What A Council Logo Says, Part 4 – Merton

Published on 27 November 2008 in , , , , , ,

What does your council’s logo say about your area? I was pondering this very question whilst walking down the street and looking at the street signs near home – their Merton Council logo blazing quietly in the corner, radiating out its waterwheel goodness. The entire of Merton is represented by a waterwheel. Not any old waterwheel but a waterwheel within five minutes of my house where William Morris had his print works.

And I thought back to the various places I’d lived, and wondered what each one said about the area and the council that serves it.

In part 4, it’s time for the home straight as I delve into the land of the waterwheel itself.

London Borough of Merton

Like Tameside, Merton is a council with an odd name. Of the five major towns that are contained in the borough, Wimbledon is the one that really stands out. It’s the biggest, the most affluent, and the one with not only a branch of Debenhams, but an M&S Simply Food too.

Of the other main areas – Mitcham, Morden, Colliers Wood and Raynes Park – nothing really comes close to Wimbledon for dominance. Yet, strikingly, the borough is named after not one of those areas, but for a small, completely indistinct area saddled between Colliers Wood and Wimbledon.

Where modern Merton begins and ends is, well frankly a mystery. If you walk down Merton High Street, with Colliers Wood tube station behind you, past Merton Bus Garage, you’ll arrive at the hulking grey box monster that is Sainsbury’s Merton.

Nearby is Marks and Spencers – M&S Colliers Wood in fact.

If this suggests to you that no-one knows where Colliers Wood ends and Merton begins, you’re absolutely right. But here’s the real kicker. M&S and Sainsbury’s share the same building – and the M&S end is fractionally further away from Colliers Wood tube than Sainsburys.

Actually, in case you’re wondering, Merton has its own tube station. Except it’s called South Wimbledon because Wimbledon was deemed to have a higher social standing.

Such is the disdain for Merton and it’s humble high street, that one local councillor went as far as suggesting that the borough be renamed The Royal Borough of Wimbledon and Morden – the royal connection being that Henry III met barons in the area to create the Statute of Merton, and Henry VI was crowned in Merton Priory.

And it’s this history that gives the main reason why the Merton name is used. It was listed in the Doomsday Book as Mertone, and was home to a certain Admiral Horatio Nelson – a fact recorded for prosperity in a number of the pubs of the area.

However it’s a more recent history of the borough that the council logo celebrates.

Merton Council logo

The council logo of a waterwheel and a wavy blue line celebrates another Merton landmark – the Wandle river which flows through the borough, and the waterwheel that sits on that river at Merton Abbey Mills. Now a craft market, the Mills were originally home to the Liberty print works, founded by one of the masters of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris.

In recent times, it was the print works that drove the area. Now Merton is rather forgotten. But the Wandle still flows, and the giant waterwheel at Abbey Mills remains. Both the history and geography of the borough are commemorated in one simple logo. And without a tennis ball or Womble in sight.

The logo also doesn’t feature a slogan or tagline to describe the council – at least not any longer. Previously a slogan of “Moving Ahead” was used – a rather meaningless statement, whose only merits have to be that at least water, like presumably the council, moves.

However in 2006 the Labour party lost their majority control of the council, and in one of its first acts, the incoming minority Conservative administration removed the tagline from the logo. A strapline of “Putting You First” (interestingly the slogan used by the local Conservatives during the 2006 election campaign) does appear on the council website, however not in the context of the logo.

Well I have yet to move on from London, so tomorrow it’s time for a slightly more arbitrary location, as I cover a place I went on holiday to in 2007. The Isle of Wight.