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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 'Haunting' of Hall Place

The crumbling ruins of a Gothic mansion, standing alone in their abandoned grounds, have an undeniably eerie quality. We know this setting from countless tales of the supernatural and the association is so deeply rooted in us that we cannot help but expect something uncanny to lurk here. So when such a derelict structure is passed every day by young boys on their way to and from school it is almost inevitable that ghostly rumours will circulate the playground.


Kevin Green's Story

Kevin Green grew up in Mitcham during the 1950s and in 2005 he told me how he remembers he and his brother hearing of a ghost in Church Road. 'We used to be scared walking past some old ruins along Church Road near St Christopher's on [the] way to Star School,' he reported. '[There was] supposed to be a ghost there.'

(Benedict Primary School - off Church Road, close to Mitcham Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul - was known as the Star School after a nearby public house.)



Above: Church Road photographed in 2010. In the 1950s the ruins would have been to your left as you walked along this road. (James Clark, 2010)

Heightening the sinister atmosphere around these ruins may have been the presence of a nearby abattoir. 'I can very clearly remember a small abattoir in the road [Church Place] connecting Church Road and Love Lane,' Kevin added in 2010, 'more or less opposite the ruins, and live animals (sheep and pigs but no memory of cattle) being shepherded along the road to their demise. There was a bloody gutter and a nasty smell, which only added to a small boy's nervous imagination and did nothing to lessen the creepiness of this particular part of the walk to school – especially on a misty dark winter’s morning!' [1]

After the passage of half a century, Kevin could no longer remember the details of the ghost story he had heard. He had a vague memory that the haunting had had 'something to do with Merton Abbey' [2] but he could not be sure of this.


James Bonser's Story

In early 2010, James Bonser contacted me to say that he remembered hearing a ghost story from this same part of Mitcham. He told me: 'As a child growing up in Church Path, Mitcham, I would walk down the footpath that ran from London Road to Church Road, on my way to the Lower Mitcham Star School. I would pass the end of Broadway Gardens, go past the allotments and there, before you reached St Christopher's school lay a piece of ground. On it stood very large trees and a very old derelict building. I knew this place as Lady Worsfold's. It was said to have its own ghost, but during my time as a boy, scrumping apples and pears, not once did I encounter any such apparition.'

James admitted that he once even took part of the old building to school with him: '[It] was me that removed the old wooden, worm-eaten window frame from the old building. I was very young then, and attended the Star School [...] After the removal of the fragment of window, I took it to the school to have looked at by our history teacher.'

James attended the Star School from the age of five until he took the Eleven Plus examination, after which he moved on to a new school, so he is certain of the period during which he heard this ghost story. It would have been between 1949 and 1955, which is roughly the same time period that Kevin Green associated with his story. In fact, we were later able to confirm that Kevin and James must have been remembering the same tale.

The ruins that James recalled were, he told me: 'the same old ruins that are mentioned by Kevin Green. Kevin passed the old building while walking along Church Road. If you were to climb the chain link fence and walk through the piece of land, you would be faced with another chain link fence. Once over that, you would be standing on the footpath I previously wrote about. The piece of land along with the old building was rumoured to have been owned by a Lady Worsfold but this information is unverified. I cannot even be sure that such a person existed.'

From James's details, it now seems certain that the building in question was Hall Place, home for over two centuries to the Worsfold family. Its location is shown on the map below, which dates from 1895:



Above: This 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows: (A) the Victorian Hall Place, (B) Church Road (Church Street in 1895), the setting of Kevin Green's account, which passes to the north of the site and (C) Church Path, along which James Bonser used to walk, which passes to the south.


Hall Place

The ruins Kevin and James remember were not those of the original Hall Place, however. By the 1860s the medieval building of that name that stood here had fallen into a very dilapidated state. Time had taken such a toll on the centuries-old structure that the owner, William Worsfold, ordered the demolition of his birthplace and ancestral home. The old building was pulled down in 1867 and just a few years later the new Hall Place – a large and ornate structure designed in the fashionable Gothic style – rose in its place.

William Worsfold died in 1882 and after an interval of several years his elder son, William Mansell Worsfold, succeeded him at Hall Place. When this William himself died in 1914 he was in turn succeeded by his younger brother, Dr (later Sir) Thomas Cato Worsfold.

Sir Cato, as he was known locally, would be the last resident owner of Hall Place. A man of considerable talents (amongst other achievements he was during his lifetime a Justice of the Peace, a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and chairman of the local Conservative party), he is best remembered as the first Member of Parliament for what was then the new Mitcham Division of Surrey. Elected in 1918, he served in Parliament until failing health forced him to retire in 1923, and the following year he was awarded a baronetcy in recognition of his public service. That baronetcy lapsed when Sir Cato died in 1936. He and his widow, Louise, had had no children and the Worsfold family's long association with Hall Place now neared its end.

Plans to develop the site into an estate of 90 semi-detached houses were abandoned at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. During the early wartime years, Lady Worsfold continued the family tradition of public service as centre leader of the Women's Voluntary Service in Mitcham and Hall Place became the local W.V.S. headquarters. Lady Worsfold herself moved to the White House beside the Cricket Green, where she continued to reside until her death in 1944.



Above: The White House, overlooking the Cricket Green. (James Clark, 2010)

In 1949, Hall Place was demolished with plans in mind to put up a new building for Mitcham County School for Boys, but for the next two decades the site remained derelict. It would have been the evocative ruins left standing here that inspired passing schoolboys to tell stories of a ghost haunting the site.

The land was eventually used for the building of Ravensbury School (now Cricket Green School) in the early 1970s. At around the same time (in 1967), a third building bearing the name Hall Place (intended for use as a residential home for the elderly) was constructed approximately a quarter of a kilometre west of the site of the Worsfold family's ancestral home.


The 'Devil's Chair'

On the aforementioned school's grounds, and just about visible from the pavement as you walk past, stands a crumbling 14th-century archway, supported by some ancient wall. This is the sole surviving fragment of the medieval Hall Place, saved by Sir (then Dr) Cato Worsfold when his father demolished that building. Little of this fragment is original, however, as Worsfold heavily restored it using material from elsewhere. Some of this material came from Abbey House (at Liberty and Company's works at Merton Abbey Mills), parts of which dated back to the time of Merton Priory and which had been demolished in 1914. Other material came from a quarry at Godstone in Surrey, from where Worsfold believed much of the stone used to build Merton Priory had come.



Above: The 14th-century archway, all that is left standing of the medieval Hall Place. (James Clark, 2010)

Of course, this lonely old archway attracted its own piece of schoolboy folklore, as Kevin's younger brother, Ewan, recalled in March 2010. Kevin himself, although he was apparently present, has no memory of the following episode. At the time, Ewan would have been around 6 years old, Kevin 9 and their friend David around 11 – a 'big kid'. The fact that the three of them were taking this route home from school together enabled Ewan date this to around 1959:

'Led by David A—, you and I snuck through the fence in Church Road – roughly opposite the Bull [public house] – to see what he called "the Devil's Chair". I remember it was a half ruined flint stone arch – such as you might see in abbey ruins – almost hidden in undergrowth. I remember being told that it was the ultimate mysterious place to be taken to (probably associated with the Devil) and being terrified that we were being so naughty. […] As I recall, you could see it from the road through the undergrowth – if you knew where to look. I remember feeling uneasy every time I walked past it on my way to school and I certainly never went up to it again.'

To the best of my knowledge, nobody ever actually encountered a phantom in the supposedly haunted ruins of Hall Place. A ghost of a different sort lingered there, though, and the memories of Kevin, Ewan and James preserve a small piece of Mitcham folklore that reminds us of a vanished past.

Notes:

[1] There is some uncertainty over the exact location of this abattoir. Although Kevin Green remembers it as being close to the ruins, to the best of James Bonser's recollection the abattoir was sited further west along Church Road, in the vicinity of Fox's Path and Batsworth Road. The location sticks in James's mind because of something that happened one afternoon as he walked home from school with a friend: 'We had just emerged from Fox's Path and stepped into Church Road. Just across the road we noticed a large van parked. It was unloading pigs. We thought it fun to watch, but as we drew near, one of the young pigs escaped and ran down Church Road, toward the church. We of course gave chase. I was very fast then, but even with my speed, I couldn't catch the little fellow. His bid for freedom was rewarded, we gave up. Even to this day, I have no idea where he went. Let's hope he's still running. He'll be a mighty old pig by now.' It is possible that abattoirs existed at both the sites described, not necessarily at the same time, or perhaps the discrepancy is down to the inherent vagaries of human memory; either way, the presence of an abattoir in the vicinity of the school is likely to have added a certain flavour to the stories swapped in the playground.

[2] There is a tradition that the site of Merton Priory is cursed - see Strange Mitcham for details of this story.


[Sources: personal communication with Kevin Green, April 2005, March 2010; personal communication with James Bonser, February - April 2010; historical information from Montague, E. N., Lower Green West, Mitcham (Mitcham Histories), Merton Historical Society, 2004.]

 
   
© 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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