Wandle Park provides perhaps the most visible evidence of the former Surrey Iron Railway.
As one enters the park there is a stream immediately ahead with a footbridge across it. Head away from this towards the cottages on the edge of the park. The rear boundaries of these cottages forms the approximate centre of the railway’s alignment, with the stream on the outer boundary. This lineage can clearly be seen heading almost due south towards Colliers Wood High Street and it’s tube station.
Wandle Park was once known as Baggery, Bygrove or Biggery Mead. It eventually formed part of Wandlebank House. As related in the last chapter, this was the property of James Perry who had it built in 1805. By the early part of the 20th Century it had been much altered but proved a stupendous building still. The locale was becoming more residential and the spread of housing made demands for a new sewage works to be built north of Byegrove Road. It appears the owners of Wandle Bank felt the area was losing its attraction and the house became less desirable. Wimbledon Corporation had the house demolished in 1962.
The alignment of the SiR at the north end of Wandle Park near Byegrove Road. The footbridge can be seen at right.
Aerial showing SiR approximate route through Collier’s Wood from Byegrove Road behind the tube station to Christchurch Road
Looking along the former SiR alignment in Wandle Park near Byegrove Road.
Another view along the SiR’s route, looking towards Colliers Wood. The huge tower is clearly visible.
The SiR passed the end bit of this block of flats (Newborough House) directly for Tesco’s petrol station in the distance
SiR approx route past petrol station forecourt, over the High Street, through the Donald Hope Library and Valley Gardens, entering a passageway marked at ‘X’
The Merton Gate Keeper’s Cottage – after a drawing made in 1952 by unknown artist.
The SiR had a gate keeper’s cottage sited in the foreground of the above picture. It was known as Stone Cottage. Despite the SiR being a public railway and having footpaths, it is clear they didnt want just anyone walking on or making use of it. This indicates that the SiR made use of gates where it was felt judicious, perhaps for example, at crossings, entrances to depots etc. The roof of the cottage collapsed in 1838. The gatekeepers cottage survived long after the railway closed and pictures from the late 50’s depict the cottage with its walls rather crumbling and the roof in a most perlious state. It was demolished around 1964. From 1882 until 1889 Stone Cottage became the entrance to the Stone Pottery, which included a workship and a kiln. These were operated by William De Morgan, one of the great names of the Arts & crafts movement, under the brand name of ‘Merton Abbey.’
Being a creation from around 1952 (and clearly under the scope of the 1911 copyright laws ascribing the 50 year limit to copyright) the pen and ink drawing of Stone Cottage has expired. Further research by Merton Historical Society indicates no definite authorship can be ascribed hence Section 12 (3) of the 1988 law defines the image as being out of copyright.
The public house nearly opposite Collier’s Wood tube station, the Red Lion, is actually a building that was around when the SiR existed and so must have provided a useful rest for some of the men who had to lead the horse drawn trains of wagons. This may puzzle people but the explanation is its apperance has been altered but basically inside its still an early 19th Century structure, construction dating somewhere between 1810 and 1830.
Valley Gdns: The passageway marked at ‘X.’ The SiR’s approx alignment as it headed towards Christ Church (spire in distance)
South Gdns: View of Christchurch Rd towards the spire. The SiR ran on the edge of this road towards Merantun Way in distance.
Christchurch Road used to be called Merton Lane.
Single Gate and that tower
Singlegate Primary School’s logo. Right – Single Gate was sited where the tube station is now.
In SiR days the locale was known as ‘Merton Singlegate.’ Tolls were payable at a site that now forms the entrance to Collier’s Wood tube station. The nearby school known as Singlegate Primary serves as a reminder of that distant history.
The Colliers Wood building has been voted as one of the ugliest in Britain. One local newspaper report says “For decades the despised tower has loomed over Colliers Wood with its open car park attracting crime, drug users and even providing a set for porn movies…” One of the locals says “It really is disgraceful such a landmark building that can be seen from miles around should have become such a symbol of urban squalor and decay.” Proposals to refurbish the tower so far seem to struggle but recent news says it is due to begin in 2013.
The coronation of Henry VI at Merton Priory on the 1st November 1437 gives Collier’s Wood the unusual distinction in the country of being the only place where a monarch has been crowned other than in Westminster Abbey.
At the junction with Fortescue Road is a weatherboarded house. This is 70 Christchurch Road. Although it is not determined, it is claimed that this building used to be a SiR manager’s house. There used to be a pair of these at one time but a WWII bomb demolished one of these. The surviving building was made a listed building in May 1976. The building suffered major fire damage in 1979 and was virtually rebuilt. To all purposes and intents it is therefore a modern replica that has been listed.
70 Christchurch Road – a SiR manager’s house?
During the later half of the 19th Century it was part of Willow Farm. By the 1900’s this had been replaced by the Metropolitan Water Board’s works. No house is shown on for the first half of the 20th Century, however aerial maps of 1929 prove its presence at the corner of Christchruch and Fortescue Roads.
Apparently the house was bought by a scrap mearchants on the next lot in Fortescue Road and restored by them.
It is said that Mitcham and Merton had more clapboard (weatherboard) houses than any other district.
The junction with Merantun Way showing the approximate route of the SiR.
Jacobs Green and Iron Lane
What is now the intersection between Merantun Way and Christchurch Road stood Jacob’s Green, also known as Chilton Place. The names were probably lost towards the latter part of the 19th Century. There were many weatherboarded houses here. The tributuary of the Wandle which can be seen down the side by Merantun Way is knwon as The Pickle Ditch. Merantum Way was buil tin the late 1980’s following the closure of the line from Wimbledon through Merton Abbey
The route through Meruntan Way is confusing. With all the changes it appears the former alignment of the SiR now passes through the edge of the car park that serves Nando’s, Starbucks etc rather than along the egde of Christchurch Road itself. It is not until the junction of Western and Church Roads that the SiR’s alignment runs down what is the middle of Church Road, and this explains its former name – Iron Lane.
Stanford’s Library Map Of London & Suburbs 1864 – showing Jacob’s Green & ‘Iron Lane’ (Church Road) after the SIR.
Towards the Mitcham end of Church Road, Foxes Path is quite an old thoroughfare. Its one of the earliest in the area and offered a shortcut from Iron Lane to Merton Lane. Nearby where Church Road meets Miles Road, it has been said there were stables belonging to the SiR. There is no evidence pertaining to this, however long deceased employees of a paint company based in Miles Road claim the SiR had the use of outbuildings within the premises. If this is true then it appears perhaps the SiR did not build its own stables but used others instead, such as those at Wandlebank and at Mitcham as we will see later.
The most interesting aspect on this length has to be Mitcham Parish Church with its Commonwealth war graves. The church itself is of a quite unusual, rich, coloured stone, which is appropriately something like the colour of iron-ochre. How appropriate! The church was rebuilt in 1820 in the Gothic Revival style (though parts of it are earlier), so clearly its one of the very few buildings actually present when the SiR was operational.
Mitcham Parish Church & cemetery. The SiR passed along here before crossing Church Road into Hallowfield Way/Benedict Wharf.
After Church Lane the SiR continuned southwards towards Mitcham. Early photographs of the church show the land formerly used by the railway being utlised for watercress farming!
Surrey Iron Railway pages:
McMurrays Canal / Surrey Iron Railway / Through 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