Published Friday, 11th June 2021
Councillor Jayne McCoy discusses Sutton’s heritage in her Sutton Scene Column, Friday 11 June 2021
The London Borough of Sutton has a long and rich heritage with a number of its well-loved places listed in the Domesday book: Beddington Church; Cheam Village; Wallington (recorded as a royal estate); and All Saints Church, Carshalton.
Beddington was the site of a Roman Villa and later a deer park frequented by Henry VIII. The River Wandle has been the focus for industry dating back to the Middle Ages and was once famed as ‘the hardest-working river in the world’. This area in Beddington continues that tradition of being a focus of industrial activity. William Street in Wrythe Green was once possibly a Roman Road and Alcorn Close near Kimpton was the site of the local gallows. Carshalton in the 19th Century was the largest village in the borough with a population of 2,411. Sutton Town Centre has long been a key highway whether for racing enthusiasts travelling to Epsom Downs & Banstead, or for stagecoaches from London to Brighton via the crossroads marked by The Cock sign. St Nicholas Church in Sutton marks an earlier Saxon religious site.
There are 181 nationally listed buildings across the borough. These include the great hall at Carew Manor; the stone cross drinking fountain in Cheam Park; Whitehall; St Dunstan’s Church and Lychgate; The Cock sign in the town centre; Church of St Andrew; Worcester Park War Memorial; and St Philomena’s convent chapel.
The history of the borough also contains scandals such as the demolition of Nonsuch Palace by the Duchess of Cleveland, with the materials sold to pay off her gambling debts. Henry VIII was purported to have wooed Ann Boleyn when he visited Nicholas Carew, and there was a national scandal in 1840 around Epsom Derby involving the switching of horses by Hallmead Farm as part of a gambling fraud.
Other historic areas the Council has secured protection for are Sutton Town Centre – the first town centre in the UK to become a Heritage Action Zone; Beddington Park and the Grange; the restoration of the drinking fountain at Wrythe Green and over 100 Locally Listed buildings, including the Art Deco Lavender Corner building in North Cheam, and the milestone in Rosehill. The borough also has 15 Conservation Areas which means they have protections from inappropriate development. Many of these Conservation Areas have undergone new Character Appraisals to help strengthen their status as part of the work evolving from the Local Plan.
In keeping with its history, the borough continues to develop and adapt to changing times. However, as residents, we are keen not to lose our connection with the past. So the Council has been careful to direct new development to commercial areas like our town and district centres. By allowing intensification there, it enables the preservation of the historic and suburban character of other key parts of the borough. In this way we ensure that we build on our past, not over it.