Motspur Park, also known locally as West Barnes is a suburb in South West London situated across the boundary between the London Borough of Merton and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. It owes its identity to the railway station of the same name, which has six trains an hour to London's Waterloo, and to the adjacent parade of small shops. Two prominent gas holders, which are used to store the consumer gas supply for south west London stand just south of the shopping parade and can be seen from a wide area.
Two of London’s minor natural water courses run through the area. The Beverley Brook runs south to north through its centre and its smaller tributary the Pyl Brook runs parallel further to the east. These have in the past given rise to some local flooding.
The Motspur Park athletics stadium was built by the University of London in 1928 and achieved fame when the world mile record was set there in 1938. It was sold to Fulham Football Club as their training ground in 1999.
The district was historically known as West Barnes and formed part of the traditional county of Surrey. It was rural right up to the end of the nineteenth century when the railway station was built. Two local lanes, West Barnes Lane and Blakes Lane, represent remnants from this rural era. The barns referred to were those at the western end of Merton Abbey's estates and were just north of West Barnes Lane's junction with the modern Crossway.
After the dissolution of the monasteries the abbey land was granted to the Gresham family, (descendants of Thomas Gresham) who were wealthy London merchants. They retained the estate for two generations, finally selling it (either in 1570 but this date has been questioned or 1612) to John Carpenter, a local farmer. The area, remained agricultural and was farmed by a number of families, probably the most well known being the Raynes who gave their name to Raynes Park. In the nineteenth century two local landowners were Charles Blake, the owner of Blue House Farm (located in the area of the modern Barnes End) and Richard Garth Lord of the Manor of Morden. Both were lawyers and Garth eventually became a judge. They joined forces to seek to procure a Parliamentary bill for a railway line to run across their properties.
Large mansions and farms are the only habitation shown on the 1871 map of the district with no station or residential districts. The area east of the railway was part of Hobbald(e)s Farm (located at the junction of the modern Lower Morden lane and Garth Road) which was owned by Garth. The oakwood alongside the railway was planted around this time to screen it and remains today.
The land was sold and then leased to J.J. Bishop the founder of the Bishops Move removal company around 1873. In 1892 part of the estate was sold to Battersea Corporation for use as a cemetery which still remains as the Northeast Surrey Crematorium.
Beginning of the suburban era
The area was developed as a suburb in the years just before the first and up to the second world wars. The first developments were in streets off the Burlington Road which had a tram route from about 1906. Pre First world war houses form the northern ends of Belmont, Cavendish and Claremont Avenues west of the railway; Seaforth, Estela and Adela Avenues to the east. Most houses were of the "terraced" style, typically of six houses joined together, each with three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and two living rooms and a kitchen downstairs. The area also attracted a number of playing fields at the time of its development. These remain and have given the area a large amount of green open space, see section below.
In 1906 a Mr and Mrs Howlett moved into 138 Seaforth Avenue. They started up a Sunday School in their house for the children in the local area. Soon adults also began to attend these meetings and before long the numbers increased so that the house was full each Sunday. They started saving for a building in which they could meet. In 1925 "West Barnes Gospel Hall" in Seaforth Avenue, then the home of New Malden Evangelical Free Church, was opened.
On the corner of Douglas Avenue and Adela Avenue the Church of England built Holy Cross Church where the first service was held in 1908. Following its destruction during the Second World War a new building was erected on the site - the first post-war Church to be built in Southwark Diocese. Designed by architect Ralph Covell it was dedicated for worship in 1949. (The church hall burned down in the 1980s and has since been rebuilt.) The present Anglican parish of Motspur Park was to be formed some years later in 1978 and serves all those who live or work in the area.
The country's first dual carriageway of its kind, the Kingston Bypass (A3), was built in 1926 just to the north of Motspur Park, forming a distinct northern boundary to the district. The major junction at Shannon Corner was for years a significant landmark in south west London. The building of this road brought speculative house building on open land throughout its length and it stimulated the development of Motspur Park."
The principal developer who turned Motspur Park into a residential suburb between the world wars was Sidney Ernest Parkes a boat manufacturer and constructional engineer. His company, Modern Homes and Estates Ltd, was founded in 1924 and was responsible for many of the streets in the area including Phyllis Avenue and Arthur Road, named after his children; Byron Avenue, Tennyson Avenue and Marina Avenue. Wates were also active builders in the area in the inter war years, building to the west of the railway line.
In 1931 the part of the Hobbald(e)s Farm estate was acquired by the Urban District of Merton and Morden to become the Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Playing Fields. One reason for their doing so was to perpetuate the name of local benefactor and ex-Mayor of Wimbledon, Sir Joseph Hood. The land was set out with a large pavilion, football and cricket pitches, tennis courts, bowling green, putting green and children's play areas. Part of the land is now being managed as a conservation and wildlife reserve.
The biggest local employer for decades was the Decca gramophone record company. In 1929 this was employing 700 people, and making up to 60,000 records a day at its factory in Burlington Road, New Malden. The company diversified during World War Two to make radar and the Decca Navigator System.
Other local employers from that era were, at Shannon Corner, the Shannon typewiter company and the Venner timeswitch company, maker of Britain's first parking meters. Also close to Shannon Corner were Carter's Seeds and Bradbury Wilkinson, a security printing company, maker of banknotes for many of the world's smaller countries. The Tesco hypermarket in the area occupies the former Bradbury Wilkinson site.
Sydney Charles Wooderson set the then world mile record of 4min 6.4sec at Motspur Park's University of London Athletics ground on 28 August 1938.
World war two
During World War Two the University of London (now Fulham footlball club) and BBC recreation club grounds were the sites of anti aircraft batteries. The BBC site was the home guard base. A single stick of bombs was aimed at the railway station by a German bomber but missed its target and destroyed houses in Marina Avenue (including the six odd-numbered houses from 63 to 73) and Claremont Avenue. The bomb landing in Claremont Avenue landed on a 21st birthday party at a house very near the station killing many at the party. On another occasion a bailed out German pilot landed on top of the gasometers but fell to his death. On the morning of 3 July 1944, a V1 rocket came down near No. 45 Motspur Park, the street that takes its name from the district. According to the archives manager at Kingston council, no casualties were reported, but seven or eight houses were completely destroyed, and others were badly damaged.
B&Q owned the Agip site (next to West Barnes Library) in the mid to late 80s. This store was rather small and when the Burlington Retail Park was built, B&Q sold the site and moved into a bigger property in New Malden .
In the 1970s to mid-1980s, there was a petrol station/garage in Motspur Park adjasent to the level crossing. It was called Jackson's Garage, owned and run by people of Afro Caribbean descent (it was located on the site of what is now the Fulham Football Club office).
There were three newsagents/sweetshops/toyshops in the 1950s to 1970s - A.R. Waylett, Bromheads and the smaller 'Sweet Things and Things' which has now increased in size, the others being closed down. There was also a fishmonger (where a kebab shop now stands) an ironmonger (where the garage door sales shop now stands) three butchers, an RACS Co-op store and the original Motspur Park library, which was situated at 359 West Barnes Lane, on the corner of Station Road, in the property now occupied by Kami's gents hairdresser. An old fashioned dairy selling milk, butter and eggs occupied the Progress tuition centre's unit. The Midipharmacy unit has been a chemist since the shops were built in the 1930s, originally owned by a Mr Griffiths.
In the 1980s, a short-lived clothing store called 'Get Clobbered' was opened. There were once two banks in Motspur Park; a Lloyds' Bank situated near Motspur Park Food and Wine and a Midland Bank which was situated in the building adjacent to Kami's.
Ghassans store was opened in 1988 and has changed and grown in time to become the local convenience store Ecklee. The store is now three units wide with a Lebanese grill open a few shops down.