Merton – Nelson, abbey ruins and a great big dockoff evil tower

Published on 19 June 2006 in ,

When I lived in Ealing, it was hard to miss the impact the town had had on the world. The white painted brickwork of Ealing Studios were there every time I walked down St. Mary’s Road.

It’s taken me some time (well two years in the area), and I’ve been slowly but surely discovering more and more about where I live now – Merton – whose secrets are a bit more hidden.

For starters, and previously discussed, there’s the Nelson connection – his house was in the area.

Then there’s Merton Abbey Mills – home of William Morris and the former Liberty Print Works and now a craft market. But there’s something even stranger than that, for the mills got their name from Merton Abbey – destroyed by a certain king called Henry. Some of the remains however still exist – specifically the Chapter House. Rather surreally they’re now in an enclosed area, with a three lane road on top called Mertanium Way.

Normally the area is sealed off, but on Sunday it was the Wandle Valley Festival and the remains are accessed via a discrete doorway in a subway under Mertanium Way which links the Abbey Mills market with a great big dockoff Sainsbury’s.

Wandering around inside is a rather surreal experience. For starters, it’s a rather dark and gloomy area which, despite being on a busy road, is very quiet – you can hardly hear the traffic.

Inside on Sunday they had hands on archaeology for children, and displays and history of the Chapter House, the print works and more. Not many people were there – it being rather hidden from the market, and people were far more interested in the (soon to be redundant) shirehorses from the Youngs brewery. It’s certainly a surreal experience – a little hidden away part of history.

On a different tack, the other impact of the area is a certain tower block. And it’s impact is not exactly welcome.

The Tower literally towers over the area – it’s 19 story high black concrete clad walls dominating the skyline which mostly consist of two or three story buildings.

I first became aware of the impact it was having to the wider area when in Channel 4’s Demolition at Christmas. It came number nine in a national pole of buildings people would most like to demolish.

And then today, it won the top slot on a poll for BBC London who were trying to find London’s Most Hated Building.

This evil monster of a building is mostly empty, but can’t be pulled down for two reasons – first is that it’s not financially viable to do so. Whatever would replace it would never recoup the money needed to kill the confounded thing. But more importantly, the tube line goes underneath and any demolition work could put the Northern Line tunnels at risk of collapsing.

However I suspect most people round here would say that’s a risk worth taking – even if it meant closing the Northern Line whilst they did it.