Friday, 24 August 2007

Colliers Wood High Street

Map of Route described

Another lunchtime stroll, this time leaving from South Wimbledon Tube Station and east along Merton High Street and into Colliers Wood just over the railway bridge and sniffing at the borders with Tooting. There was a surprising lack of painted wall signage but some interesting architectural features. Quite an enjoyable stroll all round…

1)First stop was the Admiral Nelson, a very ornate pre-first World War I pub covered in glazed and painted tiles, The two tiles sets face right onto the pavement and I’m amazed they haven’t been damaged or vandalized more than they seem to have been. Both sets of glazed tiles are dated and bear the name Carter’s, Poole 1910 in the bottom left hand corner. This company eventually became Poole Pottery and apparently did much of the art deco tile work for the London Underground

2) On the same site I also noticed a couple of these tiles whose message has been slightly lost over the years where, presumably frost and freezing has finally been taking its toll.

3)Quirky or naff, these signs were, I believe, designed after
a competition amongst local schools some years ago. There have been more recent and slightly more threatening efforts since then but there are still loads of these about the streets of Merton.

4) This plaque is on the side of the River Wandle by the footbridge to the Sainsbury’s and commemorates the presence of the William Morris mills. For a fairly shabby part of London there’s a surprising amount of history around these streets!

5)These photos show a monument just inside Wandle Park that has
inscriptions on three side. One side is pretty weather-beaten but these two are still quite legible and you can probably read them by clicking on the photo for a closer look. The park and monument was bequeathed by “John Feeney of Birmingham and Berkswell who loved nature and his fellow man” and was opened in 1907.

6) Down a bit further to the magnificent portico to the Royal Standard pub. No idea what it’s like inside but the fa├žade is very eye-catching.

7) Down the road a few hundred yards and you come across the only piece of painted wall signage on the walk. It may be modern but it does the job

8) At this point there is a l
ong stretch of old, slightly run-down shops underneath Victorian buildings. As usual you have to look up to get an idea of their original quality and there are some nice touches to be found. Here, not particularly clearly, you can see the name plaque ‘Spring Cottages 1863’ and I’ve also tried to include the attractive top of a column amidst more modern fittings.

9)These two pictures show some ornate brickwork on one particular row and the date plaque of 1875 showing that it was built by William Clark and was probably quite smart when first completed. I also tried to capture the top windows as they were the only ones with the original iron retainers to presumably stop flowerpots being blown off the ledges!.

10) Slightly further along I spotted this lonely pot sitting on top of its column.
I assume there were originally a few more but they are long since gone and this one doesn’t look in too good a state either.

11) Just before the railway bridge now and you have to wonder ‘What on earth was this?’. Although now a workshop this building has an enormous flagpole and looks as though it used to have a grander entrance. Could it have been an early cinema or scout hut? If you have any idea please leave a note in the comment section below…

12) On the railway bridge now and a couple of road signs, old and new (so good they named it twice!)

13) Over the bridge and to the left is a row of what at first look like fairly run of the mill shops divided by pillars, most of which are pebble-dashed. There is a glorious and unexpected exception though. This column of ornate tiles shows just what is lurking beneath the dirt, painted textured coating that covers the rest of the pillars. It really does catch your eye as you walk by and brightens up an otherwise dingy parade.

14) At this point I could see over the cross-roads into Tooting and a very large and tempting plaque on the eaves of a large building but with iron-will and self-discipline I crossed over and headed back to South Wimbledon. I walked past this ordinary post-box was drawn back to it as the proportions didn’t seem quite right, being slightly slimmer than usual. When I looked closely at the royal crest I saw it was for Edward VII so was probably put in place son after the surrounding building were erected. Street furniture that’s still going strong and being used for its original purpose after 100 years!

15) I couldn’t resist recording the fact that at Colliers Wood tube station I went passed the Infamous ‘Tower’, recently voted one of London’s greatest eyesores and a building that everyone in Colliers Wood would love to see removed. It has been likened to a scorched, post –apocalypse bunker but no doubt someone will buy it, tart it up and sell the penthouse suites with their extensive views of London for mega-bucks.

And that’s it for another lunchtime. But I’ve seen glimpses of the riches of Tooting and I’ll be casting my net further to the east next time!


Lone Star said...

this is very groovey!
i love the pics,, and even recognized some of them being the full fledged TEXAN that I am~~and I had to find this wonderful little email quite by accident! Put me on your mailing list!
Stood and looked at that TOWER many a mornin' at the Express while smokin a fag and drinkin a coffee! Truly an ugly building! Wish I could buy the thang and make them little suites you're talking about!
Thank you for the nostalgic pictures!

harriette said...

i've only just come across your blog, but i love it already!

i have just moved to colliers wood and it's lovely to see that so much history is still going on here. next time i'm wandering around i'll be far more aware of things such as you've pointed out :)

Yelfy said...

Hi Harriette
Glad you find it interesting. The area around Colliers Wood has a surpising amount of history associated with it considering it's so small and not particularly picturesque (at first glance anyway) You've the world's first public railway (on the Tram route), Merton Abbey (founded Merton College, Oxford), a King was crowned in the Sainsbury's car park (can't recall which one), the Wandle was reputed to have more mills per mile than any other river in the world ('the hardest working river in the world'), it was a centre of the 19th century Arts and Crafts movement (William Morris factories) and it was also the site of the only home owned by Lord Nelson, leaving his mistress Emma Hamilton in residence as he left for the battle of Trafalgar. Oh, and the Beatles also played at a venue now the site of a kitchen show room on Merton High Street!! Not bad really... said...

Sorry just found out it was Henry iv who was crowned in the Priory Church Sainburys car park.
Colin Tanner Town Centre Manager

john said...

Hi there,
very interseting site,
I was born in Colliers Wood in 1943 and moved out when I got married in 1967.
The place has a fascination for me now though, and I often travel from Hertfordshire to walk aroud the area- it's amazing what you missed seeing in the area when you grew up there.
The building referred to on the railway bridge leading towards Tooting was never a scout hut or a cinema, I think it was just a smalll factory.
There were 3 scout groups in Colliers Wood, The 2nd Mitcham met in the old Parish Hall in Park Road (50 metres from it's junction with Robinson Road). This hall burnt down in about 1964 ish,a recently built block of flats is on the site. All my friends who had been in the 2nd Mitcham gathered around the dying embers of the old wooden building, and commisserated over the great times that we had in the hall. We had just amalgamated with the 10th Mitcham to become a new group, the 25th Mitcham. The new group met in the 10ths old hall - "Atlasta Hall" (they had been fundraising for years to build this hall - hence the name) in Colwood Gardens. The group folded some time in the 1970's/80's and the hall is leased out to a retired naval association. The other group was the 8th Mitcham, also known as "Cusden's Own". They met in what was the Old Institute Hall, sited just after Lyon Tower heading towards the Savacentre, opposite the old cottages known as Millers Mead. This was a very run-down scout hut and they eventually met at Singlegate primary school. The 8ths scoutmaster in the 1960's was George Dadswell, who, in the 1950's, used to run the Sunday school at the Park Road Parish Hall, and he also sung in the Christchurch church choir - he had a powerful tenor voice, and was quite a character.
For anyone else reading this, I am still in touch with Ken Parsons and Brian Bartaby, both were heavily involved with the 2nd and 25th Mitcham, and I guess that a lot of young lads, brought up in what was a fairly rough area of "Sarth London", owe a debt of gratitude to these great men who helped us in our formative years.
I have just purchased a paperback book from Colliers Wood library, called :-
Mitcham Histories:9 - Colliers Wood or "Merton Singlegate", it is a fascinating read.
During the 1950's, when I was about 13, I worked as a Saturday boy in Dan Genner's hand built cycle shop, opposite the Roman Catholic church in the High Street - my recollections, already published by a couple of cycling clubs, will follow.

Yelfy said...

Hi John,
Thanks for the Scouting info. Personally I was a 4th Putney myself and my son is with the 1st Morden but it's good to hear of the earlier history of the Mitcham troops. I like 'Atlasta Hall' though!
I was curious about the factory by the railway as it had flag-poles and what looked like quite ornate fittings around it. Not so impressive beyond the facade though so maybe it was just a small factory unit all along as you say. intriguing though, all the same.

Sinmara said...


fantastic blog! I moved to Colliers Wood a few months ago and have been trying to find out as much as I could about its history.

This link provides a lot of history, for example that there was a very important Roman road (Stane Street, or Stone Street) going from London through to the south coast, it's running through Colliers Wood.

Anonymous said...

the flag pole building on the bridge was called w h kimbers . a metal work factory its larger than you would think in side

Anonymous said...

Hey, Love the site.

One question, how long of a tube ride is it from Colliers Wood to Central London

Yelfy said...

Glad you find the site interesting and thanks for reading. According to the Transport for London site the average length of journey from Bank to Colliers Wood is 27 minutes.

Doc Dish said...

Yelfy, great blog. I was looking for info on the 25th Mitcham Scouts and found john's comment above.

I was a Cub at the 25th Mitcham until about 1983 and I don't recall hearing it had folded before we left Collier's Wood in 1986. The name 'Ken Parsons' rings a bell - I may have gone to school with his son/grandson!

I think I'll be spending a few nights looking through the rest of your blog...

Yelfy said...

Hi there Doc Dish. I never thought when I started the blog that it might become a link for those searching for Mitcham scout groups! Anyway, I hope that there's a few odds and ends that bring back a few memories. Any other comments, reminiscences or thoughts on various postings would gratefully received...

dennis said...

Hi Yelfy,
Just found your blog, very interesting. Just for the record I belonged to the 10th Mitcham from 1952 until we moved in 1954. Had a great time and remember the hall very well.I lived in the High Street just round the corner from College Road over what was a Library in a shop opposite the Sunshine Hall. My family all came from the immediate area and my Grandfather along with his brother owned the Fishing Rod and Tackle shop (Eggingtons) next door to the Merton Bus Garage, the other side from the Pub before it was all changed. I attended both Singlegate Infants and Fortescue Road Primary as did my mother and Grandmother. The area has a lot of history, more than many would appreciate but such a lot has been lost through modernisation.My life has taken me down to the west country but I will never forget where I spent the first 10 years including the Coronation parties,the last Tram and the baked potato man at the Tube Station after cubs.

john said...

I vaguely remember a library in that parade of shops opposite the Sunshine Hall - although I can't remember exactly which shop it was. On the corner of College Road and the High Street used to be a shoe repairers, up until the early 1950's. It subsequently became a builders and decorators shop in the mid 1950's DIY boom, owned by the parents of a young girl, Elizabeth Reynolds, who eventually became my wife. Her dad, Fred Reynolds, was the proprietor of the shop and claimed that Colliers Wood was constructed of hardboard, held together with Polyfilla - he sold that much of the stuff. Also in that parade was James' the butchers, the daughter of the owner, who I used to hang out with in the late 1950's as a teenager, has just contacted me via Friends Reunited, then there was Osmans the grocery shop. Next to that was the pair of shops belonging to Dan Genner, selling hand made bikes where I worked as a Saturday boy, running errands for Mrs Genner. My Dad's business was the other side of the bus garage from Eggingtons, known as Barringer's shop. I bought my first fishing rod in Eggingtons - converted from a Ex army tank aerial, for £1.25.
I can also remember the Baked potato man outside the tube staion in the winter - Small potatoes at an old penny each - large ones, one and a half old pennies each. The smell of the coke and the roasting potatoes is something you never forget.
John Barringer

Anonymous said...

Great site I was born in Boyd Road in 1942 when I got married we held the reception in Atlasta Hall wonderful memories of Colliers Wood. I often drive through and remember the shops how they used to be, for example the large Co op where Burge and Gunsons are now .I also remember James the butchers there used to be a lovely man called George worked there . Ann

Russell said...

I believe the dog on the signs, bless him, was called Mertie.

Anonymous said...

I came across this sight by axcident, as i was looking for Atlasta Hall on goggel maps..
I was looking for the Hall as it was were 2 of my best friends had ther Weding recaption in July 1953,
Derick Read & Frances Hooper...

Sadlly Derick passed away 6 years ago, & Frances passed away last year...MUCH LOVED & MUCH MISSED

If anyone remmbers them please leave a massage..

Derek Arnold said...

I was born Devonshire Road, Colliers Wood, and lived 14 years in Church Road to age 18.
The potato man at Colliers Wood has been remembered by many, and now again by me. What a treat the warmth and the smells were. Seasonally he offered hot chestnuts and they were equally beguiling.
Genner’s window was where I spent much time gazing at those beautiful bicycle frame colours, but especially the Chater-Lea wheel hubs, the alloy crank sets and all the delights offered to someone, like me, planning his first custom bicycle. Genner’s supplied me the Allez crank set, Brooks B17N saddle, Brooks saddle bag, and the Simplex derailleur gear set. I went to FW Holdsworth of Putney for that marvellous Accles & Pollock 531 light alloy frame.
Singlegate was one of my schools. Three years ago I revisited to find it a Grade 2 Listed Building and occupied by Jamia Ahmadiyya, a Moslem college of some sort. After being greeted with some initial suspicion I was welcomed, shown around and then invited to visit to view that day the new mosque at Morden. Both establishments were a delight to see, well maintained at Singlegate, beautifully designed, equipped and furnished at Morden.
Mitcham Grammar was another of my schools and I revisited to find it a privately run Catholic school, fully gated. My reception was cool to hostile. Eventually I was let in and I saw my old library and caretaker’s house, registered the many religious sculptures and other images, and left. They did not win any friends that day.
There is an excellent museum by the Cranmer Green, Mitcham.
Who remembers toffee apples from the rickety old house between Fortescue Road and the now demolished railway line?
Derek Arnold

Philip Davies said...

Well, well, well!I have just stumbled onto this and oh the memories, though some details
are lost in time.
Was born at The Woodlands 1945
and for some years lived at
Wilton road. Yes, also was a cub
(but not sure which pack), and loved it; went on to scouts, rovers
with the 36th Mitcham at Rowan rd.
Moved away in the fifties to a
block of flats near Ravensbury Park
but returned to Colliers Wood when
I started my first job as a packaging designer with a company
call the Shirley & Warbey Box Co.
Their premises were on the site of
the current Supasava complex.
I used to walk to work starting
down a footpath that ran alongside
Mordenhall Park, over a railway bridge and past Bunces meadow
into (I think) Church street or
Western road.

I have lived in Australia for 40 years but on my trips back always
make a point of visiting Colliers

Anonymous said...

Great site, we are a young couple who have just moved into Denison road, great to hear so much history, it's a real shame the potato man is not hear anymore! :)

Anonymous said...

Great history that I wasn't aware of in Colliers Wood, even though I grew up in Acre Road from 1964 to 1982. Memories of being sent to the off-licence round the corner from Briscoe road to return the empties and collect a penny a bottle for my trouble, then race over the main road to the little window at the Co-op and pick up dad's 2oz of Golden Virginia and a packet of green papers. Until we had the phone installed we would again have to trudge over the main road to use one of the three public phones located at the bottom of Robinson Road and fire coins in whilst pressing buttons A,B or C usually at the wrong time.
Remember mum collecting money with many of her friends so that the building of St Joseph's RC Church could be realised in the High Street. There were many annual church fetes and fairs usually held in the Community Centre by what used to be the Red Lion or the Sunshine Hall next to the church itself.
Remember the sad demise of James's the butcher together with the DIY shop on the corner of College Road and many other shops both small and large which have been mentioned before. WH Kimbers metalwork factory on the bridge always seemed a little out of place with a small solitary wool shop tacked on the side of it.
Was never in the scouts but remember attending various youth activities in the small hall in Walpole Road which seemed to be very busy at the time with several clubs, including the Woodcraft Folk making use of the premises.
Went to school in Mitcham and waited endlessly outside the Post Office for the 152 or 200 bus staring blankly at the grim facade of the Brown & Root Tower.
Would walk the length of Blackshaw Road to see Wimbledon FC (long before they entered the league and won an FA Cup)and Wimbledon Speedway.

Anonymous said...

Also I never could work out how the Boat Harbour was able to carry out business for as many years as I can remember in the middle of Colliers Wood High Street!!

woody said...

Some nice memories in these stories.A few more from the 1950s - there was a laundry amongst those buildings on the railway bridge heading towards Tooting. An old man called Vic was the newspaper seller for years outside Colliers Wood station every morning and evening and had his shop in the first row of houses in Robinson Road. Paggets bakers was opposite the old Co-op (RACS) in the High Street and the Co-op milkman (a boxer called Eric Gears or Geary) had a horse called Brigette pulling his cart for years, until she was put down because a kick from another horse broke her leg.

Anonymous said...

photo number 10 is an apothecary jar over what used to be Browns chemist, on the corner of Brisco road.also the laundry mentioned was called Bartletts

Anonymous said...

Anyone remember Brobats factory in Wandle Bank or Colonys leather mill, where the 1,oclock hooter used to sound, calling all back to work after lunch

John Barringer said...

Connolly's Leather Factory is now an upmarket block of flats - but the smell of the tanning process still pervades the area when you stand on the roadbridge downstream from the factory. I suspect that the water taken from the Wandle for the tanning process and released back into the river, has leeched into the bank.
Just upstream from Connolly's is a footbridge over the Wandle leading into the park. Just inside the park, although no trace remains, is the site of Wandle Bank House. I remember, as a 5 or 6 year old, going into the then derelict building through some broken shuttering. The inside was like a horror film set, dust & cobwebs everywhere and a large sweeping staicase leading to the upstairs - very scary - I did not linger there for very long.
At the north end of Wandle Bank, just to the left of Connolly's was a large double fronted Victorian house, long demolished, but I used to deliver newspapers there, as a paperboy working at my dad's shop, Barringers, next to what used to be the Kings Head Pub, now the offices of the bus company.
I can also remember the shellfish stall on a Sunday morning outside the King's Head, along with the gathering of men gambling with cards and dice around the hatchway that led to the beer cellar- an activity I suspect was illegal in those days.
I recently found a press cutting from when my dad's shop was raided by the police in the 1920's. Off course betting was illegal until the early 1960's when betting shops were introduced - I'll put the text of the clipping on this site in due course.
John Barringer

Anonymous said...

I also remember Wandle Bank House, I think at one time it was a nursery. What a lovely house with beautiful gardens. Can not imagine how much it would be worth now.

Barrie Bolton said...

great site,just discovered,lived in park rd for first 20 years of my life.left singlegate at 15 and worked as a trainee butcher at bishops butchers between cavendish rd and the library.eventually joined met police,have recognised several names on here of people i grew up with,and went to school with.

Anonymous said...

my parents had a newsagents shop next to the red lion
in collierswood high street for fourteen years and new many
of the people mentioned in the above blog.

Anonymous said...


John Barringer said...

There is a description of these old cottages in the Mitcham Histories:9 book "Colliers Wood or Merton Singlegate" by E. N. Montague , obtainable from local branch libraries - No Collierswoodophile should be without one.
Page 110 of the book gives the following description:-
..."the so-called Red Lion cottages were demolished about 1960to make way for the building of the Colliers Wood Community Centre. Numbered 64 - 72 High Street, they were timber framed and weatherboarded, had boxed-sash windows and pantiled roofs with a central valley gutter. The style was a traditional one in the north-east of Surrey in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and, judged by the number of examples that can still be found, the method of construction has proved remarkably successful in withstanding the ravages of time & weather. Regrettably, in the case of the Red Lion Cottages years of neglect resulted in them becoming extremely dilapidated and their post-war shabbiness recruited no protesters when it became known that they were to be cleared away in the 1950's". There were similar cottages in the High Street opposite it's junction with Cavendish Road, which I would think would have also been cleared away at the same time.
When I did my paper round, I also had to deliver to "Flint Cottage" at the junction of Phipps Bridge Road(now called "Liberty Avenue") and Christchurch Road. This must have been one of the oldest buildings in Colliers Wood, very picturesque, now sadly long gone.
Iv' scoured the internet for pictures - sadly none exist - as yet.

John Barringer

Anonymous said...

Anyone remember the small cafe in Wandle Bank situated near the tannery and the bridge over the Wandle into the park?
It was run by my Uncle and Aunt, John and Ruby Matthews, until the early sixties when they moved to Liverpool.
I remember visiting and staying in their flat over the caff with my cousins, Jihnnie and Linda.
The one thing that sticks in my mind about the caff was the refrigerated Pepsi bottle dispenser! Fascinating to a little lad, not to mention the taste if that ice cold Pepsi!!

Anonymous said...

the small building that was not a scout hut was indeed an engineering factory that made armements during the war and later equipment for field kitchens company name was kimbers