SiR 2) Wandsworth to Earlsfield

The Wandle as it approaches the Southside Centre. The tracks of the SiR ran along the left side bank of the river.
At the south end of the Wandsworth shopping centre is Mapleton Crescent, one can find the River Wandle in an open channel. On the west bank of this section the SiR once ran. It headed towards Mapleton Road and crossed the Wandle at the site of the present Mapleton Bridge. Apparently another of Fulton’s cast iron bridges was used to carry the rails over the river.
Mapleton Crescent Bridge was the site of Williamson’s Dye Works. This produced the specialist dye that was used in the hats of Cardinals throughout Europe and was famous because it did not run when the hats got wet. It appears the bridge at what is now Mapleton Road was prior to the 1850’s soley for the use of the railway. Upon closure the bridge was removed and it is not unti the 1890’s that a new bridge is made to carry the newly built Mapleton Road.
Mapleton bridge where the SiR once had a private river crossing as it headed south from car park on right to new flats far left.
On leaving the environs of Wandsworth the railway entered what was still then open countryside for much of its route to Croydon. This rather uninspiring route followed much of the Wandle valley so little in the way of major engineering work was needed to build the railway. Apart from Wandsworth and Croydon there was little else where the railway could glean traffic from (besides a short branch to Hackbridge) so it appears the nature of the route could have been a possible factor towards the line’s serious financial shortages.
The first part of Garratt Lane was formerly known as South Street.
The Environs Of London 1856 showing ‘Iron Railway’ on what is now the course of Garratt Lane.
Much of the SiR’s alignment between Mapleton Road and Summerstown existed as a grassy, tree-lined route until the 1870’s.

Duntshill, the gramaphone works and Henry Prince estate

Henry Prince estate, Garratt Lane.
The Henry Prince estate opened in 1938 and was named after the councillor of the same name, who believed that working class people should have decent homes. It consists of 273 flats and has been extensively improved in recent years by by Wandsworth Council. Clearly an unusual design was called for and this is quite a novelty for a pre or even post-war a council estate as the above picture shows, with its five sweeping arches across the central access road leading down to the River Wandle. Part of the land used for the estate belonged to the Columbia Gramophone Works, however most was Earlsfield’s football ground.
One of the larger factories to be established on the banks of the Wandle, the Gramphone Works was established at Bendon Valley in 1906 for mass production of discs (or LP’s – which had just superseeded the metal cylnders of the Victorian era.) Columbia’s works were considerably expanded throughout the first part of the 20th Century and instruments built at the factory included pricier ‘Grafonolas’ and the cheaper ‘Regals’.
The passage marked red is roughly on the SiR’s route from Garratt La to Earlsfield station – via Cargill, Algarve & Earlsfield Roads.
The kink in Garratt Lane was there long before the Surrey Iron Railway was built. The bends are shown on Rocque’s map of 1746. Following such a tight alignment was obviously injurious to the railway. This headed straight across the fields towards what is now Earlsfield station. Houses off Cargill Road now stand on the old railway alignment. There is a passageway off Garratt Lane by Vanderbilt Road (opposite the Henry Prince estate) which leads round the back towards Earlsfield railway station and takes in some of the original route of the SiR.
Duntshill based on a 1874 map showing the SiR alignment marked in red.
When the SiR closed in 1846, it comes as a surprise to learn no opportunity was taken to straighten this awkward section of Garratt Lane. Not too long after closure the old railway alignment was given over for a small hamlet of cottages. This was known as Duntshill after the nearby mansion. Duntshill Road on the other side of Garratt Lane is the sole reminder of this. With the building of the Duntshill cottages, any opportunity to straighten the awkward section of Garratt Lane was lost.
It is said there was once an arch across the SiR. This newer, smaller version replaced the older order at Earlsfield station.
Trewint Street from Garratt Lane. A branch of the SiR used to run down to a mill on the Wandle at the bottom of the road.
The Garratt Paper Mills were served by one of the rare documented branches off the SiR. The mills themselves were demolished by the 1910’s.
The Wandle at the bottom of Trewint Street. The island the Garratt paper mills stood on is still evident.
Nearby were the More Close Bleach and Dye Works. These outlived the iron railway but had gone by the 1870’s.
Garratt Lane by Earlsfield Police station (large red brick building) where Boyce’s Cottages once stood.
Boyce’s Cottages about 1890. No doubt these were built when the SiR existed. Picture from the Newbons website.
Boyce’s Cottages – The Newbons lived there from the early 1880’s. Cottages still there on map in the early 1900’s. Prob demolished in 1916. Replaced by 522 Garratt Lane which is now Earlsfield Police station.

The Mayor of Garratt

Just a few yards south of 522 Garratt Lane is the Leather and Bottle. There has been an inn at this location for around three hundred years. The ‘Garratt’ elections which occurred during the 18th Century were perhaps some of its finest hours and certainly the events were something not seen on such a scale since Cromwellian times.
The Leather and Bottle – scene of the Garratt ‘elections’ during the latter part of the 19th Century
The Leather and Bottle today.
The Mayor of Garratt elections were a popular event during the latter half of the 18th Century. Despite claims that it initially began around 1691, the first proper records of these was from 1747. It originated as a result of a dinner in the Leather and Bottle Inn where locals hit upon the idea of staging a mock election for good natured fun. Aristocracy did not find it funny – the election’s participants were described as “facetious members” by the aristocrat Sir Richard Philips. Yet there was little that could be done to stop the proceedings and the locals went on their merry ways for nigh on fifty years or more. The ceremonial processions to Garratt Green often began at either the Ram or the Spread Eagle Inn in Wandsworth.

Celebrations during the elections for the ‘Mayor of Garratt’
The inhabitants of Garratt Green, in what can be considered clearly a working-class aside at the rich landowners, indulged in sheer political buffoonery. In what seem echoes of the sexual innuedo directed against Cromwell and his Procterate, an annual May carnival was held at the Leather & Bottle in Garratt lane. These drew hundreds, even thousands to the proceedings. These were so popular that nothing on the roads could move for upwards of a mile either way from the village. This can be considered a very early forerunner of the super jams and tailbacks experienced on the UK’s roads!
The ‘political candidates’ were dressed untidly, often like chimney sweepers or navvies, and those put up for election had names that at times contained elements of innuedo, like Sir George Comefirst and Lord Twankum. Other names include Squire Blowmedown, Lord Foppington and old John Jones – who was said to be “a fellow of exceeding humour and ready wit” – whatever that may be! Mockery of the country’s rich landowners was strongly underlined by the winning ‘prize’ – to be “admitted peaceably and quietly into possession of a freehold.”
The Mayor of Garratt’s Oath!
Weddings were also a feature of these elections. Some of the prospective candidates were urged to marry females of the locals’ choice. One example in about 1776 was that of a Miss Nancy, to be called ‘Lady Anne’ by associaton of her marriage to ‘Lord Thomson,’ a local dustman. The candidates (and their wives if any) were often depicted as buffoons on sailing ships, a wry joke upon the misfortunes of land-locked Garratt! The last official ‘Mayor’ was apparently Sir Harry Dimsdale, “so great a humourist… dressed up in a tawdry and illproportioned court-suit with an enormous cocked hat.” He died before he was able to hand over office to the next candidate and this put a damper on the entire proceedings.

Next: Summerstown/The Mead

Surrey Iron Railway pages:
Surrey Iron RailwayThrough Wandsworth / Wandsworth to Earlsfield / Summerstown to New Wimbledon / Colliers Wood to Church Lane / Hallowfield Way to Mitcham Jct / Mitcham to Wandle Park / Cornwall Road to Croydon

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