Sutton

1984/5 pp4–6

 

Sutton

 

 

The name, Sutton, means the southern farmstead (sūþ tūn) and its origins lie probably in a Saxon secondary settlement from Mitcham (micel hām, ‘the great township’).

 

Until the mid-nineteenth century Sutton was a small prosperous farming village like Cheam but, unlike Cheam, its suburban development came much earlier. The railway came to Sutton in 1847, at first via Croydon, and for a few years Sutton was the terminus. Even when the line extended to Epsom and beyond, the main suburban growth continued in Sutton. Suburbia was no longer for the rich only, but for city clerks and the like and the Victorian and Edwardian growth of Sutton had begun. The earlier developments were in New Town, so named in the 1850s, and the north, but once Sutton District Water Co. had a covered reservoir on the southern chalk land (at Ventnor Road corner), it spread to the south also.

 

Sutton was one of the most populous and successful of the southern outer suburbs of Victorian and Edwardian times and, unlike Cheam, the whole village area was rebuilt over in Victorian style. Sutton’s prosperity and growth continued into the 1920s and 30s and what little remained of pre-1850 buildings was finally removed then. So the oldest remains in Sutton are, in fact, some of the fine eighteenth-century gravestones in St. Nicholas’s graveyard.

 

However, we do have in Sutton as our heritage today a fine array of Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco buildings, both public, commercial buildings and houses, large and small – large in the south, small in Newtown and the north. One or two fine Victorian and Edwardian public buildings – the Public Hall of 1878, the old municipal buildings and the Throwley Way Baths – have gone and the two Art Deco cinemas, one of which (the Plaza, later Granada) had a fine Art Deco interior, have also gone.

 

Sutton is now a suburban township centred on its long north/south High Street with extensive suburban housing stretching in all directions from it. In Sutton, the street village form, which at Cheam still survives encapsulated in the modern centre, has been completely overbuilt and we have the prosperous and proud Victorian suburban township with its Edwardian and Art Deco additions and improvements.

 

This is the heritage in Sutton and our photographs deal mainly with it and show how rich it is, since they show but a small sample of what we have. If we do nothing, or too little, about our 1850–1950 heritage in Sutton, we will have neglected the main conservation need. We have included a few post-1950 buildings. like the Civic Centre and Central Library, because the heritage is being added to all the time!

 

For the record, the lists below show what the Nonsuch Antiquarian Society has done during its 25 years in Sutton.

 

Excavations

We have not mounted any organised excavations in Sutton, but by watching building sites, we have been able to record a certain amount about earlier structures and obtain some amount of finds illustrating past life in Sutton.

 

Building Recordings

Stowford, Brighton Road

Public Hall, Hill Road

 

Representations to Secure Conservations

Manor Park House

Stowford

St. Nicholas Graveyard (shortening to allow construction of bypass road)

Baptist Church, Cheam Road

Public Hall, Hill Road

West Street School and School House

Barclays Bank, Cheam Road

Covered Reservoir and Engineer’s House, Ventnor Road

Thomas Wall Nursery School, West Street

 

Manor Park House, the Public Hall, West Street School and the reservoir were demolished nevertheless

 

In addition to this list of specific buildings, we have made detailed recommendations about conservation of the buildings and townscape of Sutton and on listing individual buildings, and we have argued strongly with the Department of the Environment on the need shown very clearly in Sutton for a more forthcoming policy on the listing of buildings of the 1850–1950 period.

 

 

Cheam

 

Cheam has a name derived from Anglo Saxon meaning the homestead by the stumps, i.e. a small group of farms established near where a stand of sizeable trees had been cut down, perhaps for timbers to build the houses and outbuildings; the stumps remaining a notable feature of the landscape long enough to give a permanent name to the settlement.

 

It is without doubt a Saxon settlement, although to date no convincing signs of earlier settlement are known. It formed one of the line of Saxon villages which were established on the narrow band of Thanet beds which lies between the heavy London clay to the north, and the dry chalk to the south, from Croydon to Guildford. The north downs to the south remained open country, economically significant only for sheep pasturage and hunting, while the clay lands to the north, which were Cheam Common, again served, where grassed, as pasturage for cattle and geese and, where forested, for firewood collecting, felling timber and swine feeding.

 

The original village water supply no doubt was a now aborted spring in Spring Close Lane. Water also surfaced farther to the east along Love Lane and no doubt provided the basis of the small sub settlement of Lower Cheam or Nether Cheam, which lay at the Bourne Way/Tate Road/Gander Green Lane junction.

 

The church lies on the top of a clay knoll, and no doubt the original village lay in a crescent on its south side. It was a street village on the Park Road/Park Lane line – the abrupt directions changes where this line leaves and rejoins the main Sutton/Cuddington/Ewell track (now High Street, Ewell Road and the Avenue across Nonsuch Park) which would screen the settlement from the traffic on the inter village trackway being typical of such villages. Similarly, Lower Cheam lay just north of the trackway between Cheam and Sutton.

 

Burdon Lane and Sandy Lane were tracks running south from the village giving access to the open and wild country of the north downs, doubtless droveways for sheep and cattle. The Malden Road and Gander Green Lane were tracks going north giving access to Cheam Common, the latter presumably leading to an area of green sward where the geese were pastured.

 

The history of Cheam until the early 1920s was that of an agricultural village and, while it grew a little in size in Victorian and Edwardian times after the coming of the railway, its essential character did not change until it became immersed in the great suburbia building boom of the 1920s and 30s. This changed Cheam from a farming village to a commuter suburb, but, because the war of 1939–45 stopped further building before all the old village centre was rebuilt, and after the war planning control and conservation policies had come into existence, Cheam is now an interesting blend of a large commuter suburb with many very fine examples of 1930s suburban housing, especially on the southern side, and a business and shopping centre which combines some of the old village houses and layout of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries with some very good examples of 1930s Art Deco shopping blocks along the Broadway.

 

Old photographs are mainly concerned with the buildings and general layout which this history has produced and which still stand and are therefore the heritage we should seek to preserve.

 

For the record, the list below shows what Nonsuch Antiquarian Society during its 25 years (we were founded in 1959 too) has done in Cheam.

 

Excavations

Late Stuart vault in garden of 5, Malden Road

Garden of 1/2 Church Road

White Lodge garden (corner of Park Road and Broadway)

Medieval kiln grounds of 23 High Street

Whitehall garden and well (in association with Friends of Whitehall)

 

Building Recording

1/2 Church Road

White Lodge

Park Road cottages between Bay Cottage and Red Lion

23 High Street

Whitehall (as part of garden excavation)

 

Representations to Secure Conservations

1/2 Church Road

3/9 Malden Road

23 High Street

White Lodge

Park Road Cottages

Whitehall

Park Cottages (Ewell Road)

Nonsuch Villas (Ewell Road)

Surviving sections of West Cheam Manor boundary wall

 

23 High Street, White Lodge and Park Road Cottages were demolished nevertheless.

 

In addition to this list of individual buildings, the Nonsuch Antiquarian Society has made detailed recommendations on the buildings to be listed, and on the boundaries of the conservation area and conservation policy in general in Cheam over the years which have, we believe, had some effect on what has been done and on planning philosophy in Cheam.