Watch me talking with Bill Bailey on BBC 1’s The One Show, 1 March 2021

ramblers map

I was interviewed by Bill Bailey as part of a feature on BBC1 The One Show about the Ramblers’ Association campaign ‘Don’t Lose Your Way’. We were filming on footpaths near the Crooked Chimney, Lemsford, Hertfordshire.

The Ramblers are seeking to record and save lost footpaths in England and Wales before 2026. Jack Cornish of the Ramblers is also interviewed on the programme about the campaign.

lost pathways advert for One Tribe TV

Available now on iplayer for the next couple of weeks. From 15 minutes in:

me and bill bailey
me and Bill Bailey on a bridleway in Lemsford, Hertfordshire, January 2021

help identify locations of the OSS lantern slides

I’m trying to find the locations of the Open Spaces Society lantern slides at MERL. Can you help with the more tricky images? They are labelled very generally, or just show a tree or a field. Comment below with suggestions.

Information on the Roman Road south of Croydon by Pengeology:

Croydon Council’s archaeological survey:

Open Spaces Society lantern slides locations update 3: the Wandle river, Surrey

The closest locations of the OSS lantern slides to where I live are Waddon Ponds and the ones marked ‘Wandle Mill’. The images are a bit vague, so I am still working out exactly from where they were taken.

Waddon Ponds, 22 November 2020
wandle 1896
OS Surrey XIV.SW 6 inch to mile, 1898

Wandle Mill was the manorial corn mill. Looking on the OS map, a large corn mill, with watercress beds, alongside the river Wandle just downstream from Waddon Ponds. It no longer exists but is the site of an industrial estate, including a pomo multi-storey carpark full of cars stored by a second hand car dealer, and various small workshops.

Wandle, by Wandle Mill industrial estate, 14 February 2021

A court case was pursued in 1854 by the owner of Wandle Mill, about the rights to use and divert the water to power the mill. The 1849 Public Health Act had enabled the local Board of Health to dig a well as part of the major improvements in sanitary and water provision for Croydon. Indeed, Croydon became known as the first town to implement a comprehensive sewage system and water supply under the powers.

See this analysis of the Croydon sewage improvements by Nicholas Cambridge:

Also the parliamentary report on the Board of Health improvements:

Wandle Stream, by Waddon Mill industrial estate, 14 February 2021
wandle mill
Wandle by Wandle Mill industrial estate, 14 Feb 2021

The river was diverted at the end of the 19th century, creating watercress beds, and later allotments. The corn mill closed in 1928.

From a Croydon council leaflet:

“In 1910 records show that Waddon Ponds belonged to two estates, Waddon Court, which was owned by Mr Crowley, and Waddon Lodge which was owned by Miss Mary Waterall. When the two owners died the Corporation bought part of both estates in 1928 following a vigorous campaign by Mr Pescott Row an author of books about the beauties of England. To commemorate the efforts of Row another local author H.M. Tomlinson donated a sundial to the park. The rest of both the estates was sold to developers and new houses were built in Waddon Court Road, Lodge Avenue, Limes Avenue and Wandle Side.”

The mansion house is Waddon Court. It is on the 1914 map but gone by the 1936 map.

waddon court map
OS Surrey 6 inch to mile, 1914
OS 6 inch Surrey XIV.SW 1936,

The Ridgeway and other streets were built on the new streets in the 1930s:

One view that hasn’t changed much since the lantern slide is this one of the cottages and snuff mill by the Wandle as we cross into Beddington.

Beddington cottages and snuff mill, 14 February 2021

History of the Snuff Mill:

John Hassell in 1817 described what had previously been a pleasant walk along the Wandle:

Open Spaces Society lantern slides locations update 2: Whyteleafe

For an introduction to the OSS lantern slides project at MERL, read:

13 February 2021 – Another of the more obvious locations in the lantern slides was listed as ‘Warlingham steps, Surrey’. This is Jacob’s Ladder, near Whyteleafe South station, Surrey.

Jacobs Ladder, Whyteleafe, 13 February 2021

This is the same image on the lantern slide, a postcard titled ‘Field Surrey series 224’. This one is off Ebay:

back of postcard

Here is the location, a steep climb of around 200 concrete steps, leading from Well Farm Road (round the back of a new looking Travellodge and flats) through a deep railway bridge, up to Westview Road.

It’s marked on the 1912 OS map 25″ to the mile:

map of Whyteleafe

The Bourne Society leaflet on the area states that it was built in the 1880s on the route to Westhall Farm:

It was very slippy and icy underfoot!

Lantern slide and 2021 compared:

As with many of the slides, there isn’t much information on the photo, not even a date.

Jacobs Ladder was built on the route of a public footpath from Well Farm to Westhall Wood. Here’s the OS map from 1871, showing the route starting from an embankment and railway tunnel, although the railway line had not yet been laid:

Ordnance Survey, Surrey XX 6 inch to mile, 1871,

An obituary notice from 1912 gives the life history of one of the occupants of the farm:

Major P. L. Jones
Homeward Mail from India, China and the East, 21 December 1912

The District Council in 1903 sent the surveyor to check the condition of the steps:

surveyor had received instructions to attend to the steps
Croydon Chronicle and East Surrey Advertiser, 15 August 1903

It’s a very suburban middle-class area, with large villas perched on terraces overlooking the steep drop into the Whyteleafe and Warlingham villages. The Victorian OS maps from 1897 show huge houses on large plots spread across the hill. I was intrigued by the street name Kooringa, and comparing with the 1912 map, you can see large houses named Kooringa as well as Kumara and Keilawarra.

Looking the houses up in the census shows the Australian connection. Kooringa and Keilawarra were occupied by coal factors or agents who had evidently made their fortune in the copper mines of south Australia. This 1849 map from the State Library of Australia shows the basic plan of the town built on the Aboriginal site for the settler colonists to live and exploit the natural resources:

“The town of Burra began in 1846 as the company town of Kooringa, surveyed and built for the South Australian Mining Association. It was the first such company town in Australia and remained so until the closure of the mine. An Aboriginal word Kooringa (kuri-ngga) means ‘in the locality of the she-oak’. The neighbouring hills of Kooringa and the mine were stripped of their trees for the mine works.”

Let’s look in the census. The first entry I can find for Kooringa is 1901:

1901 census kooringa
1901 census, Warlingham, Keilawarra and Kouringa,

By 1911, the Church family had been replaced by the Johnson family, but the head of the household was also a coal agent, who had married the daughter of the previous occupant.

1911 census, Kooringa, Warlingham,

Looks like the Church family had moved next door from Keilawarra house. Here’s the entry from 1891.

1891 census, Keilawarra, Warlingham,

Here’s an account of their wedding from the Croydon Chronicle, 29 Sept 1906. Worthington Church is described as the ‘owner of considerable property in Surrey and Essex’. According to another report in the Daily Mirror, the house was worth £300 a year, with extensive ornamental grounds.

croydon chronicle
Croydon Chronicle, 29 Sept 1906

On the other side of Jacob’s Ladder is the White House, still there and of some local notoriety as the site of a naturist retreat since the 1930s.

Joseph Lindley’s Survey of 1793 records there being a White House off Godstone Road. The Huguenot Society’s proceedings, vol 7, 1905, record a Huguenot descendant living in the White House.

Open Spaces Society lantern slides locations update 1

whitgift almshouses

Royal Historical Society lecture: ‘The contested right of public meeting in England from the Bill of Rights to the Public Order Acts’

when is a square not a square

On 5 February 2021, I was honoured to give a lecture to the Royal Historical Society, on the history of the right of public meeting. It has been recorded and will be posted on their website soon.

Ironically the lecture came the day after a video of Handforth Parish Council went viral on Twitter and other social media. My choice of Isaac Cruikshank’s 1828 cartoon of a select vestry meeting being interrupted seemed especially relevant:

Bibliography for the Greening of London

street playgrounds
  • Matti Hannikainen, The Greening of London, 1920-2000 (Routledge, 2016)
  • Peter Clark, Jean-Luc Pinot and Richard Rodger, eds, The European City and Green Space: London, Stockholm, Helsinki and St Petersburg, 1850-2000 (Routledge, 2006)
  • Aya Sakai, ‘Reassessing London Squares; the Development of Preservation Policy, 1880-1931’, Town Planning Review, 82: 6 (2011)
  • Peter Thorsheim, Waste into Weapons: Recycling in Britain During the Second World War (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
  • Marco Amati and Makoto Yokohari, ‘The Establishment of the London Greenbelt: Reaching Consensus over Purchasing Land’, Journal of Planning History, 6: 4 (2007)
  • Tom Turner, ‘Open Space Planning in London: from Standards per 1000 to Green Strategy’, Town Planning Review, 63: 4 (1992)
  • Roy Kozlovsky, The Architectures of Childhood: Children, Modern Architecture and Reconstruction in Postwar England (Routledge, 2013)
  • Lucie Glasheen, ‘Bombsites, Adventure Playgrounds and the Reconstruction of London: Playing with Urban Space in Hue and Cry’, The London Journal (2018)