The Environs of London: Volume 1, County of Surrey. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1792.
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This place in Doomsday Book is called Michelham, that is, the great dwelling. In all the early records, and in many of a more recent date, it is written Miccham or Micham; the present mode of spelling, which is more remote from its etymology, was not universally adopted before this century.
Mitcham lies in the hundred of Croydon, about 9 miles from Westminster Bridge. The parish is bounded by Streatham on the east; by Beddington, Carshalton, and Croydon on the south;Mordon on the west; and Merton on the north. The arable land exceeds the pasture in a considerable proportion. The greatest part of the extensive common between this place and Beddington is in Mitcham parish. The soil consists principally of a rich black mould. About 250 acres are occupied by the physic gardeners, who cultivate lavender, wormwood, camomile, aniseed, rhubarb, liquorice, and many other medicinal plants, in great abundance; but principally peppermint, of which there are above 100 acres. The demand for this herb is not consined to the apothecaries shops, it being much used in making a cordial well-known to the dram-drinkers. Forty years since, a few acres only were employed in the cultivation of medicinal herbs in this parish. Perhaps there is no place where it is now so extensive. Mitcham is assessed the sum of 635 l. 13s. 0d. to the land-tax, which in the year 1791 was at the rate of 1s. 6d. in the pound.
It appears that, at the time of the Conqueror's Survey, there were two manors in Mitcham, each of which was of the value of 40s. One had been held by Brictric of the Confessor, and was then held of the Bishop of Baieux, by the canons of that convent. The other had been held by Lemarus of King Edward; and was then the property of William the son of Ansculf. There were likewise two other manors at Witford (fn. 1) in this parish, held by the same persons; the oné of 30s. the other of 40s. value. The smaller was the property of the canons of Baieux. I have not been able, through the deficiency of records, to trace the descent of these manors satisfactorily. Probably some, if not all of them, reverted soon after the Conquest to the crown. I find several grants by Henry I. of lands at Mitcham to be held in caþite, viz. two hides to Robert the son of Wolfward, and Walter le Poure (fn. 2); one hide to Robert and Matthew de Micham (fn. 3), &c. &c. Alexander de Witford, about the same time, held a knight's see in Mitcham of the barony of Roger de Sumery, and of the honour of Dudley (fn. 4). John de Aperdele is said to have held the manor of Mitcham in 1367 (fn. 5). William Mareis had very considerable property there in the reign of Edward III. (fn. 6) In a record 4 Richard II. (fn. 7) the manor is said to have been divided between the King, the Earl of Glocester, and the Prior of Merton. The Prior of Southwark is omitted, though that monastery had a manor there at a much earlier period. The Earl of Glocester's lands there were annexed to his manor of Camberwell (fn. 8). Thomas Plomer, Esq. who died 15 Car. I. was seized of lands in Mitcham held of that manor (fn. 9). The Prior of Merton held lands there about the year 1250 of William Mauduit, afterwards Earl of Warwick, by the service of rendering a pair of gilt spurs (fn. 10). William Figge (fn. 11), who died 24 Edw. III. was seized of a house and lands at Mitcham, which he held by the service of receiving the King's distraints for the hundred of Wallington (fn. 12). Agnes, wife of Geoffry Prior, who died 7 Henry IV. held a house and lands by the same service (fn. 13). In the year 1240 an assize of common of pasture was taken, in which the priors of Merton and Southwark and other freeholders of the parish of Mitcham were plaintiffs, and William Huscarl, Agnes Huscarl, and others, of Beddington and Wallington, defendants; in which the plaintiffs gained their cause and recovered 40 s. damages (fn. 14).
The manor of Mitcham or Canon belonged to the Priory of St. Mary Overie, and was granted at the dissolution of that monastery to Nicholas Spackman (fn. 15) and Christopher Harbottle, who alienated it to Lawrence Warren (fn. 16); from him it passed to Nicholas Burton of Carshalton (fn. 17). Sir Henry Burton, K. B. sold it to Sir Nicholas Carew in the year 1619 (fn. 18). His son Sir Francis Carew, K. B. gave it to Thomas Temple, Esq. as a portion with his daughter Rebecca. Mr. Temple alienated it to the Hammon family; in 1656 Thomas Hammond, Esq. sold it to Robert Cranmer, Merchant of London (fn. 19), and it is now the property of his descendant James Cranmer, Esq. The fallacy of the tradition, that this was the private estate of Archbishop Cranmer, will appear from the foregoing account of its descent. In 1291 this manor was valued at 20 s. per annum (fn. 20).
The manor of Bigging and Tamworth belonged to Merton Abbey, and was granted by Henry VIII. after the suppression of that monastery to Robert Wilford, merchant taylor, for the sum of 4861. 14s. (fn. 21) In 1569 it appears to have been the property of John Lord Mordaunt, in right of his wife (fn. 22). In 1582 Henry Whitney, Esq. held a court as lord of this manor, though it appears that he purchased a moiety thereof the ensuing year of Robert Aprece, Esq. The Whitneys alienated the manor in 1603 to Sir John Carrill. Three years afterwards it belonged to John Lord Hunsdon, whose son sold it in 1614 to Sir Nicholas Carew, alias Throckmorton. It was alienated about the year 1655 to Edward Thurland, Esq. and continued in the same family till 1744, when it was purchased of the devisees of another Edward Thurland by John Manship, Esq. father of the present proprietor. In 1291 it was valued at 25 s. per annum.
The earliest proprietor of the manor of Ravensbury that I find on record is William de Mara, or De la Mar, who was lord thereof 1250 (fn. 23). John De la Mar, and Petronilla his wife, had a grant of free warren in the parish of Mitcham in the reign of Edward I. (fn. 24) The manor of Ravensbury was the property of John De la Pole Earl of Lincoln, temp. Hen. VII. and was granted after his attainder to Simon Digby (fn. 25). It afterwards belonged to Charles Brandon Duke of Suffolk, who sold it to Sir Nicholas Carew, 22 Henry VIII. for 800 l. (fn. 26) Upon the attainder of Sir Nicholas it was seized by the crown, and was granted upon lease (fn. 27), but was afterwards restored to Sir Francis Carew by Queen Mary (fn. 28), and has descended in the same manner as the Beddington estates.
Sir Walter Raleigh had a house and estate at Mitcham in right of his wife, who was a daughter of Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, and had been maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth. The estate was sold with her consent for 2500 l. when he was preparing for his expedition to Guiana (fn. 29). A house, in the occupation of Mr. Dempster, who keeps an academy there, is still called Raleigh House.
Sir Julius Cæsar, Master of the Rolls, had also a house here, of which he became possessed by an intermarriage with Mrs. Dent, the widow of a merchant whose property it was. In 1598 he was honoured with a visit from Queen Elizabeth, of which the following account is given in his own words (fn. 30).
"Tuesday Sept. 12. the Queen visited my house at Micham, and supped and lodged there, and dined there the next day. I presented her with a gown of cloth of silver richly embroidered; a black net-work mantle with pure gold; a taffeta hat, white, with several flowers, and a jewel of gold set therein with rubies and diamonds. Her Majesty removed from my house after dinner the 13th of September to Nonsuch, with exceeding good contentment, which entertainment of her Majesty, with the former disappointment (fn. 31), amounted to 700 l. sterling, besides mine own provisions and what was sent unto me by my friends."
The celebrated Dr. Donne resided for some time at Mitcham (fn. 32). Sir George More of Losely, whose daughter he had privately married, was so much exasperated, that he not only refused to forgive, but employed his utmost endeavours to ruin him; and aćtually procured his removal from the family of Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, to whom he was secretary. At this junćture Sir Francis Wolley took compassion on him, and received him and his family into his house, where they continued as long as Sir Francis lived. At his death, being left destitute of an asylum, Donne took a small house at Mitcham, "a place, as his biographers observe, noted for good air and choice company." Being very learned in the civil law, he was occasionally consulted by persons of the first rank, who paid him liberally for his advice; but this yielded only a precarious support, and he was sometimes reduced to great distress, as may be seen by the following extraćt from a letter to a friend dated from this place.
"The reason why I did not send an answer to your last week's letter was, because it found me under too great a sadness; and at present it is thus with me. There is not one person well but myself of my family: I have ´lready lost half a child, and with that mischance of her's, my wife has fallen into such a discomposure as would afflict her too extremely, but that the sickness of all her other children stupisies her, one of which in good faith I have not much hopes of, and these meet with a fortune so ill provided for physic and such relief, that if God should ease us with burials, I know not how to perform even that; but I flatter myself with this hope—that I am dying too—for I cannot waste father than by such griefs.—From my hospital at Mitcham, "John Donne (fn. 33)."
Mr. Donne continued at Mitcham about two years, during which time he became so attached to his situation that he would have staid there for life had it not been for the importunity of his friends, and the generosity of Sir Robert Drury, who lent him a house in Drury Lane. Sir George More at last relented, and gave him an annuity; and Donne, who had distinguished himself by some theological writings, at the earnest desire of King James entered into holy orders, and was afterwards made Dean of St. Paul's.
Moses Mendez, the rich poet, who died in 1758, was an inhabitant of this place. He was created M. A. at Oxford in 1750, and was author of some dramatic pieces, a poem called Henry and Blanche, and various other performances, some of which are to be found in Dodsley's Collection.
The church, which is dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, is built principally of flints, and consists of a nave, two aisles, and a chancel; at the east end of the south aisle is a square embattled tower with a turret. The nave is separated from the aisles by octagonal pillars, and pointed arches. The wall of the north aisle has been rebuilt. The church received considerable damage by lightning in the year 1637, at which time thirteen churches in this county are said to have experienced the same fate (fn. 34). A similar accident happened at Mitcham a few years since, when the lighting entered through the south wall of the tower, but without doing much injury.
In the chancel are the monuments of Thomas Pynner, Esq. chief clerk comptroller to Queen Elizabeth, who died in 1583; Theophilus Brereton, Esq. who died in 1638; Sir Ambrose Crowley, alderman of London, (celebrated in the Tatler (fn. 35) under the name of Sir Humphry Greenhat,) who died in 1713; and Joseph Cranmer, Esq. who died in 1722. There are also two achievements, with inscriptions to the memory of John Eldred, Esq. who died in 1649, and Mary wife of Robert Cranmer, Esq. who died in 1665. Within the rails of the altar is the tomb of Lieut. Gen. Daniel Harvey, governor of Guernsey, who died in 1732; in the chancel also are those of Elizabeth wife of William Myers, Esq. who died in 1765; and George Smith, Gent. who died in 1714.
Against the wall at the east corner of the nave is the monument of William Myers, Esq. who died in 1742; against a north pillar that of Bridget wife of Gabriel Glover, Esq. who died in 1709. In the nave was formerly a brass plate to the memory of John Roche, an officer in the household of Catherine Queen of England, who died in 1430; the inscription is preserved in Aubrey's Antiquities of Surrey.
In the east window of the north aisle are some remains of painted glass, representing angels playing on musical instruments. Under the window is an altar tomb, from which all the brass plates have been torn except the inscription, which is to the memory of Richard Illyngworth, who died in 1487; near this tomb is a brass plate upon a flat stone, to the memory of Ralph Illyngworth, Esq. who died in 1572. Against the north wall are the monuments of Henry Allcraft, Esq. who died in 1779; the Reverend John Evanson, vicar of Mitcham for the space of 44 years, who died in 1778; and Benjamin Tate, Esq. who died in 1790. In the same aisle are flat stones in memory of Joseph Taylor, merchant, who died in 1732; John Robinson, merchant, who died in 1750; and Denzil Onflow, Esq. who died in 1765.
In the church-yard are the tombs likewise of John Bligh, M. D. who died in 1678; Frances Austin of Peterborough, who died in 1734; Charles Dubois, Esq. who died in 1740; Waldo Dubois, Esq. and Ebenezer Dubois, Esq. who died in 1746; Peter Waldo, Esq. who died in 1762; William Tate, Esq. who died in 1781; and John Twyne, Esq. who died in 1783.
The church of Mitcham is in the diocese of Winchester and the deanery of Ewell. The benefice is a vicarage. The rectory belonged to the monastery of St. Mary Overie, and has undergone the same alienations as the manor of Canon, being now impropriated to James Cranmer, Esq. who is patron of the vicarage. The rectory was taxed in 1291 at 20 marks (fn. 36). The profits of the vicarage have been lately much improved by the increase of the physic gardens, the tithes of which form a principal part of its revenues. It was taxed in 1291 at 8 marks. In the king's books it is reckoned amongst the discharged livings, and is said to be 35 l. clear yearly value.
Anthony Sadler, who was instituted to the vicarage in 1661, published several sermons; a pamphlet against the commissioners who sat at Whitehall for the approbation of ministers; "A Divine Masque," dedicated to General Monk; and a pamphlet entitled Strange News indeed from Micham in Surrey of the treacherous and barbarous Proceedings of Robert Cranmer, Merchant of London, against A. Sadler, Vicar of Micham, London, 1664." In this pamphlet Mr. Cranmer is accused of many cruel-and unjust persecutions of the vicar, particularly of throwing him into prison, and inducing him, under false pretences, to subscribe a bond for 500 l. which threatened himself and family with ruin. An answer appeared soon afterwards entitled, "The Sadler sadled," being a vindication of Mr. Cranmer's conduct, who it seems presented Sadler to the vicarage, then worth only 40 l. per annum. The vicar was not long settled there before he instituted a suit against his patron for dilapidations and sacrilege, and by his behaviour rendered himself odious to all his parishioners; at length terms of reconciliation were agreed upon; one of which was, that Mr. Sadler should resign the vicarage at a certain time, and he entered into a bond of 500 l. for that purpose. It appears that upon his refusing to quit the vicarage, he was threatened with the penalty of the bond. He kept possession however till his death, which happened four years afterwards, in the year 1669. Anthony Wood says, that he left behind him, "the character of a man of a rambling head, and a turbulent spirit (fn. 37)."
The number of burials in 1665 were 21; in 1666, 24; not exceeding the average of that period. It appears nevertheless that the village was not free from the plague, a man and his four sons, "who died of the sickness," having been buried in one night.
Mr. Henry Smith, who is erroneously said by Aubrey to have omitted this parish in his numerous benefactions to the county of Surrey, left 4 l. per annum to poor housekeepers. Thomas Plummer (fn. 38), Esq. left 5 l. per annum to buy bread for the poor; Mrs. Rosamond Oxtoby, who died in 1792, left 2 l. 12 s. per ann. for the same purpose. Mrs. Fisher, in the year 1709, left 200 l. to purchase lands, the annual rent of which should be distributed amongst poor housekeepers: this charity produces about 14 l. per annum.
Mitcham Grove, a pleasant villa on the north side of the road to Sutton, was a few years since the property and residence of Lord Loughborough, by whom it was sold to Henry Hoare, Esq. the present proprietor.