New website brings to life Merton’s cultural heritage

The new River and Cloth programme website is up and running offering residents an online one-stop shop for information on Merton’s river heritage. The site features an interactive map of the River Wandle in Merton and is part of an 18-month programme of events and activities celebrating the historical global influence of Merton’s textile industry and the vital role the River Wandle has played in the success of world famous textile designers such as William Morris.

The project, which has been funded with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, is being managed by Merton Council in partnership with educational charity the Embroiders’ Guild.

The River and Cloth project is set to bring to life the stories of those behind the textile industry and highlights the contributions made by immigrant and refugee workers such as the Huguenot dyers and printers and the Dutch whitsters or bleachers. Activities organised through River and Cloth include workshops for Merton schools and community groups giving hands-on experience in dyeing, stitching and printing.

Schools signed up to the project will also have the opportunity to visit the heritage sites at Merton Abbey Mills including the former Liberty silk-printing works and the Wandle Industrial Museum at Vestry Hall. Residents can log onto the website to find out about practical workshops and register their interest in attending them. Volunteers and teachers who want to learn more about textile processes can also find out about training opportunities so they can deliver their own workshops and school activities. The next workshop is about eco-dyeing – using colour from plants – and takes place on 6 June.

Merton Council cabinet member for environment and leisure services Councillor David Simpson said: ‘This is a wonderful project that celebrates the amazing industrial history of Merton. It is important to remember that Merton was home to world famous names like Liberty and William Morris who stand for top quality even today.

‘By bringing our proud heritage to life with practical workshops and training opportunities, the River and Cloth programme is helping to spread the word about Merton’s industrial past and nurture further interest in our borough’s great cultural history.’


Notes to editors
1. The Embroiderers’ Guild is a crafts association and educational charity. Sixteen graduates of the Royal School of Art Needlework founded what was then a society in 1906. The first local branch was established in 1931. The Guild offers a comprehensive programme of contemporary exhibitions, workshops, City & Guilds courses, lectures and tours (UK & overseas) and much more! It has over 25,000 Members and subscribers throughout the UK and abroad, 238 Branches and 95 Young Embroiderers Groups. The Embroiderers’ Guild publishes six issues of
its magazine Stitch a year.
2. Participating schools are: Benedict Primary School, Bond Primary School, Cranmer Primary School, Cricket Green Special School, Gorringe Park Primary School, Haslemere Primary School, Links Primary School, Melrose Special School, Merton Abbey Primary School and William Morris Primary School.

3. Bleaching in Merton began in the late 16th century, when Dutch bleachers (also known as ‘whitsters’) began settling along the banks of the Wandle and opening their own bleaching grounds. ‘Bunces Meadow’ was a bleaching field and was located between what is now Deen City Farm and the tram line at the edge of Morden Hall Park.