Wandsworth Historical Society


Battersea : Balham : Putney : Tooting : Wandsworth Town

Reports on our past lectures in 2018.

Current year on this page.

2018 | Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | June

Click on the links below for previous years.

2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 (and November 2013)
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29 June 2018

AGM followed by a talk on 'Corporal Ted Foster, hero of Wandsworth'

Neil Robson, WHS

Writup to follow shortly.

25 May 2018

'Wimbledon Windmill 150 years'

Norman Plastow, of Wimbledon Windmill Museum

He began by saying that the first windmill on the common was built in 1613 but not on the current site. The present mill was built by Charles March in 1817 to serve the local community milling flour as the nearest watermills were on the river Wandle some distance away. In design it is a hollow post mill and hence a rather unusual design. The mill only operated until 1864 at which point it became home to 6 families.

Despite this conversion it kept its external appearance due to local pressure in the 1890s and it was further restored in the 1970s as dry rot and insects had severely affected the timbers. More recently the sails have had to be replaced after falling off. The museum houses a collection of windmill models which allowed the speaker to illustrate the different types of mill using photos of the models that look deceptively real; until he showed a picture also containing a box of matches! He also brought along a set of minature carpenters tools.

27 April 2018

Votes for Women

Elizabeth Crawford, historical researcher and writer

In the centenary year of the first women winning the right to vote, Elizabeth Crawford traced the long struggle that led to success. The first petition on the subject was presented to parliament in 1866 by John Stuart Mill, philosopher and political thinker. The campaign was taken up first by the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, led by Millicent Fawcett, and later by the Women's Social & Political Union, led by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. Among the local figures who played their part were Charlotte Despard and Leonora Tyson. The WSPU, dubbed the Suffragettes, resorted to acts of vandalism and even terrorism. Although the breakthrough came in 1918, it remains debatable whether the Suffragettes helped or hindered the cause.

23 March 2018

The Lost Ferry Crossing at Putney Bridge

Dave Saxby of Museum of London Archaeology

Dave Saxby talked about the results of foreshore survey work that has been done before construction of the new super sewer under the Thames. This sever will run from Acton to the Northern Outfall at Beckton and will remove the need for raw sewage to enter the Thames at times of high rainfall, as it can do at present from the sewage outfall under the south side of Putney bridge. To build the sewer and allow entrance of effluent large shafts will be excavated along the river so the archaeological impact of these has to be assessed before work starts.

Historically there were no bridges between medieval London Bridge and Kingston, built sometime prior to 1219, until the first Putney Bridge then known as Fulham Bridge was opened in 1729. Cross river traffic was served by numerous ferries including one at Putney.

In 2014 a site survey was undertaken on the Putney foreshore before works began. Various timbers were noted and chalk deposits. Test borings were made mainly to check for any unexploded bombs. The timbers have been sent for dating but the results are not yet available. The main chalk deposit just upstream of the bridge has been revealed by recent erosion and when fully uncovered measures approximately 9m by 7m. There is another smaller feature further out and a matching one on the Fulham side which is still to be fully investigated. Archival research has revealed a surprising number of paintings and drawings of old Putney Bridge and using these the chalk deposit has been identified as the likely ferry landing, in particular in an 1809 painting an area of this shape can be seen abutting the wall of the church.

23 February 2018

Magic, Murder and Mendacity: John Dee and Thomas Digges in Elizabethan public life

Professor Glyn Parry, Roehampton University

John Dee (1527-1609) was a celebrated Elizabethan mathematician and astronomer who lived in a grand house on the banks of the River Thames at Mortlake. He also had a fascination for alchemy - as did Elizabeth I - and both were mesmerised by the pursuit of the philosopher's stone, which was believed to turn base metals into gold. But the focus of Professor Parry's talk was a man said to have been Dee's brightest student: Thomas Digges (1546-1595), also a mathematician, astronomer and astrologer. In 1572 he was asked by Lord Burghley, the Queen's adviser, to explain the political meaning of the Supernova (B Cassiopeiae / SN 1572) which had made a dazzling appearance in the skies over London. Digges duly analysed it but, frustratingly, only his covering letter survives.

He later produced a handbook on the planets which controversially included the first known depiction of the infinite universe, raising huge questions about the place of God in relation to Man. Despite his many achievements, Digges was, according to Professor Parry, also a conman and forger. Among his powerful enemies was John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury (1530-1604) who was determined to destroy his career, believing him to be dabbling in magic. Digges's time seemed to be up when he was involved in a fatal fight with a man in Kent but he escaped punishment by claiming it was a self-inflicted wound. Other accusations, in particular from his brother-in-law, were mounting against him when Digges died in 1595. For Glyn Parry's book on John Dee, click here.

26 January 2018

8th Nick Fuentes Memorial Lecture

A sarcophagus and a Roman Road in Southwark: Excavation at 25-29 Harper Road

Ireneo Grosso of Pre-Construct Archaeology.

Ireno said that this was the first talk that has been given about this site, which in the Roman period would have been to the south of the main settlement of Southwark on 'the mainland', the main urban area being on 2 islands to the north. This site is close to a number of others that have revealed significant Roman remains.

The excavation had 4 trenches on a long narrow site which is being redeveloped. Much had been truncated by modern concrete foundations but the excavations revealed the presence of a number of ditches and remains of a Roman road including both the lower gravel layers and the top surface. The site is not on what is currently believed to be the line of Stane Street so is it a 'new' road or will it cause a rethink about the location of Stane Street?

The most interesting item found is a Roman sarcophagus. This was on the edge of the road and very close to the outline of a building with deep chalk foundations thought to be a mausoleum. The sarcophagus is very similar to one found in Smithfield and has been removed complete with the contents left in situ for later excavation and analysis. The contents of this will be revealed later in the year. The talk concluded with pictures of some of the small finds from the site, including coins, bone hairpins and a bracelet.

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