Sutton is the principal town of the London Borough of Sutton in South London, England. It lies on the lower slopes of the North Downs, and has the administrative headquarters of the borough. It is located south-south west of Charing Cross, and is one of the eleven metropolitan centres identified in the London Plan.
An ancient parish in the county of Surrey, Sutton is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as having two churches and two acres of meadow at that time. Sutton's location on the London to Brighton turnpike from 1755 led to the establishment of coaching inns, spurring its further development as a village. When it was connected to central London by rail in 1847, the village began to grow into a town, and there was significant Victorian-era expansion, both commercially and residentially. Sutton's expansion and increase in population accelerated in the 20th century as part of the suburban growth of London. It became a municipal borough with neighbouring Cheam in 1934, and has formed part of Greater London since 1965.
Sutton has a theatre, the largest library in the borough, several works of public art, four conservation areas and a park and green at either end of the high street. It contains a civic and retail district, a business sector, including a number of large international companies, and the sixth most important shopping area in London, centred on Sutton High Street. Sutton mainline railway station is the largest in the borough, with frequent services to central London among other destinations. Along with Wimbledon Studios, Sutton is a hub for filming in south-west London. Sutton is home to the Royal Marsden Hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research; there are plans to create the world's second biggest cancer research campus on the site. The town has among the lowest levels of crime in Greater London.
Sutton is home to a significant number of the borough's schools, within a borough which is among the top performing authorities for education in the country.
Sutton became part of the Sutton and Cheam Urban District in 1928 which became the Sutton and Cheam Municipal Borough in 1934, and remained as such until the London Borough of Sutton was formed in 1965.
Origin of the name
The placename Sutton is recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book as Sudtone. It is formed from Old English 'sūth' and 'tūn', meaning 'the south farm'. It was probably in relation to Mitcham and Morden that it was considered southerly. The name was later applied to Sutton Common and the Sutton New Town development in the 19th century.
Archaeological finds in the region date back over ten thousand years, but the first substantial evidence of habitation comes from the excavation of a Roman villa in Beddington. An implement from the neolithic age was discovered close to the junction of Sutton High Street and Carshalton Road. The Roman road of Stane Street forms part of the northern boundary of the parish of Sutton. The course of Stane Street through the area is now followed by the modern roads Stonecot Hill and London Road, and designated A24 on road maps.
From the time of Domesday until the 19th century establishment of local government and disestablishment of hundred courts, Sutton formed a parish in the Wallington hundred of Surrey, in the feudal system. However, by the time of Richard II, the parish was not required to do suit and pay feudal dues at the Hundred Court—probably the parish was exempt on account of liberties enjoyed by its lord.
1700 to 1900
In 1755, a turnpike road from London to Brighton was constructed, meeting with a turnpike road from Carshalton to Ewell which was constructed at the same time. The toll bars for Cheam Road and Brighton Road were originally located at right angles to each other by the Cock Hotel, a coaching inn that sat on the south-east corner of the junction of the turnpikes. The inn's sign straddled the Brighton road, and its proprietor was the champion pugilist, "Gentleman" Jackson. Its name originated from the cock horses needed along this part of the road. Twenty horse and carts passed up and down this stretch in a day. The London to Brighton stagecoach began in 1760, and the Cock Hotel was the 9 a.m. breakfast stop for coaches leaving the city two hours earlier. Regular contact beyond the town brought both expansion and sophistication. Small businesses opened up, at first directly related to travellers on the turnpike – bakers and brewers to feed visitors, seamstresses to provide running repairs and leather workers to make or mend harnesses – and then to provide trade goods for neighbouring communities. All three of the toll bars moved further away from the junction after a number of years to take account of account of Sutton's expansion. The northernmost toll bar was situated where Rosehill is now. The toll bars remained in effect until 1882.
Sutton Water Company was incorporated in 1863, and the provision of water mains finally allowed houses to be built outside of the area defined by the water-yielding Thanet Sands. The Lord of the Manor at the time, Mr Thomas Alcock, sold land that was previously unsuitable for residential buildings, making it available for new construction. Sutton's population more than doubled again in the next ten years between 1861 and 1871.
The 1870-1872 Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales describes Sutton:
In 1884 Sutton High School for Girls was founded by the then Girls' Public Day School Trust. In 1899 Sutton County Grammar School (now Sutton Grammar School for Boys) opened, initially with just nineteen pupils.
In 1897 Sutton Masonic Hall was built in Grove Road by freemasons from the locality. Freemasons have met there since its foundation, apart from two intervals during the First and Second World Wars when the military requisitioned the hall. It also served as a temporary shelter for people displaced from their homes. It was built by a locally known architect, Richard Creed, and local builder, Duncan Stuart & Sons of Wallington. The building features three central bays projecting under a tympanum, supported by pilasters on the second storey.
In 1896 to 1898 a new Cock Hotel was built on an adjacent site to the north of the original one, which was demolished shortly afterwards.
As of 1901, the town's population had reached 17,223, as it attracted upper middle class commuters, including City workers. By the beginning of the 20th Century, the High Street had become heavily built up. By the late 1930s some of the shops had inevitably altered, but the buildings above remained much the same.
In 1902 the Banstead Road site of the South Metropolitan Industrial school was bought by the Metropolitan Asylums Board. The site later became the Downs Schools and then the Downs Hospital. It is now shared between the Royal Marsden and Sutton Hospitals and the Institute of Cancer Research.
Sutton's main post office moved into new premises adjacent to the Masonic Hall on Grove Road in 1907 from its former site at 14 High Street.
The Sutton Adult School and Institute opened in 1910 and 1911 in a large Edwardian building in Benhill Avenue. It later became the Thomas Wall Centre, named after the area's benefactor of Wall's sausage and ice cream fame.
During World War II bombing was not as heavy as in central London; despite this, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists 187 civilian casualties for Sutton and Cheam. Between 1940 and 1944 a total of 434 bombs were dropped on Sutton and Cheam, and a local "bomb map" was produced after the war recording the date, time, location and type of each bomb.
In 1959 a local resident, George Edgar Alcock, started a campaign to preserve a unique avenue of Copper Beech trees. This campaign led the same year to the formation of the Sutton and Cheam Society, a local amenity group which still exists today and of which Mr Alcock was secretary for many years. A plaque commemorating his life is situated at the junction of the road Christchurch Park with Brighton Road.