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

'MYSTERIOUS
MITCHAM'


Contents:

Front Cover

Introduction

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'Mysterious Mitcham' is the online sequel to the original 'Strange Mitcham', which contains stories not found on this website:

Second (2011) edition is now available in paperback and eBook formats.

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
Road

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
Backwards

The Rosier Family
Legend

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
Alley

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
available.

Download for free
via this link.

The Mitcham Ghost
Ride

Strange Mitcham
(2002): Errata

Strange Mitcham
(2011)

Paperback:



Kindle:

Haunted Wandsworth
(2006)

Ghosts and legends of the London Borough of Wandsworth (covers Balham, Battersea, Putney, Tooting & Wandsworth):

Haunted London
(2007)

Ghosts and legends of London:

Haunted Lambeth
(2013)

Ghosts and legends of the London Borough of Lambeth (covers Brixton, Clapham, North Lambeth, Norwood, Stockwell & Streatham):

The Poltergeist Prince
of London

(2013)

The remarkable true story of the Battersea poltergeist:


 

Ghostly Gardeners, Medicinal Plants and A Magical Tree

Sir Thomas Cato Worsfold's earliest memory of Mitcham was of being frightened one bright summer day. Writing in Bidder's Old Mitcham, he recorded how he saw 'four or five sheeted ghosts rising and bending in a field. To complete the unearthly illusion each spectre was armed with a flashing knife!'

Unfortunately, he does not say where this took place. Neither does he tell us when, although he does state that he was a child at the time so, given that he was born c.1861, an approximate date can be worked out.

But Worsfold's experience turned out to have a down-to-earth explanation. The young lad's nanny explained to him that the phantoms were actually gardeners wearing 'folds of white muslin swathed about their heads' to protect themselves from their crop of squirting cucumbers. Severing these thumb-sized whitish-green fruits from their stalks ejected an acrid spray that could burn flesh and do terrible damage to a person's eyes.

The hazards of harvesting squirting cucumbers were also recorded in Old Mitcham by Benjamin Slater, who wrote in 1911 that: 'this plant had to be handled by a man who was thoroughly acquainted with its nature. It was so very dangerous the man had to have his mouth and nose covered when working gathering the fruit; these had to be grown in an isolated place where no one would be likely to interfere with them; it would not be safe to grow them in Mitcham now.'

Why was such a hazardous plant grown here at all? The answer is that the squirting cucumber (Ecballium elaterium) was prized for its medicinal virtues, making a very effective purgative.


The Herb Garden of England

Squirting cucumbers were far from being the only healing plants grown locally. On the contrary, Worsfold goes on to tells us that Mitcham had long been known as 'The Herb Garden of England', that 'almost everything in the vegetable kingdom that had a healing virtue in the medical world was produced in the village and its vicinity.'

This reputation seems to have been acquired during the latter half of the 18th Century. Writing in 1792, the Rev. Daniel Lysons recorded that: '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.' According to Lysons, the plants grown in Mitcham's physic gardens included wormwood, camomile, aniseed, rhubarb, liquorice, peppermint and lavender. It was for its lavender that Mitcham became best known, a fact attested to in a popular 19th-century rhyme, recorded by Sally Festing in her book The Story of Lavender:

Sutton for mutton,
Carshalton for beef,
Mitcham for lavender,
And Dartford for a thief.


The importance of lavender in Mitcham's history is recalled today in the London Borough of Merton's coat of arms, which is topped with three sprigs of this plant.

It is also interesting to note that the scent of lavender is one of the phenomena associated with the ghost that reputedly haunts Rose Cottage beside Mitcham Common. (See 'The Haunting of Rose Cottage' in Strange Mitcham for details of this ghost story.)


A Magical Cure

Before leaving the subject of healing plants, one final mention must be made of Worsfold's essay. It seems there was a magical tradition attached to a particular tree located 'where the road from Cranmer Bridge to Mitcham Junction cuts that which passes from the latter to the Blue Houses.' (In other words, at the junction of Cranmer Road with the A237 Carshalton Road.)

'To walk round this tree three times on a windy day,' wrote Worsfold, 'was said to be a sure cure for children who had whooping cough.'

(Another tree with a strange tale associated with it once stood a short distance to the west of this spot: see The 'Ghost Tree' for details.)

[Source: Bidder, Lt.-Col. H. F., DSO, (1926) Old Mitcham: A series of papers recording village life and history, Part II, Mitcham, H. G. Mather; Festing, S. (1989) The Story of Lavender, 2nd revised edition, Sutton, Heritage in Sutton Leisure; Lysons, Rev D. (A.M., F.A.S.) (1792) The Environs of London: Being an Historical Account of the Towns, Villages and Hamlets, Within Twelve Miles of that Capital: Interspersed with Biographical Anecdotes, Volume the First, County of Surrey; Worsfold, Sir T. C., Bart. Memories of our Village, in Bidder, op cit.]

 
   
© 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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