(Shadowtime Home)


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



Front Cover


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

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

The Rosier Family

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

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

Download for free
via this link.

The Mitcham Ghost

Strange Mitcham
(2002): Errata


Remember the Grotto

Older residents may recall the grottoes that would appear in and around Mitcham during the weeks leading up to Mitcham Fair. Some readers may even have built these themselves.

This tradition began to die out during the Second World War and the last grottoes were probably built during the 1950s and 1960s. Once, however, the practice was as popular among local children as 'trick-or-treating' is today.

Grottoes were usually mounds of earth anything up to four feet high and often with caves scooped out of them. They were also made in various shapes: a heart, for example, or an anchor. Built beside roads, they were decorated with pebbles, fragments of broken pottery, candles, perhaps a piece of mirror to simulate a pool of water, and - when they could be found - shells. Sometimes, a few flowers were pinched from a nearby garden and added for effect, a practice which resulted in more than one clipped ear. When finished, the candles were lit and the little builders sat beside their creations, pleading with passers-by to 'spare a copper' for them to spend at the Fair.

Penny Parker, in Mitcham - A Historical Glimpse, records a typical rhyme recited by such hopeful children:

Please remember the grotto; it's only once a year
Please give me a ha'penny to spend at Mitcham Fair
Father's gone to sea; Mother's gone to fetch him back
So please remember me.

A Connection To St James?

The custom of building grottoes may derive from the celebration of St James's Day (25 July). James was martyred in Jerusalem between AD 42 and AD 44, after which his remains are said to have been taken to Compostela in Spain. During the Middle Ages, his shrine there became one of the chief destinations for Christian pilgrims.

Above: 'Madonna' by Carol Crivelli, c.1480. The figure in this portrait is wearing a scallop shell on his cloak.

There is a legend that James once encountered a drowning Portuguese man. Thanks to his intervention, the man and his horse were both saved and they emerged from the water covered in scallops. Ever since, the scallop shell emblem has been associated with the saint, and pilgrims returning from Compostela often carried shells so that everyone would know where they had been.

This association between St James and shells led to the building of shell-covered 'shrines' and it is to these that the Mitcham children's money-raising grottoes are believed to owe their ancestry.

[Source: Parker, Penny, Mitcham - A Historical Glimpse, Merton Library Service, 1988.]

© 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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