07 April, 2013

Carshalton House and its water tower

Carshalton House is now a Roman Catholic girls school but the grounds contain some fine architecture. Today the water tower, with its orangery, baigno and saloon were open to the public for their first opening of the season. The Hermitage in the grounds was also open, but guided tours only. The water tower complex included an eighteenth century plunge bath with some beautiful delft tiling on the walls and a black and white marble floor with marble steps. The bath was big enough for three or four people, which sounds quite like a sauna. The mechanical apparatus for pumping water to the tank on the top has decayed but some of the waterwheel and the pipes are still present. The place has been altered over the years with a domed ceiling replaced with a flat one after the war. There was a permanent exhibition of prints and tiles from Carshalton House (St Philomena's Girls School).
The house itself wasn't open to the public but a small garden feature, the hermitage, was open. The hermitage has been repaired but the stone has been left dressed to show its newness. There was a round chamber with excellent acoustic properties with a fine tiled floor. The original part was floored with green and red stone.

Carshalton itself is pleasant with two ponds in the middle, one of the sources of the River Wandle, that is fast flowing and powered a lot of water mills in Merton, including one owned by William Morris.    The river runs underneath Honeywood, now the Sutton Local History Museum, which seems popular with the inhabitants, as there were about four families in there when I called. Whenever I hear of Honeywood, I think of Sir Leslie Brash, John Grigblay the builder and James Spinlove, characters in 'the Honeywood File: an adventure in Building by Harry Cresswell - a very funny book. Diamond Geezer has been. This house was inhabited by William Hale White a victorian novelist who wrote about it in a fictional biography. He also lived in this house nearer the Beeches station. The house fell into disrepair and was opened as a museum in 2012 after a restoration. The billiard room is splendid with its inglenook and leather sofas. I ate my tea in Grove park where the wandle flows and there is a watermill being restorred.

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