Merton gets ready to capitalise on 10,000-year heritage

Merton’s cabinet this week formally approved its new heritage strategy, which sets out the council’s commitment to protecting and showcasing the historic borough.

In its heritage strategy, the council commits to increasing public access to historic resources which celebrate Merton’s diverse cultural heritage and the people from the borough whose impact has been felt well beyond Merton’s boundaries. The council recognises the need to develop heritage services to ensure a wide range of people, including children, older people and the many ethnicities who live in Merton, have the opportunity to learn about and share in the borough’s heritage. The council is also seeking to establish a Heritage Forum to improve communication between the various heritage providers, and support more groups to access grants from organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, to preserve the borough’s rich history.

Merton Council already works with leading preservation organisations such as English Heritage and the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Monuments. It also provides an annual grant to the Wandle Industrial Museum which showcases Merton’s past industrial strength in producing leather, copper-plate, lavender, snuff, textiles and dyes.

Merton’s wealth of history can be seen in its 300 listed buildings, 28 conservation areas and 1,300 locally listed buildings and structures of local interest. In its 10,000-year history, the borough has been home to Merton Priory which has links to the martyred archbishop Thomas Becket, the coronation of Henry VI and the statutes on which English law is based. The world’s first publicly owned rail network – the Surrey Iron Railway (1803) – was founded in Merton along with the world-renowned All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon. Mitcham Cricket Green in the east of the borough is reportedly the oldest cricket ground in the world, and is still in use.

Merton Council cabinet member for community and culture Councillor Martin Whelton said: “We have a rich history to celebrate and we recognise the important role the council can play to make that history more accessible to residents as well as those outside the borough. Schools are also ideally placed to teach children about the amazing industries and famous names associated with Merton such as Arthur Liberty, William Morris, Lord Nelson, William Wilberforce, Thomas Becket, Henry VI and leading member of the suffragette movement Rose Lamartine Yates – names that people across the globe still recognise today.

“We also have a rich cultural present which will be tomorrow’s history. We must capture and treasure this for future generations.”

Mertons’ Heritage Strategy: