(Shadowtime Home)


Explore the author's map to discover strange stories from Mitcham and the surrounding areas.



Front Cover


Part 1 - Mitcham:

The Phantom Cyclist
of Mitcham Common
(update to Strange Mitcham)

A Dark Figure on Mitcham Common

Tales from the
Vestry Hall

'Calico Jack': The
Playful Ghost of
Lacks the Drapers

The Faces on the Walls:
Hancock's Cottages

The Haunted Cottages
in Tramway Path

The 'Haunting' of
Hall Place

The Spectral
Soldier of Graham

The Legend of
Mitcham Fair

Remember the Grotto

The Phantom of
the 'Folly'

An Apparition at
Woof & Sabine

Haunted Rooms at
Fry Metals

The Phantom Cat

Mitcham's (not so)
Haunted Mansion

The Kingston Zodiac

The 'Ghost Tree'

Ghostly Gardeners,
Medicinal Plants and
A Magical Tree

The 'Thing'

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
Common, 2004

UFO over Tooting
  Bec Common, 1990

Part 2 - South of
Mitcham Common:

Carew Manor

The Ghosts of
Beddington Park

Beddington Parish
Church & Churchyard

The Figure in the

Under Beddington

A Spectral Cavalier

Other Information:

Author's website

'Haunted Mitcham' Facebook group:

Facebook group set up
by Geoff Mynn in
January 2015

Heritage maps

Thanks to the
Mitcham Society
and Merton Council
there are some very
nice heritage
maps of Mitcham

Download for free
via this link.

The Mitcham Ghost

Strange Mitcham
(2002): Errata


The 'Ball of Fire'

Did ball lightning destroy a windmill on Mitcham Common?

Visitors to The Mill House Harvester pub beside Mitcham Common might notice a large circular brick wall in the car park. Peering in through the wall's black metal gates reveals a central brick column, supporting a thick wooden post and several enormously heavy-looking wooden beams. These skeletal remains are all that survive of the windmill that once stood here.

Above: The remains of the windmill at The Mill House. (James Clark, 2007)

This mill was erected in 1806, during the Napoleonic Wars when wheat commanded a high price and millers could make healthy profits. However, permission to build a windmill on the newly enclosed land was given only on condition that the miller, John Barker, would 'grind the grist of the inhabitants of Mitcham on two days in every week forever at a fair and reasonable price'.

The construction was of a type known as a 'hollow-post' mill, with an upper part (supporting the large sails) that could be turned by hand to face into the wind. The structure was a popular subject for local artists and remained working until about 1860.

It finally came to grief when lightning struck the sails during a thunderstorm one year. Some sources give the date of this storm as 1878, although the plaque on the mill's remains states that it happened in 1862. What is most interesting about this event though is that the sails were reportedly struck by a 'ball of fire'. This seems a strange way to describe a lightning strike, and one suggestion has been that the windmill was actually hit by a rare phenomenon known as ball lightning.

Ball lightning takes the form of a small sphere of usually red, orange or yellow fire that floats slowly through the air. Unlike sheet or forked lightning, which is literally over in a flash, ball lightning often lingers for 20-30 seconds. Usually, it fades away after this time, although it has also been known to explode with a crack like a gunshot. Its contrary nature is further seen in its ability to either bounce off objects, burn its way through them, or simply pass through solid matter as if there was nothing there.

Until comparatively recently the very existence of such a bizarre phenomenon was disputed by most scientists. Although ball lighting has now been reluctantly accepted as genuine, there is as yet no generally accepted explanation for its formation. Theories that have been advanced include a plasma of superheated gas, a burning cloud of pure silicon gas particles, and even a conglomeration of small particles of anti-matter.

But regardless of whatever physics might have been involved, the strike caused severe damage. The mill was never repaired and in 1906 the upper part was finally dismantled.

On the subject of windmills, it has been claimed that there was once a second mill on the Common. This is thought to have been of an unusual design in that its large base supported a number of small vertical vanes that rotated around a central pole. Such a design may not have been strong enough to withstand very powerful winds and this has been proposed as the reason behind its destruction. No physical trace of this second mill remains.

[Sources: Francis, T, edited by Montague, E. (1993), Old Mitcham, Phillimore & Co. Ltd, Sussex; Loobey, P. (1996) Britain in Old Photographs - Merton, Morden & Mitcham, Sutton Publishing Ltd., Gloucestershire; Montague, E. (1991) Mitcham, A Pictorial History, Phillimore & Co. Ltd, Sussex; Parker, P. (1988) Mitcham - A Historical Glimpse, Merton Library Service; plaque on mill remains, read in 2007.]

© James Clark. All rights reserved. Should you wish to refer to material presented here you are most welcome to quote a short excerpt (of no more than one or two paragraphs) provided you give full attribution and supply a link back to this website. Use of longer excerpts will require the author's prior written permission - by all means feel free to ask! But please DO NOT steal my work by copying great chunks and posting them in their entirety without permission. Thank you.

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