Wimbledon Windmill

Above: The windmill seen from Wimbledon Common.

There has been a windmill on the site since the time of Charles I. The present windmill was built in 1817 which, obviously, means that this year it is 200 years old. it only operated until 1864 as a working mill. The machinery was then removed and it was converted to residential accommodation. The living accommodation was for six families. The original wooden upper storey was rebuilt using brick, and fireplaces and chimneys were added to give the building the appearance it has today. One room has been retained in the Museum to give an idea of the living conditions in 1870.

In 1976 the first floor of the mill was opened as a museum and this was extended to the whole building in 1998.

In 2015 one of the sails fell from the wind-shaft with minimum damage being caused. It was then decided to give the mill a complete renovation. With the aid of a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant, contributions from the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators and money from other local benefactors, the work was completed in November 2016.

Above: The windmill seen from the approach path from the road.

The museum also has a display of Scouting memorabilia, commemorating the writing of part of ‘Scouting for Boys’ in 1908 by Robert Baden-Powell in the Mill House, where he lived.

The windmill stands in Windmill Road on Wimbledon Common. The site is just outside
the boundary of the London Borough of Wandsworth, in the London Borough of Merton. However, the site is so close to the Wandsworth boundary that is has been included under Wandsworth. The easiest way to visit the windmill is by the 83 bus, from Putney Bridge Station, which has a bus stop at Windmill Road.


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Putney Wharf

Above: Looking west from the southern end of Putney Bridge over 100 years ago.

It is an obvious thing to say but none of the original paths and tracks crossing Inner London are in evidence today because those tracks have become roads and the surfaces were probably covered in Victorian times by stone sets and then, in later times, covered by the more modern road surfaces that we use today. Similarly, footpaths have been paved. All this preamble leads to the topic of Putney Wharf.

In contrast to the ancient tracks and footpaths, the Thames is a ‘highway’, which rises and falls twice each day, exposing the land either side that we call the banks or the beach. Access to the beach was, in previous centuries, by using pedestrian stairs or ramps – usually called ‘slipways’ – leading directly onto what firm ground there was beside the river. Some of those old stairs remain today, a very few of the slipways are still to be found but the one in the picture is unique in Inner London beside the Thames. It was just known as ‘’The Wharf’ or ‘Putney Wharf’.

The site is easily recognisable for anyone who knows Putney. The view in the picture is from the southern end of Putney Bridge and looks towards the west. Most of the layout of the land and the buildings look just the same today. What has changed is that no lighters (large barges) are to be seen at Putney on the river these days and the horse-drawn carts, sadly, are no more.

Behind the trees and shrubs (on the far left) Lower Richmond Road runs west from its junction with Putney Bridge and Putney High Street. The slipway, leading into the Thames is still there. The ornate three-storey building is the Star and Garter pub which still graces today’s scene. The wide walkway beside the Thames looks just same today – it is called Putney Embankment. Near the large pub is the lattice ironwork of the gangway leading to Putney Pier.

Dating this view is not easy.The roof-line of the Star and Garter pub is not so ornate today which suggests that this view shows the earlier pub. It was rebuilt in 1901 in red-brick and so it now has a quite different appearance to that in the picture. It is therefore likely that the view was taken in the 1890s. It was taken on a day when there was a high tide because the gangway leading to the pier is just about horizontal which only occurs at high water.

The view is a good example of how life was for many workers beside the Thames. The barge nearest to the camera is moored beside the slipway and was either being loaded or unloaded. Two small carts have been ‘backed-up’ onto the river so that the contents of the carts can be loaded into the barge or the barge can be unloaded to the carts. It is also known that larger loads were carried by Thames sailing barges that were deliberately beached on the mud of the Thames at Putney Wharf – at low tide – and horse-drawn carts were driven down the slipway and on to the bed of the river to go alongside the barge to make moving goods easier.


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Ram Brewery, Wandsworth

Above: The large Ram pub in Wandsworth High Street, photographed when it was still in use. It is presently closed but it is expected to reopen after the development of the whole site is completed.

As the enormous site is under renovation and development – with houses, office units, shops and restaurants – it is an appropriate time to tell the story of one of London’s famous breweries.

Records show that the Ram pub, on the corner of today’s Wandsworth High Street and Ram Street, was in existence around 1550. In the early days, pubs were not supplied with beer by large breweries, as they are today. Nearly every pub then used to brew its own beer. It would seem that the site of the pub was ideal because within only a hundred yards of the building flows the River Wandle. The clear stream would have provided an endless source of water for brewing. The earliest mention of brewing at the Ram was in 1576. After several mentions of brewing at the pub, in the 1600s and 1700s, we know that the Ram was purchased by Charles Allen Young and Anthony Fothergill Bainbridge in 1831. Ownership remained with the Young family until 2006. Young’s claimed that the Ram Brewery was the oldest British brewery in continuous operation.

Above: Part of the brewery (facing onto Wandsworth High Street) beside Wandle Bridge (in the shadows on the left). The Ram pub is on the far right.

The last Chairman of Young & Co was John Young – the great-great-grandson of the founder. The premises became the main brewery for Young’s beers in London. On 23 May 2006, the company issued a press release announcing that the Ram Brewery was to close and brewing was to be moved to the Eagle Brewery in Bedford, then owned by Charles Wells. Chairman John Young died on 17 September 2006, just a few days before the closure of the brewery, whilst the final brew was being run at the Ram brewery Wandsworth. Beer from the last brew was served at his funeral on 29 September 2006.

From what was probably a large yard and outhouses next to the original pub, the premises were expanded west to the River Wandle and north to Armoury Way. The extensive site had many buildings that are being preserved for future use when the development has been completed.

The brewery in Wandsworth supplied Young’s public houses in London and the area to the south-west, which still numbered over 200. It also sold to many other pubs and supermarkets. Beer was also exported to many European countries, Canada, the United States and Japan. The company produced three regular beers and a series of seasonal and occasional cask ales, keg lagers, and several filtered and pasteurised bottled beers. Young’s also produced several beers for InBev, such as Courage Best and Mackeson Stout.

Young & Co is still based in Wandsworth. Until June 2007 it was based at offices at the Ram Brewery but it later moved into its new head office, around the corner from the former brewery site.

At the time of its closure in 2006, the brewery was a mix of ancient and ultra-modern plant, including a steam engine which had been installed in 1835 and had been in regular use until the 1980s. The Ram Brewery officially closed at the end of the business day on Monday, 25 September 2006.

A number of animals were resident in the brewery, including a ram, a number of geese and about a dozen working draught horses – mainly shire horses. Until the closure of the brewery, the horses and drays were still used for local deliveries of beer to locations within a mile or two of the brewery.

The new owner of the site, property company Minerva plc, has hired one of the former Young’s brewers, John Hatch, as the site manager. One of his jobs is to keep brewing going on the site via a ‘nano-brewery’ set up in the old Young’s laboratory. Hatch’s new Ram Brewery brews at least once a week in order to maintain the ‘oldest British brewery’ claim.

Above: The weathervane, with the ram emblem, continues to gleam in the sun while development work continues on the site.

Redevelopment of the site was announced in July 2013 – providing new residential and commercial properties alongside shops, bars, restaurants and public open spaces. Some of the historic buildings on the site will be retained and restored. They will house a new micro-brewery and a museum of brewing history, in which the coppers and beam engine will be displayed. Nearby, the banks of the River Wandle, on the western side of the site, will also be opened up for public access.

In passing, it should be mentioned that all the well-known breweries in London – like Courage, Truman and many others – have all closed down. Apart from small local breweries, which continue to flourish, none of the original large breweries are operational in London. They have all relocated to large sites well outside London.


Comment 05 – Know Your London Images

In addition to the blogs that you read three times each week on this Website, there is another Website which carries some images of London that are of particular interest – selected from my large collection, taken over many years. Images are added from time to time – not as regularly as the normal blogs. If you would like to take a look, the link is . . .


Each image is larger than the Webpage on which it is shown. To enlarge an image (to fill the screen) just click on it and it will expand automatically. I hope you enjoy the pictures. Each image carries a caption giving a description and date when the image was taken.


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Huguenot Burial Ground, Wandsworth

Above: A few of the many large tombs and gravestones to be seen in the old Huguenot Burial Ground.

The story of the Huguenots in London is, to many people, an unfamiliar subject. A few words of introduction will be given. You are probably well aware of the break with the Catholic Church that took place in England during the reign of Henry VIII. That resulted in the execution of any Roman Catholic in England who did not renounce their faith. On the Continent, a new Protestant movement began to emerge and it met with similar antagonism by the Catholics. To try to overcome the problems, religious leaders met and an Edict was drawn up in the City of Nantes, in Western France, to try to bring about religious tolerance. The ‘peace’ held for a while but in 1685 came the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and massacres occurred in many places in France. The Huguenots – who were French Protestants, mainly from northern France, inspired by the writings of John Calvin – really had little choice other than to flee for their lives.

Because England had become Protestant many years earlier, many about 200,000 Huguenots sought refuge on these shores. They spread to many places in England and settled in many towns and cities. A large proportion of the Huguenot immigrants were highly skilled in a variety of crafts. For example, Spitalfields, just east of the City of London, was where many Huguenots settled – becoming famous for their silk-weaving skills. There are still many Huguenot descendants still living in England, many with French names. Joseph Bazalgette (engineer for the Victoria Embankment) was of Huguenot descent. The Courtauld family are another example.

Our topic today concerns the Huguenots who settled in and around the village of Wandsworth. Because the Huguenots have integrated into English society, their presence is not so obvious today because it is well over three hundred years since they first settled here. Wandsworth is probably the only places in London where a Huguenot Cemetery still exists – although no burials now take place there.

The burial site was opened about 1687. It later became known as ‘Mount Nod’ and it was enlarged in 1700 and again in 1735. It remained in use until 1854 when it was closed under the Metropolitan Burials Act. Today it comes under the care of Wandsworth Council who replaced the railings around the perimeter in 2003. It later reopened as a public garden and contains a number of historic monuments. In 1911 a memorial was erected to the memory of the Wandsworth Huguenots and that can still be seen. Today the burial ground is only open on request, by contacting the Parks Department. The site is now a noisy one being sandwiched at the fork of two busy one-way streets called East Hill and Huguenot Place. Not only is Huguenot Place a reminder of these unusual French settlers but a short distance away (to the north) is a street called Nantes Close.

At one time there was a Huguenot church in the village of Wandsworth and the burial ground on East Hill served for burials of the worshippers. Not being members of the Church of England, it would have been necessary for the Huguenots to have their own separate burial ground. Today, it is probably the only remaining Huguenot burial ground in Inner London – maybe also in Greater London.

As has already been mentioned, it was the Huguenots’ remarkable skill in silk-weaving that made Spitalfields very famous. Wandsworth also was made famous by other skilled Huguenots who worked in quite different crafts. Around 1780 they settled in Wandsworth and were skilled hatters and dyers. When the cardinals in Rome began to order hats from them, their industry made Wandsworth famous throughout Europe. The Huguenots settled in Wandsworth because of the purity and power of the River Wandle, which was ideal for the bleaching and dyeing of felt.

The Huguenots were also renowned for their iron and copper ware, such as brass plates for kettles and frying pans. Dutch Yard (south off Wandsworth High Street) and Coppermill Lane (west off Plough Lane) have names that are reminders of where the Flemish settlers once worked.


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Wandsworth Overview

Above: Looking north in Wandle Creek at the point where the River Wandle meets the Thames. It was the Wandle that gave us the modern name of Wandsworth. For flood-prevention reasons the stream is now embanked with concrete but there is a small park to the left (where the trees are to be seen). Today’s busy roads – where the quiet village lane once crossed Wandle Bridge – is just a quarter of a mile south of this rural scene.

The original village of Wandsworth came into being beside the Thames but also around the smaller River Wandle which enters the Thames at this point. Parts of the Wandle are still visible above ground and flow through parkland today. Over the centuries, the Wandle had more mills on it than any other tributary of the Thames.

The first mention of the name was as ‘Wendleswura’ in AD 693 and as ‘Wendelesorde’ in the Domesday Book (1086). The name is taken to mean ‘Wendel’s worth’– ‘worth’ being Old English for an open space, so a literal translation could be given as ‘Wendel’s Farm’. Of course, who ‘Wendel’ was we shall never know.

The list of vicars for the parish church of All Saints goes back to 1243. The church may have been founded earlier than that but there are just no other early records. The present tower of the church was built 1630, from an earlier church. The present church dates from 1780. In 1841 the old tower was raised in height with the addition of a belfry storey, with eight bells. The church has always stood near the bridge over the River Wandle which flowed through the original village. While the geography just described has not changed, the bridge over the Wandle is now part of a traffic-filled one-way system and the peace of the little village has gone for ever!

Above: Outline map (in red) of the London Borough of Wandsworth. The additional boundary (in yellow) shows the boundary between the pre-1965 Metropolitan Boroughs of Battersea (right) and Wandsworth (left). The ‘finger’ of land enclosed by the yellow dotted line was also part of the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth. On the map, GREEN dots show the ancient villages – known to be in existence from Saxon or Norman times. The YELLOW dots show villages which came into being after 1066.

On the map, the original centres of Wandsworth, Balham, Tooting and nearby Tooting Bec are shown in GREEN because they were all Domesday manors (1086) – some of them dating from long before the Norman conquest. Shown in YELLOW, indicating a place that developed later than Domesday times is Roehampton. Putney was also an ancient settlement that was part of the Manor of Mortlake by Domesday times, a manor that was to the west of the borough boundary but whose land then included part of the western side of the modern borough. Earlsfield is marked as a place name on the modern map. It came into being in Victorian times as a typical London suburb, developing around the railway station of the same name.

The name of the original village of Wandsworth was used for the newly formed Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth, which was one of 28 Metropolitan Boroughs which came into being in 1900. Notice that the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth also included the ‘finger’ of land on the western side of the red-shaded area. This Metropolitan Borough was the most westerly of boroughs that were on the south side of the Thames. Its boundary on the western side – with the County of Surrey – was a natural one formed by a tributary of the Thames called Beverley Brook.

The Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth continued until 1 April 1965 when Battersea and Wandsworth were combined to form the larger London Borough of Wandsworth. At that time the ‘finger’ of land (made up essentially of Clapham and Streatham) was taken away from the London Borough of Wandsworth and added to the London Borough of Lambeth. The London Borough is still the administrative unit at the time of writing. It should be noted that the name of Wandsworth applies to the original village; the Metropolitan Borough; and also the London Borough.


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American Embassy, Nine Elms

Above: The new, almost completed, American Embassy (seen in May 2017) on the new site beside Nine Elms Lane.

At the time of writing, the American Embassy occupies a large building on the west side of Grosvenor Square. New premises are still under construction (but nearing completion) to the west of Vauxhall in what was once the rather run-down area of Nine Elms. Twenty years ago, anyone suggesting that the American Embassy might move would have probably been laughed at. If the suggestion had been extended to say that the move might be to Nine Elms, it would have been dismissed as ridiculous. Well, it is happening and the building is nearing completion. Not only is the American Embassy moving to Nine Elms but the Embassy of the Netherlands is also reported to be moving to the same area.

Nine Elms Lane, the land between it and the Thames as well as large swathes of land on the south side of the lane were characterised in the 1908s by an area of large warehouses and factories. They have gradually closed and, since about the year 2000, the whole area fell into dereliction. Today the whole area is undergoing regeneration – with large blocks of up-market apartments for the rich, trendy wine bars and restaurants springing up, along with a few food shops. Plans are afoot for two more underground stations in the area. Beside Chelsea Bridge is the old Battersea Power Station which is, at last, under redevelopment. Apple has chosen a part of that site for its new London headquarters. With a large amount of land to be developed, its rather like a 19th-century gold rush as developers leap at the chance to ‘make a killing’ in financial terms from their new developments.

According to the Embassy Website, the United States has been associated with Grosvenor Square site, in Mayfair, since the late-18th century when John Adams, the first United States Minister to the Court of St James’s, lived from 1785 to 1788 in the house which still stands in Grosvenor Square on the corner of Brook Street and Duke Street. John Adams later became President of the United States. The Chancery was first located in Great Cumberland Place and later in Piccadilly, then at Portland Place and eventually in Grosvenor Gardens. In 1938 it was moved to 1 Grosvenor Square, the building which now houses the Canadian High Commission. During the Second World War when the Chancery was on one side and General Eisenhower’s headquarters on another, Grosvenor Square became popularly known as ‘Little America’.

In 1960 the United States Embassy moved to the present site at 24 Grosvenor Square which is a building constructed from pre-cast reinforced concrete.

In 2008 the site at Nine Elms was purchased. According to the Embassy Website, one of the primary goals of Kieran Timberlake’s design is to demonstrate exceptional environmental leadership that is at or beyond the leading edge of practice when the building is completed. The current embassy has become overcrowded. It does not meet modern office needs and the latest required security standards. After 50 years it is showing signs of wear and tear.

Above: Internet image showing how the completed site will look. The Thames and Nine Elms Lane can be seen on the right. The four chimneys of the old Battersea Power Station building can be seen top right.

The new 12-storey building at Nine Elms, which will be able to house 1,000 staff, covers 45,000 square metres. The building is basically a cube set in gardens. It is a policy of the United States that the design of their Embassies anywhere in the world is carried out by an architect and contractors that are all American. One of its security features is a moat which extends around part of the building – which is yet to be completed. Considering how much ‘high-tech’ equipment will be installed in the building, it is quite a contrast to have the ‘low-tech’ security solution of a moat on the exterior – a form of defence that goes back through the centuries to the time of the Normans. The overall design of the new Embassy has been criticised by Rogers and Palumbo who have said that the architect’s design was boring and ‘not good enough to represent one of the great nations in London’.


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Asparagus Pub, Falcon Road

Above: The modern pub, standing on the corner of Falcon Road and Battersea Park Road.

You might think that ‘The Asparagus’ is a strange name for a pub and, of course, you would be right. It is the only pub by that name in Inner London – maybe in the whole of England. Taking a look at the picture you could also be forgiven for thinking that it looked more like a small office block than a pub. That is also true.

The Wetherspoon pub opened in 1998 on a site that had not been a pub before. The rest of the site was a newly built development of shops with office units above. So, what was the reason for calling the pub by that strange name?

There was no pub on the site before the present one opened and the name ‘Asparagus’ had not been used by any other pub area. This is a case of naming a pub after an old tradition of growing asparagus in the area in the 19th century. So keeping alive the name of a vegetable that was commonly grown in the local fields in times past is a commendable idea.

The City of London, on the north side of the Thames, along with the City of Westminster on its western side were becoming larger during the 18th and 19th centuries as more and more people were living there. It had always been the tradition that the residents of London and Westminster bought their fruit and vegetables in local markets – like Spitalfields Market (to the east of the City of London); the Stocks Market (which ceased operation when the Mansion House was built on the site it had previously occupied for centuries); and Covent Garden Market (just north of the Strand).

We are talking about the times before the coming of the railways – which were not built in London until the 1830s. The railways were instrumental in enabling farmers to send all sorts of produce – including fruit and vegetables – very long distances, to be sold at large markets. Before the railways changed transport dramatically, most of the fruit and vegetables were grown on the outskirts of the City of London – in areas like Hackney, Deptford, Fulham, Hammersmith, Wandsworth and, of course, Battersea. The produce was taken to market by horse and cart. In many of these places, the local farmers had a speciality that they grew. Either they were good at growing a particular fruit or vegetable or it might have been that the soil in a particular area was best suited to a particular crop.

What we know is that Battersea was the place where large quantities of asparagus were grown. After being picked, the crop was sold in what were known as ‘Battersea Bundles’. The modern pub, which stands at 1-13 Falcon Road, at the junction with Battersea Park Road, has a most appropriate name, which keeps alive the memory of the days when most of the flat land nearby was covered in small farms growing produce to feed the hungry mouths of the city folk about six or seven miles away.


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