Thursday 16 November 2017
After major South Kensington Museums two weeks running, it was a pleasure to visit Sutton's Heritage Centre in its attractive listed building and its even more attractive setting.
Carshalton is very easy to get to, whether from St Pancras or one of the stops en route, and in fact Linda and I met when she boarded 'my' train at Tulse Hill.
Then it's a short walk to the lovely ponds, and past the handsome War memorial to reach the House. The number of seagulls, as well as other water birds on the ponds was remarkable: we reminded each other that we had seen the scary Hitchcock film many years ago, and so viewed large numbers of birds somewhat askance.
We admired the enormous London plane tree, whose girth suggests that it is at least two hundred years old.
The poet was a patient at the hospital for incurables of whom nothing more than that is known, but his poem is entertaining and informative. There are descriptions of the many pubs, and of the water of the Wandle that pours and splutters everywhere, making the village a place of gutters. He was clearly writing at the time that Dickens was serialising Little Dorrit from a house nearby. He says that he doesn't 'care much for it' because there are too many characters!
He also mentions 'a station for peelers', reminding us that the Police force was about 20 years old at the time of his writing.
The same room contained the Beadle's Hat and a ceramic bowl displaying a village cricket match.
We entered a large reception room, overlooking the modest garden. Here we found the dressing-up clothes which we have come to expect wherever we go, but also cases of the most wonderful wooden models of the delivery vehicles of the past: the ancestors of Deliveroo, Uber-eat and Ocado. They included a removals van, with the crates and trunks half stacked and the coal, milk, greengrocer and bread vans. There were public service vehicles as well.
And then in one corner was a tea set, complete with cake stand, also of wood: we were charmed! We think the models were made by a Mr Clark of Sutton, but if he has a website, I can't find it. They are lovely, and worth visiting the museum for on their own.
Many large houses were built in this rural spot, mostly by nouveau riche London merchants: the museum is in one of them, and St Philomena's school occupies another, but several were demolished to make space for more modest housing.
The history of the house was outlined for visitors as well. It changed hands often, until the 1990s when Sutton Council took it over and began the process of converting it. One of the families, the Kirks, had enlarged the house considerably in the 1880s.
This meant that we went down a few steps and then back up again, passing an area of possibly original wall from the 17th century, as well as rather a handsome clock, before reaching the area which had the bathroom and pretty lavatory, as well as a bedroom. Here we saw some more charming toys, including a handsome miniature kitchen range and small washing equipment for some dolls' house servants to use.
Honeywood House was the headquarters of the air raid precautions service for the area, as well as being the recreation centre for the wardens
We particularly enjoyed seeing those baords which used to be inserted and removed on the platforms before electronic displays became the norm
This is a charming museum, in a very pleasant setting, where information about the history of the area and life in the past is interestingly and attractively displayed: and, as I said, so easy to get to!
You can check it out here.