Beddington and Wallington

Once separate parishes, Beddington and Wallington were joined in a single municipal borough, until it was swallowed up Sutton in 1965.

Wallington station at sunset
(photo by Gordon Joly, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Both Beddington and Wallington are mentioned in William the Conqueror’s 1086 Domesday Book, and both their names are evidently Anglo-Saxon. You might think they were the farmsteads or settlements (-ton) of the clans (-ing) of chieftains called Bedda and Walla, but according to etymology-wallahs their derivation is more interesting than that. Beddington means a place with bedding (ie, accommodation), at a first staging post out of London in the days of horse-drawn transport. And the “Wal” in Wallington refers – as it does in “Wales” and “Cornwall” – to the Celtic ancient Britons. So Wallington must presumably have been a Brittonic village, even after the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons.

Beddington Mill before it was rebuilt

According to the Domesday Book, Wallington and Beddington each had two mills. Only one survives today: Beddington Mill, originally a wooden structure that burnt down on occasion over the years (but not because it had a monster in it). It was replaced in the early 1890s by the current brick building at 38 Wandle Road. Wallington Bridge Mill survived until the First World War, with Edwardian maps showing it as a disused paper mill. Its mill pond became the Grange boating lake in what’s now Beddington Park, and is still there. The site of the old mill is now a car park.

Nicholas Carew and Anne Boleyn

Beddington Park was once the grounds of Carew Manor. Also known as Beddington Palace, it was the seat of the aristocratic Carew family from 1351 to 1859. In Tudor times it even had a moat, and lord of the manor Nicholas Carew was a big favourite of Henry VIII’s. He became an even bigger favourite when Henry (still married to Catherine of Aragon) started dating Nicholas’s relative, Anne Boleyn, who used to meet him clandestinely at the manor. After Anne’s execution in 1536, Carew fell from favour, and Henry’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell had him arrested on a spurious charge of treason, and executed in 1539. Cromwell himself survived but a year more before it was “off with his head” time for him too.

Elizabeth Throckmorton and Walter Raleigh

Nor was Carew the only royal favourite to incur the monarch’s wrath in Beddington Palace. In 1591, it was the location of a secret wedding between cloak spreader Walter Raleigh and Nicholas Carew's great niece Elizabeth Throckmorton, a maid-of-honour to Anne Boleyn’s daughter Elizabeth I. Because they were both courtiers, the couple should have asked the queen’s permission to wed, and when she found out that they’d done it in secret, she was incensed, and had them thrown in the Tower. She released them a few months later, but Raleigh evantually fell foul of her successor James I, who had him beheaded. His embalmed head was then presented to his wife, and she kept it for the rest of her life. Local legend has it that the head was buried after her death somewhere in Beddington Park, but that is untrue. In 1856, Nicholas's descendant Charles Hallowell Hallowell Carew was forced to hand over the manor after amassing huge gambling debts. Today it’s a school.

A lavender field in Wallington, early 20C

Wallington Bridge (where the London Road crosses the River Wandle) was the original centre of the village of Wallington. What shifted it was the arrival of the railway in 1847. A new station opened south of Wallington and was named Carshalton. But when Carshalton got its own station in 1868, the older station was renamed Wallington. Gradually new housing developments were built in what had been the fields around the station, and Woodcote Road became the modern-day town centre. As in neighbouring Carshalton, those fields were largely used for growing lavender, and that flowery history is commemorated by Guy Portelli’s lavender sculpture in the modern centre of Wallington, at the corner of Woodcote Road and Stafford Road.

Carew Manor, ancestral seat, now a school
(from a photo by Matt Brown, CC BY 2.0)

In the Middle Ages, Beddington had been a parish within a larger administrative division called the Wallington hundred. Despite giving its name to the hundred, Wallington itself was just a manor in the parish of Beddington, but it became a parish in its own right in 1867, when its church, Holy Trinity, was built. At the end of the nineteenth century, both Beddington and Wallington were placed in the rural district of Croydon, a large and yes, originally rural local authority that didn’t actually include the town of Croydon. When the rural district was broken up in 1915, the parishes of Beddington and Wallington united to form a single urban district in the county of Surrey. In fact, Wallington was rather more urban than Beddington, which was still being referred to as a village in a 1912 history of the county. The borough of Croydon (the town) made an attempt to annex Beddington and various other parts of the old rural district, but was defeated in parliament.

The old town hall (by Marathon, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Meanwhile, in 1936, Beddington and Wallington secured an upgrade to the status of municipal borough, but the creation of Greater London in 1965 saw them join up with Carshalton, Sutton and Cheam to form the London Borough of Sutton. The old municipal borough’s rather grand town hall, on Woodcote Road, still stands and is now part of Sutton College. At the end of the nineteenth century, a tradition developed in parts of south London for the crowning of children’s May queens on May Day every year; Wallington started doing it in 1902, and the tradition is still going strong.