Explore the author's map to discover strange stories from Mitcham and the surrounding areas.
Part 1 - Mitcham:
The Phantom Cyclist
of Mitcham Common
(update to Strange Mitcham)
A Dark Figure on Mitcham Common
Tales from the
'Calico Jack': The
Playful Ghost of
Lacks the Drapers
The Faces on the Walls:
The Haunted Cottages
in Tramway Path
The 'Haunting' of
Soldier of Graham
The Legend of
Remember the Grotto
The Phantom of
An Apparition at
Woof & Sabine
Haunted Rooms at
The Phantom Cat
Mitcham's (not so)
The Kingston Zodiac
The 'Ghost Tree'
Medicinal Plants and
A Magical Tree
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
UFO over Tooting
Bec Common, 1990
Part 2 - South of
The Ghosts of
Church & Churchyard
The Figure in the
A Spectral Cavalier
'Haunted Mitcham' Facebook group:
Facebook group set up
by Geoff Mynn in
Thanks to the
and Merton Council
there are some very
maps of Mitcham
Download for free
via this link.
The Mitcham Ghost
Tales from the Vestry Hall
When the Vestry Hall was first built, some considered it a monstrosity.
Designed by the architect Robert Masters Chart, son of the vestry (parish) clerk Edwin Chart, the
Vestry Hall was officially opened on 18 May in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.
Writing in 1895, one unhappy author referred to the building's 'extreme architectural ugliness',
complaining that: 'That red brick blot has ruined for ever the picturesqueness of Mitcham of old'. 
Above: The Vestry Hall. (James Clark, 2010)
Over the coming decades, however, that 'red brick blot' beside Lower Green ('Cricket Green') would
firmly establish itself as a vibrant centre of local life. Open parish meetings, temperance meetings,
lectures, debates, concerts, plays, religious services, village celebrations and all manner of other
social events would be held here as the Vestry Hall cemented its place in the landscape of Mitcham.
In August 2010 I was shown around the building by centre manager Carol Warren, who has worked here
for the past five years. The layout inside is rather more complicated than one might expect from the
building's exterior and Carol admits that it took her several months to master her way around the numerous
stairs, corridors and rooms.
In one compact meeting room, a small door hidden behind a coat stand unlocks to reveal a narrow and rickety
old staircase leading down into the cobwebbed depths beneath ground level. Marked on the building plans as
the 'Coal Hole', the room at the foot of these stairs is affectionately known to some of the staff as the 'dungeon'.
For safety's sake (in case we have an accident, for example) we have to let at least one other member
of staff know we are heading down there. As we start down the stairs I helpfully ask if I should close the
door behind us. 'No, good Lord!' replies Carol. 'Are you mad?'
In the 'dungeon' Carol's torch beam reveals a treacherously uneven cobbled floor. Then, as she slides the
light up the surface of the old stone walls, the beam illuminates several rusty metal protuberances. These,
she thinks, may be the remains of shackles.
Above: The 'dungeon', deep in the bowels of the Vestry Hall. (James Clark, 2010)
Officially, the room's purpose was as a coal store but Carol wonders whether it was once also used to hold
prisoners. Although an unlikely idea on the face of it, it seems more possible when some of the building's
history is taken into account. Part of the site where the Vestry Hall now stands was once used for the
local watch-house. Permission to erect the watch-house was granted in 1765, its purpose being to act as a
lock-up or temporary gaol. The resulting single-storey, rectangular and (probably) windowless structure of
red brick and tile became known as the 'Cage'. Used to detain miscreants before they were taken either to
stand before the justices or to be transported to more permanent prison, the 'Cage' is unlikely to have been
used for anything more than short-term confinement. This is just as well, given the apparent lack of security.
A local story has it that a prisoner escaped from Mitcham's 'Cage' one night simply by removing a few of the
roof tiles and climbing out!
In front of the 'Cage' were the village stocks, which probably stood here until the early nineteenth century.
By the time that punishment by pillory for any crime other than treason was abolished in England (in 1816),
the Mitcham stocks had in all likelihood already fallen into disuse.
A link with this crime-fighting facet of the site's past was revived after an extension to the Vestry Hall was
built in the 1930s. A chamber on the first floor of the extension was put into use as a courtroom, with a small
detention room – complete with barred windows – adjoining it. Still in place in the corridor outside the old
courtroom are the gates that were once used to hold prisoners waiting to be taken to trial. Carol's idea is
that the 'dungeon' might have been used to (possibly unofficially) detain some of the more troublesome prisoners.
Above: Were these rusty metal protuberances in
the 'dungeon' used simply to hold
cabling or are they the remains of shackles? (James Clark, 2010)
Before we leave the 'dungeon' Carol draws my attention to a small hole in one wall near the foot of the stairs.
At first glance it appears to be some sort of ventilation shaft but peering inside with the aid of the torch
reveals what looks like a sizeable room beyond. As far as can be ascertained that room has no other way in or
out and must have been bricked up from the 'dungeon' side of the wall. None of the Vestry Hall's present staff
know what this room is, or was, or why it was bricked up.
In another part of the building, partway along one of the many corridors that riddle the interior, Carol slides
a bolt and swings open a wooden gate to reveal more stairs heading below ground. As before, we have to let one
of her colleagues know where we are going before we descend once more to the rooms beneath the Vestry Hall.
Passing through a mundane-looking door marked simply 'Store Room A', Carol heads to the far corner of the room
to show me what is believed to be the entrance to an old tunnel. Pulling back a small metal door set low in
the wall here uncovers a narrow rectangular opening, approximately 2 feet in height, that leads away into darkness.
According to a tradition passed down to present staff by their predecessors this is the entrance to a tunnel that
leads out beneath the front of the Vestry Hall and then turns to the right (to the south-west). The tunnel
supposedly led to an opening either in or close to a nearby pub, The White Hart, which stands a few minutes' walk to the south-west. The present building on that site dates back at least as far as the mid-eighteenth
century. One story told about this claimed tunnel states that it was constructed in order to allow men attending
meetings at the Vestry Hall to make their way to the nearby pub for a drink without danger of their wives spotting
them. Alternatively, if someone's wife happened to call at the Vestry Hall to meet her supposedly working husband
while he was actually enjoying a drink in the pub, the husband could use the tunnel to return to the Vestry Hall
without being caught out. According to another tale, the tunnel was somehow connected with thieves, who would
sneak back and forth underground to avoid detection.
(Note: if there is or was a tunnel, then a more likely contender for its destination would seem to have been The Cricketers
– the now-closed pub next door to the Vestry Hall. The story I was given, however, specifically mentioned what was at the
time The Hooden on the Green and which later reverted to its older name, The White Hart.)
Above: Does this narrow tunnel lead towards a nearby pub? (James Clark, 2010)
To the best of Carol's knowledge nobody has been down the tunnel in recent years to investigate where it leads. This is not
surprising. Squeezing into the small opening with its damp concrete walls and floor dank with dirty water is
an unappealing prospect and one made even less attractive by Carol's next revelation.
Apparently, one of her colleagues once took a photograph of the tunnel entrance and when they looked at the picture
they were startled to see an image resembling a human face peering out at them. Perhaps this was nothing more than a
trick of light and shadow, but maybe it was connected with the long-standing rumours of a ghost haunting the Vestry Hall.
Carol was first told about the building's resident ghost by the woman whose job she took over, who had worked in the
Vestry Hall for around 18 years. In the years since then, several people have told Carol that they have sensed a strange
presence in various parts of the building, including down here in the basement.
'I won't go down [into the basement] on my own,' Carol tells me. 'It just gives me the creeps. I can definitely sense
something [...] I don't see anything but just especially in here I feel I want to get out of here with my back to the wall.
[...] I think if it [the ghost] is going to be anywhere it's going to be in here.'
We leave the basement and head back up the stairs. Carol informs me that the ghost is supposed to be that of a past
caretaker who once lived in the Vestry Hall, although she does not know his name. Passing through more corridors and
rooms (and leaving me increasingly lost as to whereabouts in the building we now are) Carol unlocks yet another
door and leads us up a creaking wooden staircase to what used to be the caretaker's flat. No longer used, these rooms
on the third and fourth floors are empty and in a state of disrepair. We are evidently at the northern end of the
building now, I surmise, because a ladder in one of the third-floor rooms leads up, I am told, to the clock in the
Vestry Hall's tower.
According to the story Carol was given, the caretaker in question was both born in and died in these rooms. A number
of visitors, and Carol herself, have reportedly felt an eerie presence here. In Carol's opinion, the presence tends to
be felt most strongly on the upper floor of the old flat, in a room she thinks was probably the bedroom.
Above: The caretaker's 'bedroom', where Carol feels
the ghostly presence can most
strongly be sensed. (James Clark, 2010)
Carol believes in ghosts and feels that she is sensitive to 'Spirit', and she believes that she can definitely sense
something odd in the Vestry Hall. She is not the only member of staff with strange stories to tell, however.
One of her colleagues, Terry, is a sceptic when it comes to the paranormal, yet he has also experienced unusual
goings-on while at work here. Before my tour of the Vestry Hall comes to an end, he tells me of a series of incidents
that he had 'found very disconcerting'. They had happened in around 2005, shortly after the building's lift was installed:
'I used to come in in the morning and start going round the building. I'd be the only one in the building and I would
hear doors opening and find the lift [that had been on the ground floor] was on the first floor. I don't believe in
ghosts or anything like that so whether it was some form of electronic thing.... But the first two or three times, you know,
you're walking past there and it says "doors opening" so it's gone from the ground to the first floor.... I don't
A Short History of the Vestry Hall
Carol's pride in and fondness for the Vestry Hall is clear. 'I love this building,' she tells me, 'and I love the
fact that I can walk around it and be where so many people have been before. It's got so much history to it, and it's
still being used.'
The Vestry Hall's history is closely interlinked with the changing history of Mitcham itself as the area was slowly
absorbed into the expanding metropolis of London. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, following the Local Government
Act of 1894, the administrative responsibilities of Mitcham's old Vestry passed to a new Mitcham Parish Council within
the Rural District of Croydon. During the first decade-and-a-half of the twentieth century Mitcham's population more
than doubled in size and after Mitcham was granted Urban District status in 1915 the Vestry Hall became the main office
of the Urban District Council. But Mitcham continued to grow, gradually becoming a suburb of London, and as it did so
there was increasing pressure on the limited space within the Vestry Hall. Something had to give.
Since its beginning, the Vestry Hall had been the headquarters of Mitcham's fire brigade – complete with its fire engine –
but in 1927 the brigade moved to a new fire station specially built nearby. Around the same time a large extension to the
building was constructed and this was completed in 1930. But still Mitcham grew.
In 1934 Mitcham attained borough status. The Vestry Hall became the Town Hall but when it became clear that it did not
contain enough office space staff began to be relocated to other buildings in a process that was to continue over the
On 1 April 1965 Mitcham merged with the Urban District of Merton and Morden and the Borough of Wimbledon to form the new
London Borough of Merton. The town clerk's, borough surveyor's and treasurer's staffs were moved from the Town Hall
to other offices within the borough and the building became known again as the Vestry Hall. It became home to the new
borough's public health and school health departments.
During the late 1970s, however, the environmental health officers moved out of the Vestry Hall and, while the area
health authority and the borough's treasurer's department continued to make some use of the building, the Vestry Hall
increasingly became a venue for local community groups. Following refurbishment in the late 1980s, the old building was
formally reopened for community activities.
The Vestry Hall Today
Today the Vestry Hall is a valuable resource for all members of the community, from voluntary groups to residents and
Above: The Vestry Hall, from Lower ('Cricket') Green. (James Clark, 2010)
One service on offer is the provision of flexible working space, enabling businesses to cut overheads by paying only for
what they require. A 'virtual office' with a professional address can be hired for a small fee, as can physical office
space with desk, internet access, etc.
Rooms of varying sizes (to accommodate from as few as three to as many as 125 people) can also be hired for business
needs such as staff training and meetings, as well as for social events such as parties. Access to various pieces of
equipment (for example, an interactive whiteboard, projector, laptop computer and flipcharts) can be arranged, as can catering.
At the time of writing (September 2010), the charges for these services are as follows:
• Virtual office..............£10 per month
• Flexible work space.....£10 per hour
• Room hire..................from £10 an hour
The fees seem excellent value considering the intriguing surroundings on offer!
How to Contact the Vestry Hall:
Address: Vestry Hall, 336 – 338 London Road, Cricket Green, Mitcham, CR4 3UD
Telephone: 020 8640 3333
[Note:  Barrett, C.R.B. Surrey Highways and Byways, 1895, cited in Montague, E. N. Lower Green West: Mitcham,
Merton Historical Society, 2004, p. 43.]
[Sources: personal communication with Carol Warren, August-September 2010 (my thanks go to Carol for giving up her time
to show me around this fascinating building); Montague, E. N. Lower Green West: Mitcham, Merton Historical Society, 2004]