please empty your brain below

This is not far from my house, and indeed I use that tedious subway a lot. The Chapter House takes the phrase "low key" to a new level. I am regularly amazed how many locals have no idea what is in there.
For the last one year I have worked in Wimbledon very close to this site and visited the river many times in my lunch break, but I have never seen that waterwheel turning.
Interesting post, particularly because I visited Merton only a week or so ago and didn't know of the existence of this. I was re-following part of the River Wandle Trail I'd discovered last year thanks to a Walk London event I went on (together with over a hundred others!) last year.
Speaking of rivers, and your series about the lost and lesser known ones around London, did you ever cover the Wogebourne? It's in SE London and its name came up a couple of days ago on a local facebook group.
Greg - it normally turns when the pottery shop (which is in the wheelhouse) is open. Most weekends it turns.
There used to be windows into the site which are now blocked.
Thank you for the tip DG. Took my kids here this morning being so wet. I expected 5 minute diversion but ended up with 20 minutes of fun.

It's a depressing location for a site of significance but a decent effort made inside.
Gosh, thank you, who knew.

As Nick says though, what a depressing area generally, surely a case study is British post war (mis)planning. The electricity pylons add to the general nobody cares about this place feel. The A24 diversion doesn't even have a pavement in parts IIRC. There's a river running through here and a tube station within a very short walk and what do we end up with,? Grrrr. OK Merton Abbey Mills is great, but the rest of the area might be improved by a large bomb.
Fascinating stuff!

One point - there is no 'a' in Thomas Becket
Technically there is :)
But there aren't two, sorry.
As part of the SavaCentre (a jv bewteen J Sainsbury & British Home Stores) team on the creation of the adjacent super-store, I was delighted to read that the "Chamber" was once again open and, through your good offices, the subject of some interest.

I am not quite so delighted at some of the subsequent comments.

Your correspondents are clearly unaware that prior to the super-store the site was slum of breaker's yards and rubbish, that the Mill was derelict, and that the Wandle was totally encased in concrete ducts and hence invisible. Prior to that, the site had been covered by a paper / board mill for many years and the effluent discharge from that had almost totally destroyed the river (hence my childhood memories of a stagnant and smelling river in Wandsworth, next to the brewery.) No chance in either case of seeing any remains.

So, when built, the store greatly improved the site.

For your information, the site is steeped in history to the extent that it is designated as an Ancient Monument (crossed swords (?) on the OS map). As such, we were not allowed to put a spade in the ground without the Archaeologist's giving the all clear. Many graves, from the crude hole in the ground (where often the legs of the skeleton were broken to fit) to those which had clearly been decently interred in coffins or the like were found and all the bodies were removed for re-burial. Our predecessors were not so careful, we found several old trenches cut straight through skeletons which were left in situ. Any artifacts found were removed and placed in store. All "graves" and such "structures" as remained were carefully back-filled with sand or similar, thus preserving them for future generations. The stones in the Chamber are not walls as such, but part of the foundations.

As to the Chamber, this, together with the new road, the opening up of the Wandle and the refurbishing of the Mill and the associated buildings were all part of the "planning gain" and were paid for by SavaCentre, not by the council, and all had to be finished before the store was allowed to open.

The overhead power lines and the pylon were there long before SavaCentre came on the scene. It's presence had an adverse effect on the location and size of the building but it was way too expensive to move, and so it remains to this day (I believe it often featured in The Bill.)

Finally, back in the day when Merton was an Abbey, the Wandle was navigable right to it by ships of the day - this is now not possible due to the reduced flow and the blockade at Wandsworth where it runs under the Southside Shopping Centre. On the bright side, it now supports fish and other wild-life.

The store was right for it's time; it is not to blame for any deficiencies in it's surroundings; all in all I reckon we did a good job.
Thanks DG, for drawing my attention to this. Just back from a visit this lunchtime. Long chat/explore with archeologist on site, fascinating. Waterwheel was working & potter throwing as a bonus. Keep letting us know.
I used to regularly visit Merton Abbey Mills and the large car boot sale that was held at weekends on the large disused site now occupied by the Premier Inn, Kentucky and housing. Whilst not hahaving been close up, I did see the site through the window.

I rarely go to MAM these days, unless I end up going past there on a stroll along the Wandle from Morden Hall Park (recommended).

MAM used to be very busy at the weekends, bolstered by the many car boot shoppers having a wander around and stopping to eat at one of the multicultural hot food stalls.

Sadly, that all went downhill after the closure of the car boot weekends and a lot of trade was lost at MAM, with some of the regular sellers finally moving out as a consequence. Subsequent house building encroachment pnto the MAM site also meant that the hot food stalls disappeared, although I think there were one or two small food stalls that ended up near the waterwheel

I'm not sure about the Sava Centre, but the old car boot sale area is horrible now, with no character
A similar feature, open on high days and holidays, (although glimpses can be dimly seen through the glsss doors on the riverside frontage) is the foundations of the old Kingston Bridge, uncovered during the building of John Lewis's, which was built over the long-disappeared course of the old approach road - the "new" bridge (opened in 1828) crosses slightly further upstream.

The absence of pavement on Merantun way is because it's built on the trackbed of the old railway, and there was not enough width for more. Furher constrained by the "flare" at the western end to acconmdate the flyover that never was, for the extension towards Raynes Park. That was killed off by local opposition )(a council by-election was lost over it in the eighties, and with it the Tories' majority on the council, which they have never won back). The extension was to have eliminated the level crossing at Merton Park - not a major issue when there were just two trains each way every hour - but it's now the busiest section of Tramlink!
To echo Strawbrick's comments, the Savacentre (now a proper Sainsburys and an M&S) certainly wasn't a bad thing for the area. It's a real shame the road buried the Chapter House and its still a shame about that bloomin pylon.

As for Abbey Mills, the car boot sale thrived in an era when there was limited shopping on a Sunday. I don't for the life of me believe it would be as popular now - car boot sales as a whole are a dying breed.

And as such Merton Abbey Mills has changed and adapted. There are many great eateries, including a sushi bar that regularly features on TripAdvisor's list of top London restaurants. That's the whole of London. There is a popular children's theatre, a busy coffee shop, a mega crepe place and plans for a brewpub. Instead of just being busy at weekends, there are places open most of the week.

Definitely a place worth a visit.
"The store was for it's time" is clearly true.

From a time when we built large retail sites in London that are mostly accessed by car. And when we replaced a closed railway with a dual carriageway with no pedestrian access.

It's by no means unique for its time but still a lesson in how to do development much better, even before we consider it being the site of such a significant monument.
The railway in question closed to passengers in 1929, mainly because the extension of the Northern Line through the area had deprived it of what little custom it had left after the arrival of the trams twenty years before. It remained open as a siding to serve the various industries in the area until the 1970s. The departure of those industries made the line redundant

Most of Merantun Way is single carriageway - all there was room for on the old trackbed.
To add - the industries served by the branch line did little to enhance the attractivenenss of the area - see Strawbricks. comments of 7.50pm yeserday
As usual, the large scale detailed Ordnance Survey maps over the years make interesting viewing

This map shows the area in 1953, together with details of the industries and the railway layout.:

On option 2 on the left, select: various maps to scroll around and compare the area over the yearsIt looks as if the area around Merton Abbey had its fair share of assorted industry, including glue works, smelting works, plastics works and paint & varnish works to name bbut a few. Possibly not the most healthiest or fragrant area to live in.

@Andrew Bowden. I'll have to have another look at MAM. The last time I was there, the place was almost deserted - perhaps I just caught it on a bad day. I did enjoy it there and regularly visited some of the shops now gone, such as the second-hand bookshop and, next to it, the place where they did all the smelly stuff (essential oils, soaps, fragrances, etc.). Both now gone.

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