Old and New London: Volume 6. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878.
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"Dulcia et irriguas hæc loca propter aquas."—Martial.
The River Wandle—Manufactories—French Refugees—The Frying-pan Houses—High Street—St. Peter's Hospital—The Union Workhouse—The Royal Patriotic Asylum—The Surrey County Prison—The Craig Telescope—The Surrey Lunatic Asylum—The Friendless Boys' Home—The Surrey Industrial School—The Surrey Iron Tramway—Clapham Junction—Wandsworth Bridge—All Saints' Church—St. Anne's Church—St. Mary's, St. John's, and Holy Trinity Churches—Nonconformity at Wandsworth—Francis Grose the Antiquary, Bishop Jebb, and Voltaire Residents here—Mock Elections of the "Mayors of Garratt"—Wandsworth Fair—Horticulture and Floriculture.
Wandsworth, which lies immediately to the south-west of Battersea, on the road to Kingston, is so named from the Wandle. This river, which rises near Croydon, passes through Wandsworth into the Thames under a bridge, which, if we may accept a statement in the "Ambulator" (1774), was called "the sink of the country." This epithet would appear, however, to apply to the bridge rather than to the river; for Izaak Walton, in his "Complete Angler," mentions the variety of trout found in the Wandle here as marked with marbled spots like a tortoise.
The creek at the mouth of the Wandle forms a dock for lighters and other small vessels, and on its sides are coal-wharves and stores. Higher up the stream are extensive paper-mills, where employment is given to a large number of hands; then there are Messrs. Watney's distilleries, besides some large corn mills, dye works, match factories, starch factories, artificial manure works, copper mills, &c. Hughson, in his "History of London" (1808), remarks:—"At the close of the last century many French refugees settled here, and established a French church, afterwards used as a Methodist meeting-house. The art of dyeing cloth," he adds, "has been practised at this place for more than a century. There are likewise several considerable manufactories: one for bolting cloth, iron mills, calico-printing manufactories, manufactory for printing kerseymeres, for whitening and pressing stuffs, linseed-oil and white-lead mills, oil mills, vinegar works, and distilleries." At the iron mills, Dr. Hughson informs us, "are cast shot, shells, cannon, and other implements of war; in another part the wrought iron is manufactured, and the great effect of mechanic power is exemplified in all their operations—in the splitting of iron bars of prodigious length, in a pair of shears which will cut asunder pieces of iron more than two inches in thickness, and in the working of a hammer which weighs from five hundred and a half to six hundred pounds; the timbers employed are of an enormous size, and the wonderful powers of all the elements are here made subservient in the production of various tools and implements necessary for man in the arts of war and peace." In fact, Wandsworth, no less than Lambeth, has long been a centre of industry.
It was upon the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, towards the end of the seventeenth century, that many of the French Protestants settled at Wandsworth, and engaged in silk-dyeing, hatmaking, &c. They rented and enlarged the old Presbyterian chapel in the High Street, and in it service was performed in French for upwards of a century. "At the parting of the roads to Clapham and Vauxhall," Mr. James Thorne tells us, in his "Environs of London," "is a small burial-ground—the Huguenots' Cemetery—where many old gravestones of Frenchmen remain, some almost illegible. From the many English names on the later gravestones," he adds, "it appears to have been used as the ordinary burial-ground for that end of the parish when the Huguenot population began to die out."
Aubrey, in his "History of Surrey," tells us that before his time there had been established at Wandsworth a manufacture of "brass plates for kettles, skellets, frying-pans, &c., by Dutchmen, who kept it a mystery." The houses in which this mysterious business was carried on were long known as the "Frying-pan Houses."
The village of Wandsworth—if we may so term it—lies principally in a valley, between East Hill and West Hill; the High Street, which crosses the Wandle, is the main thoroughfare, leading on to Putney Heath, and thence to Kingston and Richmond, the roads branching off to those places on the summit of West Hill.
The commons of Wandsworth, Wimbledon, and Putney have been secured and formally appropriated to the public for purposes of recreation, on the payment of a specified rent to the lord of the manor, Lord Spencer.
On the top of East Hill stands St. Peter's Hospital (the almshouses of the Fishmongers' Company), removed hither from Newington Butts. (fn. 1) The edifice, which was completed in 1851, occupies three sides of a quadrangle, with a chapel in the centre, and provides a home for forty-two poor members of the company and their wives. The chief entrance to the hospital is by massive gilded gates, on which appears the motto, "All worship be to God only." The Union Workhouse, close by, is a large brick building, with an infirmary attached; it will hold between 800 and 900 inmates.
In the angle of Wandsworth Common, formed by the West-end and Crystal Palace and the South-Western Railways, on their uniting near Clapham Junction Station, stand three important buildings, namely, the Surrey County Prison, and the Royal Victoria Patriotic Asylums for Boys and for Girls. The Patriotic Asylum was founded and endowed by the Commissioners of the Royal Patriotic Fund, which was instituted in 1854 for the purpose of giving "assistance to the widows and orphans of those who fell during the Crimean and more recent wars, and to provide schools for their children." Her Majesty laid the first stone of the Asylum for Girls in 1857, and the building was erected from the designs of Mr. R. Hawkins. The Asylum for Boys is situated some three hundred yards distant, on East Hill. The Surrey County Prison, or House of Correction, was erected in 1851, and covers a large extent of ground. The various buildings are constructed chiefly of brick; and the prison is fitted with all the latest appliances for ensuring order and discipline among the inmates.
At a short distance south of the prison, forming a conspicuous object to passengers travelling on the South-Western main line, or the Crystal Palace and West-end Railway, stood for several years the "Craig telescope." This instrument, the largest which had up to that date been constructed, having a tube 80 feet in length, shaped like a cigar, was erected on this site in the summer of 1852. The object-glass was 24 inches diameter, and its focal length about 76 feet, but it subsequently turned out that the optical qualities of the telescope were not equal to its imposing appearance, or the excellent manner in which it was mounted and supported. The tube, which could be placed in almost any position for celestial observation, was supported at each end, and was slung at the side of a massive central brick tower 64 feet high, while the lower end of the tube rested on a support running on a circular railway. Not fulfilling the original expectations of its proprietor, the instrument was some years ago dismantled and removed.
Another large building on the Common is the Surrey Lunatic Asylum. It was built in 1840, and consists of a centre and wings, with beds for 950 inmates. Prior to the erection of this asylum, Surrey, although a metropolitan county, had not been adequately provided with accommodation for pauper lunatics—a class of sufferers whose twofold miseries must strike deeply into every benevolent heart. It is true that the royal chartered Hospital of Bethlehem is situated in the above-mentioned district; but, from its being a general hospital, its regulations for admission, as we have already shown, (fn. 2) are not such as to meet local demands; hence the provision of an establishment exclusively for the poor of the county became an important object. The site on which the new asylum stands was a portion of the Springfield Estate, in the hamlet of Garratt, formerly the seat of Mr. Henry Perkins, including ninety-six acres of land, with the mansion and farm buildings, which were retained for the purposes of the asylum, the reception of convalescent patients, &c.
Although the building is, in plan, Elizabethan—being nearly in the form of the letter E—the elevation partakes of several styles. It is built of red brick, with white stone quoins, window-dressings, stringing-courses, and parapets, the general effect of which is good; but is injured by the battlemented towers immediately uniting with the naked, unparapeted roofs of the extensive wings right and left of the centre of the design. This portion is in the Domestic style, with pedimented roofs, and gables surmounted with Gothic finials. The principal entrance is by a small but elaborate pointed doorway, on each side of which are small windows; over the doorway is a bold scroll label in masonry. This central portion is recessed, and has three tiers of windows, with an ornamented clock in the gable, and a copper vane over the pediment.
On either side of the centre the façade extends with three small windows on the ground-floor, surmounted by a window in each of monastic character, reaching two storeys in height, contrasting with the small windows immediately above and below them. The flank of this portion of the building is blank, save the massive corbelled chimney. The whole frontage, including the wings, is about 350 feet in length. The principal doors open into a lobby, with a groined ceiling, leading on the right to an ante and committee room, office, &c., and on the left to the superintendent's private apartments. Folding-doors facing the entrance open to what is termed the grand staircase: a lofty chamber, extending the whole height of the building and about twenty feet square, with two tiers of corridors round three sides of it; it is covered in with a groined roof, and lighted by an elaborately-designed lantern. A doorway on the ground-floor communicates with the galleries on either side, leading to the males' wards on the left, and the females' on the right. The first-floor partakes of the same character as the ground-floor for each sex; and two airing courts, for all classes of each sex, enclosed with walls in sunk fences, so as to admit of the patients viewing the surrounding country. At either extremity of the building, in the basements, are large groined work-rooms. The chapel is situated across the gallery on the firstfloor, and in the centre of the edifice.
In Spanish Road, near the Fishmongers' Alms houses, is another of the many charitable institutions with which this neighbourhood abounds, namely, the Friendless Boys' Home. This is a valuable refuge for boys, from ten to sixteen years of age, "who have lost their character or are in danger of losing it." The average number of boys in the Home is about 200. The institution, which was established in 1852, is one of the oldest of the kind in or near London. The industrial operations carried on here include carpentry, tailoring, shoemaking, and engineering as applied to the steamengine on the premises; also chopping firewood for bundles, and making wheel fire-lighters with resin; gardening, care of horses, &c. A kindred institution to the above is the Surrey Industrial School, "for homeless and destitute boys not convicted of crime," situated at Bridge House, on the north side of the High Street.
Wandsworth, we may here state, occupies a foremost place in our railway annals, for here was made the commencement of our modern railways. The Surrey Iron Tramway was laid down in 1801 from Wandsworth to Croydon, and thence to Merstham: in all, about eighteen miles. The line—which was called by abbreviation a "tram" way, from its designer, Benjamin Outram—was formed in order to carry to the water-side the chalk dug out of the sides of the Surrey hills about Epsom. Upon this railroad there worked as a young man Sir Edward Banks, who, by his own ability and energy, rose to become an engineer, and the builder—though not the designer, as generally stated—of three of our noblest metropolitan structures: Waterloo, Southwark, and London Bridges. He lies buried at Chipstead, near Merstham, in Surrey.
Clapham Junction Station, at the north-eastern extremity of the common, although really in Battersea parish, may be more fittingly mentioned here. The station itself, which was at first one of the most inconvenient, was rebuilt a few years ago; and now, with its various sidings and goods-sheds, covers several acres of ground, and is one of the most important junctions in the neighbourhood of London, if not of Great Britain. As will be seen from the diagram which we engrave from Mr. John Airey's "Railway Junction Diagrams," this junction is used jointly by the London and South-Western; the London, Brighton and South Coast; the London, Chatham, and Dover; and the London and North-Western Companies. The number of trains which call at this station per day on the several lines is 863; whilst those which pass through without stopping are 138; and it is calculated that on an average about 25,000 passengers may be said to pass through Clapham Junction in every twentyfour hours. In fact, this junction is the most busy railway station in England, and, perhaps, in the world.
Wandsworth Bridge, which spans the Thames, and connects the York Road with King's Road, Fulham, was built in 1873, from the designs of Mr. J. H. Tolmé. It is constructed of iron, and is what is known as a lattice-girder bridge; it is of five spans, borne on massive coupled wrought-iron cylinders. The three central stream spans are each 133 feet broad.
The parish church, dedicated to All Saints, stands in the High Street, near the bridge over the Wandle; it is a plain, square, brick edifice, dating from near the end of the last century. The greater part of the tower is comparatively ancient, having been built early in the seventeenth century; it was, however, re-cased in 1841, and has been raised, by the addition of a storey, for the reception of a peal of eight bells. The interior of the church contains a few monuments, preserved from the older fabric; among them, one to Alderman Henry Smith, who is represented in gown and ruff, kneeling at a desk, under an entablature supported by Ionic columns. Alderman Smith was a native of this parish, and came of humble parentage. He is said to have made a large fortune by business in the City, and having been left a widower, without children, in 1620, made over his estates, both real and personal, to trustees for charitable purposes, reserving to himself from them an annuity of £500 a year for his maintenance. His benefactions, (fn. 3) as set forth on his monument, embraced almost every town and village in Surrey, the object being not merely to afford "reliefe" to the needy, but the "setting the poor people a-worke." Among other bequests, Smith left £1,000 to purchase lands in order to provide a fund for "redeeming poor prisoners and captives from the Turkish tyranie;" £10,000 to "buy impropriations for godly preachers;" other moneys to found a fellowship at Cambridge for his own kindred, &c. Alderman Smith died in 1627. Near his monument is that of another benefactor—or rather, benefactress—to the parish: it is a mural monument, with small kneeling effigy of Susanna Powell, who died in 1630. She was the "widow of John Powell, servant to Queen Elizabeth, and daughter of Thomas Hayward, yeoman of the guard to Henry VIII., Edward VI., and the Queens Mary and Elizabeth." Several members of the family of the Brodricks, Viscounts Midleton, are interred here. Their residence was in the hamlet of Garratt, in this parish. The register records the burial (April, 1635) of "Sarah, daughter of Praise Barbone," supposed to be the "Praise God Barebone," the Puritan leather-seller of Fleet Street, whose name is well known in history in connection with Cromwell's first Parliament.
In our account of the Old Kent Road (fn. 4) we have mentioned the fate of Griffith Clerke, Vicar of Wandsworth, his chaplain, and two other persons. They were hanged and quartered at St. Thomas a Waterings on the 8th of July, 1539, for denying the royal supremacy.
St. Anne's Church, on St. Anne's Hill, was built in 1823–4, from the designs of Sir Robert Smirke. It is a large Grecian temple, with an Ionic portico and pediment at the western end. The body of the church is of brick with stone dressings, the portico and pediment are of stone; from the roof rises a circular tower in two stages, and crowned with a cupola and cross. The other churches in Wandsworth are St. Mary's, Summer's Town; Garrett; St. Paul's, on St. John's Hill; and Holy Trinity, near the outskirts of Wimbledon Park. None of these, however, call for any special mention.
Another place of worship here is the Roman Catholic chapel of St. Thomas of Canterbury, which was opened in 1847.
There are many places of worship for Dissenters here; in fact, Wandsworth must be a place specially dear to the Nonconformist heart on account of, at all events, one memory. It is stated by ecclesiastical writers that the first practical movement to secure a Presbyterian organisation in the neighbourhood of the metropolis began with a secret meeting held at Wandsworth. The Dissenting principles of church government and rules of worship, as we learn from Neale's "History of the Puritans," were set forth in a publication called "The Orders of Wandsworth."
Wandsworth has numbered among its residents a few men of note, of whom we may mention Francis Grose, the antiquary, who lived at Mulberry Cottage, on the Common; and Dr. John Jebb, Bishop of Limerick, who died at West Hill in 1833. As already mentioned by us, he is buried at Clapham. (fn. 5) On Voltaire's release from his second imprisonment in the Bastile, he was ordered to leave France, and having come to England, was for some time here as the guest of Sir Everard Fawkener. His sojourn in England, observes a writer in the "Dictionary of Universal Biography," "beside that it availed to give him knowledge and command of the language, filled him with admiration of that liberty, civil and religious, in which his own country was so deplorably deficient. In England he learnt to admire, and perhaps to understand, Newton, Locke, Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, Pope, and other noted writers of the same and of the preceding age. In truth, it was in England that Voltaire found for himself a standing, on the ground of philosophic deism, from which he was not afterwards dislodged by either the reasoning or the ridicule of the atheists of the Encyclopædia. At no point of his course in after life did the virulence of his hatred of Christianity impel him to abandon this position. … During his stay in England—about three years—Voltaire composed the tragedy of Brutus, and afterwards, in imitation of the Julius Cæsar of Shakespeare, a tragedy, which he did not venture to bring into public on the theatre." His tragedy of Zaïre, which he composed in little more than a fortnight, and which proved one of Voltaire's greatest triumphs, is said to have been written during his stay at Wandsworth.
At some little distance on the south side of the High Street is the hamlet of Garratt, which, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, appears to have consisted of a single house, called "the Garrett," or, as Lysons says, "the Garvett." This building was sold towards the end of the sixteenth century by William Cecil, afterwards Lord Burghley, to a Mr. John Smith. The mansion was afterwards the residence of the Brodricks, Viscounts Midleton, but was pulled down about the middle of the last century, and the grounds which surrounded it were subsequently let to a market-gardener to grow vegetables.
When Lysons wrote his "Environs of London," in the year 1792, this hamlet consisted of about fifty houses by the side of a small common; but the buildings in Garratt Lane—the thoroughfare connecting Wandsworth with Tooting—and its neighbourhood have greatly increased in number within the present century. Various encroachments on the above-mentioned common, about the middle of the last century, led to an association of the neighbours, when, as Sir Richard Phillips tells us, in his "Morning's Walk from London to Kew," they chose a president, or mayor, to protect their rights; and the time of their first election of a mayor being the period of a new Parliament, it was agreed that the "mayor" should be re-chosen after every general election. "Some facetious members of the club," he adds, "gave in a few years local notoriety to this election; and when party spirit ran high in the days of Wilkes and Liberty, it was easy to create an appetite for a burlesque election among the lower orders of the metropolis." With a keen eye to their own interests, as well as to that of their village and their country, the publicans at Wandsworth, Tooting, Battersea, Clapham, and Vauxhall, "made up a purse," to give it character. Foote, Garrick, and Wilkes, it is stated, wrote some of the candidates' addresses, for the purpose of instructing the people in the corruptions which attend elections in the legislature, and of producing those reforms, by means of ridicule and shame, which are vainly expected from the solemn appeals of argument and patriotism. "Not being able to find the members for Garratt in 'Beatson's Political Index,' or in any of the 'Court Calendars,'" says Sir Richard Phillips, "I am obliged to depend on tradition for information in regard to the early history of this famous borough. The first mayor of whom I could hear was called Sir John Harper. He filled the seat during two Parliaments, and was, it would appear, a man of wit, for on a dead cat being thrown at him on the hustings, and a by-stander exclaiming that it stunk worse than a fox, Sir John vociferated, 'That's no wonder, for you see it's a poll-cat!' This noted baronet was, in the metropolis, a retailer of brick-dust; and his Garratt honours being supposed to be a means of improving his trade and the condition of his ass, many characters in similar occupations were led to aspire to the same distinctions."
He was succeeded by Sir Jeffrey Dunstan, who was returned for three Parliaments, and was the most popular candidate that ever appeared on the Garratt hustings. His occupation was that of buying old wigs—once an article of trade like that in old clothes, but become obsolete since the fullbottomed and full-dressed wigs of both sexes went out of fashion. Sir Jeffrey usually carried his wigbag over his shoulder, and, to avoid the charge of vagrancy, vociferated, as he passed along the streets, "Old Wigs!" but having a person like Æsop, and a countenance and manner marked by irresistible humour, he never appeared without a train of boys and curious persons, whom he entertained by his sallies of wit, shrewd sayings, and smart repartees, and from whom, without begging, he collected sufficient to maintain his dignity of knight and mayor. He was no respecter of persons, and was so severe in his jokes on the corruptions and compromises of power that, under the iron régime of Pitt and Dundas, this political punch, or street-jester, was prosecuted for using what were then called seditious expressions; and, as a caricature on the times, which ought never to be forgotten, he was, in 1793, tried, convicted, and imprisoned! In consequence of this affair, and some charges of dishonesty, he lost his popularity, and at the next general election was ousted by Sir Harry Dimsdale, muffin-seller, a man as much deformed as himself. Sir Jeffrey could not long survive his fall; but in death, as in life, he proved a satire on the vices of the proud: for in 1797 he died—like Alexander the Great and many other heroes renowned in the historic page—of suffocation from excessive drinking! Sir Harry Dimsdale dying also before the next general election, and no candidate starting of sufficient originality of character, and, what was still more fatal, the victuallers having failed to raise a "public purse"—which was as stimulating a bait to the independent candidates for Garratt as it is to the independent candidates for a certain assembly—the borough of Garratt has since remained vacant, and the populace have been without a "professional political buffoon."
"None but those who have seen a London mob on any great holiday," adds Sir Richard Phillips, "can form a just idea of these elections. On several occasions a hundred thousand persons, half of them in carts, in hackney-coaches, and on horse and ass-back, covered the various roads from London, and choked up all the approaches to the place of election. At the two last elections I was told that the road within a mile of Wandsworth was so blocked up by vehicles that none could move backward or forward during many hours, and that the candidates, dressed like chimney-sweepers on a May-day, or in the mock fashion of the period, were brought to the hustings in the carriages of peers, drawn by six horses, the owners themselves condescending to become the drivers!"
Robert Chambers, in his "Book of Days," gives a full and detailed account of the scenes enacted here at the mock elections for the "borough of Garratt," which, as we have stated above, always accompanied a general election, as the shadow attends on a substance. He tells us that the local publicans found it to be their interest to encourage the managers of the fun to constitute themselves a committee en permanence. On these occasions local wits drew up and printed election addresses, squibs, and counter-squibs, &c., and the successful candidates were "chaired" round the town like veritable "knights of the shire." The two last and the most celebrated members for Garratt were those eccentric characters, "Sir" Jeffrey Dunstan and "Sir" Harry Dimsdale, who flourished at Wandsworth whilst Lord North and Pitt ruled in Downing Street. Of these individuals Mr. Chambers writes:—"In 1785 the death of 'Sir' John Harper left 'Sir' Jeffrey Dunstan without a rival; but in the election of 1795 he was ousted by a new candidate, 'Sir' Harry Dimsdale, a muffin-seller and dealer in tin-ware, almost as deformed as himself, but by no means so great a humourist. The most was made of his appear ance by dressing him up in a tawdry and illproportioned court-suit, with an enormous cockedhat. He enjoyed his honour, however, only a short time, dying before the next general election. He was the last of the grotesque mayors, for no candidates started after his death; the publicans did not, as before, subscribe towards the expenses of the day, and so the great saturnalia died a natural death." Of "Sir" Jeffrey Dunstan we have already given some particulars in our account of St. Giles's-in-the-Fields, (fn. 6) which was generally the scene of his daily avocations.
The Garratt election has gained more than its fair share of notoriety from the fact that Samuel Foote—who was present here in 1761, and paid nine guineas for a window to view the proceedings—made it the subject of a farce, entitled The Mayor of Garratt, which was put on the stage at the Haymarket. The character of "Snuffle" in this play was derived from John Gardiner, a local cobbler and grave-digger, who was one of the candidates, under the title of "Lord Twankum;" that of "Crispin Heeltap" was copied from another candidate, also a shoemaker, who came forward as "Lord Lapstone." The other characters also are identified by Mr. Chambers; "Beau Silvester" being the prototype of "Matthew Mug," the principal candidate in Foote's drama, who says, in his address to the worthy electors, "Should I succeed, you, gentlemen, may depend on my using my utmost endeavours to promote the good of the borough, to which purpose the encouragement of your trade and manufactures will principally tend. Garratt, it must be owned, is an inland town, and has not, like Wandsworth, and Fulham, and Putney, the glorious advantages of a port; but what nature has denied, industry can supply. Cabbages, carrots, and cauliflowers may be deemed at present your staple commodities; but why should not your commerce be extended? Were I, gentlemen, worthy to advise, I should recommend the opening of a new branch of trade—sparrowgrass, gentlemen, the manufacturing of sparrowgrass! Battersea, I own, gentlemen, at present bears the bell; but where lies the fault? In ourselves, gentlemen. Let us but exert our natural strength, and I will take upon me to say that a hundred of grass for the corporation of Garratt will in a short time, at the London markets, be held as at least an equivalent to a Battersea bundle." We have already spoken of asparagus as one of the chief products of Battersea. (fn. 7)
There are in existence three very curious etchings, by Valentine Green, representing the Garratt elections, the scenes in the streets, and the chairing of a successful candidate. All these will be found given in Chambers' "Book of Days," and one of these we reproduce on page 487. It must be owned that the licence assumed during these seasons of misrule was somewhat Fescennine in its character, and that mirth occasionally degenerated into vulgar buffoonery; but, after all, the scene was little more boisterous than that which was witnessed in our fathers' days at many a county and borough election, where popular feeling ran high—especially those at Brentford; and doubtless, the mock elections of Garratt had their redeeming qualities in the safety-valve which they afforded to discontented spirits.
In 1826 an attempt was made, though without success, to revive the whimsical farce. A placard was prepared and issued to forward the interests of a certain "Sir John Paul Pry," who was to come forward, along with "Sir Hugh Allsides" (one Cullendar, the beadle of All Saints' Church) and "Sir Robert Needale" (Robert Young, a surveyor of roads), described as "a friend to the ladies who attend Wandsworth Fair." This placard, which may be read in Hone's "Every-day Book," displays a "plentiful lack of wit" compared with those of the last century. The project, therefore, failed, and Garratt, in consequence, has had no representative since the worthy muffin-seller mentioned above.
Like Blackheath, Peckham, Camberwell, and other suburban spots round London which we have visited in the course of our perambulations, Wandsworth once had its annual fair, which was abolished only within the memory of living persons. From "Merrie England in the Olden Time" we learn that at the end of the last century spectators were invited to see exhibited here "Mount Vesuvius, or the burning mountain by moonlight; rope and hornpipe-dancing; a forest, with the humours of lion-catching; tumbling by the young Polander, from Sadler's Wells; several diverting comic songs; a humorous dialogue between Mr. Swatchall and his wife; sparring-matches; the Siege of Belgrade, &c.—and all for threepence!" In the year 1840 the fair was attended by the theatrical caravan of Messrs. Nelson and Lee, and by other lesser attractions.
Between Wandsworth Common and Garratt Lane formerly stood Burntwood Grange, the seat of H. Grisewood, Esq. It was noted for its magnificent gardens and conservatory, which are described in Bohn's "Pictorial Hand-book of London," where views are given of the exterior and interior of the conservatory and of the dairy adjoining. The gardens of S. Rucker, Esq., on West Hill, are, or were till recently, remarkable for the great variety of flowering trees and shrubs; indeed, horticulture and floriculture seem to have been extensively practised in this locality for many years, for, like Battersea in former times, Wandsworth is mentioned by Lysons, in 1795, as abounding in market-gardens. It may be added that this place a century ago had about it all the adjuncts of a country life, for a picture painted in 1786 shows the reapers in the corn-fields here, and a windmill in full operation at the foot of the slope of the hill which it covers.