known to cause yellow disfiguring has been used on newly sown areas. Long grass under mature trees left during “no mow May” has subsequently and unnecessarily been cut rather than being left to grow and set seed. Too many plants have died from a lack of watering. It would be tragic if all the effort that has gone in was not followed by long term management and maintenance fit for the job.

Looking ahead it is clear the long term sustainability of The Canons will depend on the funds generated on-site from lease of the house and community cafe being re-invested into its long term care. We’ve been reassured by the National Lottery Heritage Fund that this is a requirement and will be looking for Merton Council to confirm it as the project moves into its next phase. There are also opportunities to share management of parts of the house and the landscape with local community groups.

The Canons is a jewel in Cricket Green’s crown. As a community we have invested heavily in its future. Very few of us can hope to see another investment at this scale in our lifetimes. Its time is now and it’s time to get things right.

Whither the Wilson?

Debate and discussion over the future of the Wilson Hospital has been going on for well over a decade.

It has proven frustratingly difficult to find out what is happening from the Clinical Commissioning Group and even harder to get involved in one of the most significant changes to Cricket Green in a generation.

This blog shares the facts about what’s going on as we know them. It has been pieced together from different sources and some of it has only become public as a result of our Freedom of Information requests.

The punchline is that the Wilson is likely not to become the new community health centre for Mitcham.

What we have learned suggests the Wilson is being lined up as a new housing estate instead. The new health centre looks as though it is heading for Sibthorpe Road car park and it would seem there are plans for Mitcham Library to move out of its locally listed building and share premises with the health centre. This in turn will free up the Mitcham Library site for development. The other large healthcare site at Birches Close is also being lined up for new housing.

It shouldn’t really be down to us as a local community group to break this news.

Nor should it be taking so long to provide Mitcham with the healthcare facilities all the public bodies have identified as a priority. We wish that the Clinical Commissioning Group responsible for these decisions was more upfront and open with the community regarding its plans, and that it showed a greater sense of urgency in meeting Mitcham’s healthcare needs.

The Wilson story goes back more than a decade. At first we were told it was one of four sites being considered for a “Local Care Centre” designed to meet the healthcare needs of “East Merton”. This followed a decision not to proceed with developing the site in The Canons which would later fall to Merton Council to line up for new housing through its failed Merantun venture.

The plan was part of a wider investment in Local Care Centres in Merton that saw the new Nelson Health Centre open in 2015. Despite “concerns about how the Mitcham LCC was lagging so far behind the others” being expressed at the Clinical Commissioning Group’s Programme Board in 2013 its plans for Mitcham had only just got going by the time the Nelson opened. This was when the decision was made to select the Wilson over Birches Close or either of the two car parks at Raleigh Gardens and Sibthorpe Road as the “preferred option” for developing the new health centre.

By 2017 the proposals had been renamed as the “Wilson Health & Wellbeing Campus” although we were still unable to get any commitment to an opening date. Instead the local community was shocked to find healthcare provision being reduced and not expanded with the abrupt decision to close the Wilson’s GP service and walk-in centre.

It took until 2018 for an announcement to be made that the “new health and wellbeing space” would open “towards the end of 2021”. Within months this opening date was moved to the “end of 2022” when the project encountered funding problems in the NHS.

It didn’t take long for the certainty over the Wilson’s future as a health centre to begin to crack.

First, we found NHS Property Services lobbying Merton Council to include provision for up to 39 flats and town houses on the Wilson site in its revised Local Plan. Then in response to our direct question at its AGM the Clinical Commissioning Group confirmed that “the health and wellbeing hub planned for Mitcham and surrounding communities remains a key priority” and studiously avoided making any reference to the Wilson itself. This elusive wording was repeated in answering a later question which also signalled yet another delay in the opening date when it confirmed “the facility will not be ready to open as previously estimated in 2022.”

The reasons for change in direction have now become clear. Close reading of NHS Property Services most recent submission on Merton’s Local Plan shows it wants to change the policy allocating the Wilson site for healthcare development so the green light can be given for “residential if the existing services are relocated within an alternative healthcare facility in the wider Mitcham area.” It also asks for the following phrase to be deleted – “development of the site is an opportunity to provide a health centre and a community health hub in a neighbourhood with health inequalities and poor health.” The submissions also support residential development of Birches Close regardless of what happens at the Wilson.

NHS Property Services clearly has residential development on both the Wilson and Birches Close sites near the top of its agenda for Mitcham. Yet, the health inequalities across Merton still exist and the need for them to be addressed through new investment is well established. So if the new community health centre isn’t to be provided at the Wilson where will it go? And how many more years will we have to wait?

The evidence is pointing in one direction – Sibthorpe Road car park just off Fair Green in the heart of Mitcham village. The first clue is buried in the most recent Local Plan comments from NHS Property Services. The car park is owned by Merton Council and not the NHS but the NHS is seeking to include provision for “community and health uses” in whatever happens on the site.

The strongest evidence has come via our recent Freedom of Information request (available here). This confirms that an economic assessment of the relative merits of the Wilson and Sibthorpe Road car park has been carried out which is “beginning to show a profit for the Sibthorpe position.” It also confirms the intention to move Mitcham Library to the new site. The papers also include a project brief revealingly titled as being for the “Mitcham (formerly Wilson) Health and Wellbeing Community Hub”. The proposals include a report which “will also make reference to the possible disposal of the Wilson Hospital site and Birches for residential development as a potential funding solution.”

So why does this matter? In the end it could be the best outcome for future healthcare. We have always questioned why the Wilson was chosen as the preferred site over Sibthorpe Road car park given its better transport links and easier accessibility. A well designed development could make good use of a rundown car park. It also provides the opportunity to revitalise the limited service currently provided at Mitcham Library in a new location.

But still it matters. It matters because of the way these decisions have been made, leaving the local community in the dark about the future of their neighbourhood. It matters because of the consequences of significant development now being lined up for the Wilson, Birches Close and Mitcham Library, each of which has locally listed buildings and its own special character. And it matters because after more than a decade of delay and obfuscation and three changes in the opening date we can expect to wait many more years before Mitcham and Pollards Hill are provided with the healthcare facilities that all the public bodies involved say are urgently needed.

There are still ways to turn things around. The Clinical Commissioning Group could transform its understanding of how community collaboration works in practice. Merton Council could write a Local Plan that guarantees well designed and sensitive development. The local community could be brought in not only to define local health needs but also to codesign the future development on all four sites.

The powerful legacy of the Wilson Hospital comes from it being endowed to the local community by Sir Isaac Wilson a century ago. The last year has shown us all the benefits that can come from collaboration between health bodies, local authorities and local communities. Now we have the opportunity to create an equally powerful and contemporary legacy for the future. We stand ready to help.

Scrutinising Merton

Every year Merton Council invites views on the issues which should be given extra scrutiny through its array of Committees. It’s a welcome initiative although history has shown that very few issues raised other than by ward councillors get taken up. After six years we gave up trying in 2020 and didn’t respond. We’re having another go in response to this year’s invitation.

Seven issues have risen to the top and we’re asking Merton Council to look at them more deeply:

Operation of the planning service. This has become ever more problematic over time and we believe a review is long overdue. It should cover everything from the operation of the Planning Applications Committee to the quality of consultation and information provided on planning applications.

Tree management and protection. With over 130 trees lined up for the chop within 800m of the cricket ground we’re calling for a review of tree protection and more attention to how trees are cared for.

Online reporting. Anyone who has tried to report fly tipping, pavement parking and other issues will know just how offputting Merton Council’s online reporting service can be. It’s hard to navigate, requires different issues to be reported in different ways, provides no guarantees of follow up and lacks published information on what is happening Borough wide. User friendly online reporting tools are widely available and affordable and we are asking their use to be investigated.

Effectiveness of Mitcham Common Conservators. Set up under 19th century legislation it is increasingly apparent that the way Mitcham Common is being run is not fit for purpose. We’re asking Merton Council to review the Conservators’ role and ensure that Mitcham Common gets the forward looking, transparent and engaging management this jewel in Merton’s crown deserves.

School run and travel plans. With growing school rolls and impacts from the school run we believe it is time properly to review the effectiveness of school travel plans which promise much but rarely deliver.

Illegal fly parking. There’s a growing trend towards pavement parking around Fair Green and fly parking on the edge of Three Kings Piece, and Merton Council has passed the buck between departments when asked to sort it out.

Air quality. Our work with Mitcham Society has shown air pollution levels around Cricket Green and Fair Green exceeding legal levels. This isn’t helped by having diesel buses running through the heart of Mitcham’s village centre.

Read our full submission of topics for scrutiny here.

Capturing Cricket Green’s character

There is something very special about the character of Cricket Green.

It is widely recognised by those who live here and visitors often comment on the village-feel, our greens, a sense of history and the mix of interesting buildings.

We always ask developers to respect this character when they come forward with new buildings and it is important to protect it.

Describing Cricket Green’s character isn’t easy. It’s a complex place shaped over centuries of development and change. The task has been taken on by Merton’s new Character Study which is being consulted on by Merton Council.

We’ve welcome the study. It is much needed and a vital complement to the new Local Plan that will guide development well into the 2030s.

Merton Council has already had one false start when it produced studies for 22 of Merton’s 36 character areas between 2011 and 2015 but failed to finalise them and give them legal weight when planning decisions are made.

The new Character Study misses out on the richness of the unfinished work. By providing an assessment of the complex character of Cricket Green in just 103 words it leaves our special neighbourhood short changed.

The earlier Character Study now being set aside devoted over 1,400 words to Cricket Green.

Merton Council’s approach to preparing the Character Study means it owes more to the view of external consultants than local communities. Despite years of asking to be involved there has been only limited consultation and the character descriptions of 20 out of the 36 neighbourhoods across the Borough are informed by comments from fewer than ten people.

We have stressed the importance of recognising Mitcham as a village and addressing the importance of our registered greens and the special qualities of Mitcham Common. We have welcomed Merton Council’s acknowledgment of the importance of the historic crossing of the Wandle at Mitcham Bridge which has been misnamed in the controversy over building a new “Bishopsford Road Bridge”.

For Cricket Green we have taken Merton Council’s text and redrafted it to reflect local priorities. See our proposed changes in the graphic at the bottom of this post.

Our proposals have been informed by the work behind the Cricket Green Charter published in 2019 after we contacted over 5,000 households. The changes we propose recognise the true history of Mitcham cricket ground, put more emphasis on the important role played by mature trees and look towards the sensitive re-use of important sites such as the Wilson, Birches Close and the Burn Bullock.

Merton Council is also consulting on a draft Toolkit to secure better quality design in new buildings on the many small sites across the Borough. Sites of less than a quarter of a hectare have been responsible for over 60% of new homes built in the the borough in last 15 years.

We’ve welcomed the approach while also stressing that it will require more than the publication of a Toolkit to deliver the necessary sea change in Merton’s culture which will secure quality design informed by early community engagement and local preferences in new development.

You can read our comments on Merton’s draft Character Study here.

You can read our comments on Merton’s draft Small Sites Toolkit here.

Facelift for Bramcote Parade

Merton Council has applied for permission to restore the shopfronts on Bramcote Parade and replace the intrusive advertising.

We’ve warmly welcomed the plans which follow our success in having Bramcote Court and Parade added to the Local List in 2017.

The work is being funded by a £90,000 allocation from the money raised by the Community Infrastructure Levy which is paid by new development.

As the images show the work will have a significant and positive impact. It will restore some of the original details of the shopfronts and reinstate the distinctive curved sweep. The shops will be much more sensitively lit at night. One consequence is that the poor design, colour and build quality of the new flats being built on the other side of the road by the formers Queen’s Head will become sadly even more apparent. Merton Council expects the work on the shop fronts to be complete this year.

It is important that the new works stand the test of time and we’ve highlighted problems with similar investment at Morden Court Parade. This has seen good work undone by changes resulting from new businesses moving in only a year or two after the facelift.

Following the rejection of our efforts to have some the oldest shops in Mitcham around Fair Green locally listed last year we’re keen to see Merton Council move on to restore these as the next priority for this welcome shopfront initiative.

You can read our submission here.