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Explore the author's map to discover strange stories from Mitcham and the surrounding areas.

'MYSTERIOUS
MITCHAM'


Contents:

Front Cover

Introduction

Part 1 - Mitcham:

The Phantom Cyclist
of Mitcham Common
(update to Strange Mitcham)

A Dark Figure on Mitcham Common

Tales from the
Vestry Hall

'Calico Jack': The
Playful Ghost of
Lacks the Drapers

The Faces on the Walls:
Hancock's Cottages

The Haunted Cottages
in Tramway Path

The 'Haunting' of
Hall Place

The Spectral
Soldier of Graham
Road

The Legend of
Mitcham Fair

Remember the Grotto

The Phantom of
the 'Folly'

An Apparition at
Woof & Sabine

Haunted Rooms at
Fry Metals

The Phantom Cat

Mitcham's (not so)
Haunted Mansion

The Kingston Zodiac

The 'Ghost Tree'

Ghostly Gardeners,
Medicinal Plants and
A Magical Tree

The 'Thing'

The Wrath of God

A Ghostly Experience
in Morden Road

Mitcham Clock Tower:
When Time Ran
Backwards

The Rosier Family
Legend

The 'Ball of Fire'

UFO over Mitcham
Common, 2004

UFO over Tooting
  Bec Common, 1990





Part 2 - South of
Mitcham Common:

Carew Manor

The Ghosts of
Beddington Park

Beddington Parish
Church & Churchyard

The Figure in the
Alley

Under Beddington

A Spectral Cavalier





Other Information:

Author's website

'Haunted Mitcham' Facebook group:

Facebook group set up
by Geoff Mynn in
January 2015

Heritage maps

Thanks to the
Mitcham Society
and Merton Council
there are some very
nice heritage
maps of Mitcham
available.

Download for free
via this link.

The Mitcham Ghost
Ride

Strange Mitcham
(2002): Errata


 

The Legend of Mitcham Fair

Looking around today, it may come as a surprise to learn that royalty once held Mitcham in the highest regard. But in the late sixteenth century, Mitcham was a very different place. Then it was a pleasant little rural village set in the lush green Surrey countryside, a haven of peace and fresh air far away from the bustle and stench of Tudor London. What's more, its convenient location - only about an hour's ride from the capital - meant it became a fashionable retreat for Elizabethan nobility.

That famous Elizabethan gentleman Sir Walter Raleigh, for example, lived here for a time (hence the road named Raleigh Gardens close to Upper Green) and he features in a number of local ghost stories. (See the chapters about Beddington Parish Church and the nearby alley, and Beddington Park for details.)

Queen Elizabeth I herself visited the area many times during her reign (1558-1603), staying overnight on at least five occasions. The Virgin Queen's connection with Mitcham has given rise to an enduring local legend concerning the annual fair.


Legend Fills A Vacuum

Mitcham's Fair is one of England's oldest. Apart from two lapses of a few years each, it has been a feature of local life for so long that nobody is quite sure how it all began.

Whenever facts are in doubt legend quickly fills the vacuum, and in this case it is claimed that Elizabeth I established the Fair by Royal Charter. The story has it that Elizabeth was so delighted at the way Mitcham's villagers celebrated one of her visits that she declared the celebrations an annual event. It is an attractive story and, if true, it would date the Fair's origins at around the end of the sixteenth century.

Sadly, no evidence to support this claim has ever been found, despite a detailed search carried out in the early twentieth century, prompted by a threat to end the Fair. It is perfectly possible that its origins do lie in the Elizabethan period, but without documentary proof it is impossible to be sure. What is sure is that the Fair was definitely around by the mid-eighteenth century. In fact, it seems to have attracted a great deal of unwelcome attention at this time, for tradition states that the authorities declared the Fair illegal between 1770 and 1775. This is probably an exaggeration: it is more likely that what really happened was an attempt to clamp down on the event's less savoury aspects such as gambling, unruly behaviour and litter.

Originally, the Fair was held on Upper (or "Fair") Green, but it had an unwelcome habit of overflowing onto nearby private land, prompting complaints from the owners. During the 1900s, these complaints, together with the threat of accidents posed by the ever-increasing traffic congestion, led to suggestions that the Fair should be abolished. But traditionalists cried out (rightly or wrongly) that "the people's Fair" had been granted by Royal Charter and could not be taken away. At around the same time, the Showmen's Guild - who had a vested interest in the event continuing - helped sway public opinion with the introduction of an ostentatious opening ceremony involving an enormous gold-coloured key.


Above: The opening ceremony, 12 August 1998. (James Clark, 1998)

The opening ceremony is still performed each year when the Mayor, attired in full regalia, raises the key above his or her head and turns it several times to symbolically open the proceedings.

(There is a story that a different opening ceremony, involving the exchange of a horse, existed long before the key was introduced. However, although it is known that some horse selling did take place in earlier times, there does not appear to be any evidence that it played this vital a role.)

After many years of arguments, the Fair was allowed to survive but only if it moved to a new venue. So in 1924 it moved to its modern location around Three Kings Piece. It continued to be held year after year until 1940 when the Second World War intervened, but this was only a brief interruption and eight years later it made a triumphant return.

Its greatest threat to date came in 1975, when some local residents who considered the event a nuisance complained loudly to the Council. The Council responded by imposing more stringent regulations on the showmen, demanding an improvement in safety checks and food hygiene. This led to an increase in pitch rents and the showmen, already unhappy at the poor profits rainy Augusts had bought them in recent years, decided to call it a day. But, as had happened over fifty years previously, there was a public outcry - the issue of the alleged Royal Charter was again raised and there were loud demands to bring the Fair back.

Happily, a compromise was eventually reached and Mitcham Fair reopened in 1983 on its traditional date of 12 August - a date once well-known to locals as "the Glorious Twelfth".


Old footage of Mitcham Fair from British Pathé (links added Sep. 2009)

Click on an image to open preview footage in a new window:

Pathe Link 1919 "London - An Ancient Fair - Mitcham Fair - that dates from Elizabethan days -- opened with the historic key" (1919)

Pathe Link 1921 "Mitcham Fair: A Survival of Elizabethan Days. Mr Mallaby Deeley M.P. opens the Fair with the historic key. Mitcham, London" (1921)

Pathe Link 1922 "Come to the Fair: Mitcham Fair opened with historic key" (1922)

Pathe Link 1925 "Mitcham Fair opened, for the first time in its history, by a woman - Mrs Hallowes. Surrey" (1925)

Pathe Link (date unknown) "A London Sideshow: Mitcham's famous Fair opened once again with historic key" (late 1920s?)

Pathe Link 1930 "'Heigh HO! Come to the Fair!' Just for a brief moment - let's all be young again - at the famous Mitcham Fair" (1930)

Pathe Link 1931 "'Come to the Fair' Mitcham Fair opened with historic key" (1931)

Pathe Link 1932 "'All the Fun of the Fair' Mitcham Fair opened with historic key" (1932)

Pathe Link 1935 "Mitcham Fair opened with historic key" (1935)

Pathe Link 1937 "Mitcham Fair opened with historic key" (1937)

Pathe Link 1938 "Mitcham Fair opened with historic key" (1938)

 
   
© James Clark. All rights reserved. Should you wish to refer to material presented here you are most welcome to quote a short excerpt (of no more than one or two paragraphs) provided you give full attribution and supply a link back to this website. Use of longer excerpts will require the author's prior written permission - by all means feel free to ask! But please DO NOT steal my work by copying great chunks and posting them in their entirety without permission. Thank you.


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