Sutton Archives and Local Studies

Finally, last Wednesday, I managed to get myself along to Sutton Local Studies to start my research on the Sutton end of the 213 route.

The day began treacherously, as I boarded a 151 bus to Wallington rather than waiting for the next 213. It was a decision I almost instantly regretted because at North Cheam /Queen Victoria stop a young bloke sat behind me on the upper deck who smelt SO strongly of cannabis, I could hardly breathe! I distracted myself by eavesdropping on the conversation of some young people in front and thought about how to open a window without it being totally obvious. Luckily, he decided to go downstairs at Cheam Broadway, so I was free again to muse on the views outside.

Got off with most of the other passengers at Sutton Civic Centre stop. The Local Studies is part of the library complex (tucked away on floor 2) and I was really impressed by the scale of the library service, with cafe and different reading areas, it is much bigger than Kingston’s central library. The Local Studies room is quite different to Kingston’s Local History Room in atmosphere, as the former has very little/no natural light, and Kingston is surrounded by windows (which makes it quite toasty in the summer months and chilly in winter).

Kath the Archivist was there to assist me and she had kindly got out a few local history books for me to look at. I’m trying to be good and restrict my research to date from September 1921 to present day since that is how long the route has been running for, but also need to collect specific information about each stop name which may take us back centuries…. Since I know so little about Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park I began by skim reading the books.

  • Sutton, a very brief history: A place called Sudtone was first recorded in 675AD, but the town we know today was mainly developed due to its location on the London-Brighton stage coach route (from the 1760s on). It developed further at the turn of the 20th century when trams and later trolleybuses and buses terminated at Benhill Avenue. NB: The London Borough of Sutton was formed in 1965, previously Sutton and Cheam Urban District.
  • Cheam, an almost non-existent history (only because I didn’t read the right book…): Cheam Village dates back to at least the Tudor period, when Nonsuch Palace was constructed by Henry VIII, began 1538. Whitehall, Cheam was named after the Palace of Whitehall by Charles I, it was originally built in the mid-1500s as a farmhouse.
  • North Cheam, a shorter history: the crossroads at North Cheam is on the site of an old toll gate ‘Lynce’s Corner’ itself replaced by the Queen Victoria Inn (built shortly after her Coronation, rebuilt 1936, demolished 1964). It marked the point where Cheam, Sutton and Malden met.  The row of shops here only developed in the 1930s.
  • Worcester Park, my home: It is made up of the former area of Nonsuch Great Park, and is named after the Keeper of the Park, the Earl of Worcester. It was open fields until the late 1850s when railway construction began, and houses were built on Longfellow Road for the railway workers. The Worcester Park to Waterloo line began in 1859. Along what was Common Hill (now Central Road) were built beautiful semi-detached Victorian and Edwardian villas, which were replaced by shops in the 1930s.

I spent most of the afternoon looking through the photographic collection…. would estimate 8 filing cabinet drawers and I managed to find some amazing photographs. The world is beautiful! ‘Mundane’ and everyday life is full of meaning. Photography is a wonderful tool to capture the world!

After a long day of looking, I managed to finish just as they were closing (6pm), hurried off for a hot chocolate at an obliging coffee shop and caught a 213 at Sutton Post Office stop. I then attended the Maldens and Coombe Heritage Society meeting, giving an update on my research.


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