In Context

In the modern world of post codes, 020 phone numbers and London Boroughs, it is easy to see how current residents of Colliers Wood, Gorringe Park and other places would never think their homes were once part of Surrey, let alone Mitcham.

But it’s clear from researching those named on the Mitcham War memoral that being confined to a narrow view of Mitcham, the Upper and Lower Mitcham as marked on modern maps, would be a mistake.  Mitcham has to be regarded in its widest sense.

There are at least three useful guides which help to define the bounds of Mitcham at the time of the Great War: Kelly’s Directory of Surrey, 1913 pages 308 to 315; sheet R and sheet S from the Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch England and Wales, 1842-1952, revised in 1913 and 1914, published in 1919 and the pages of the Surrey Electoral Register of 1918 for the then newly formed Mitcham Parliamentary Division. Mitcham was divided into four wards.


In 1913 and 1914 Mitcham was still part of the Croydon Union and Croydon Rural District Council. The pages of the Kelly’s 1913 directory list the Churches, Schools, Raliway stations, and post offices considered to be in Mitcham, together with the details of both private and commercial subscribers.  The districts of Colliers Wood, Tooting Junction, Gorringe Park and Lonesome are all part of Mitcham.

In 1915 the Mitcham Urban District council was created after the abollition of the Croydon Rural District Council. It gained the status of municipal borough in 1934. In 1965, under the London Government Act 1963, the municipal borough was abolished and its area combined with that of the Municipal Borough of Wimbledon and the Merton and Morden Urban District to form the present-day London Borough of Merton in Greater London.

The modern Merton boundaries are show in this map:

Comparing this to the old OS map sheet R and sheet S, The northern and eastern boundaries of the old Mitcham Urban District were more or less similar to the modern day.  It followed the river Graveney in the north, the ancient boundary between the parishes of Mitcham and Tooting and with an eastern boundary that included Lonesome, Eastfileds, and the old Tooting Bec Golf Course, before at it’s south eastern corner cutting across to what was Beddington Lane Station. Along its southern edge, the old MUD departs from the modern LBM boundary before it reaches the A217.  The old boundary followed the line of the Wandle cutting through the back of Ravensbury Pary and on north through old Morden Hall Park. The boundary then followed Phipps Bridge road, whose nothern end is now Liberty Avenue, before joining Church Road and then on north along the eastern edge of Wandle bank before meeting the Tooting to Wimbledon railway line.  Merton Abbey lay outside the M.U.D boundary.

Variation in address place names can be seen in individual streets in the 1911 census, and at the time of the Great War residents may still not have said they lived in Mitcham even though their homes lay within the boundaries of the old Mitcham Urban District council.  My Grandfather regraded his home address to be Lyveden Road, Tooting Junction, and my Grandmother, who lived in Waterfall Cottages, spoke of living in Merton at the time.

Place names, and residency, are always to be questioned when trying to identify the individuals name on the Mitcham War Memorial.