“The Mercenary River” : Talk By Nick Higham

Our May monthly meeting will be a talk by Nick Higham on his recently published book, “The Mercenary River“. He tells the story of the development of London’s water supply from the Middle Ages to the present day. For centuries London, one of the largest and richest cities in the world, struggled to supply its citizens with reliable, clean water. 

The book tells a tale of remarkable technological, scientific and organisational breakthroughs; but also a story of greed and complacency, high finance and low politics.

Nick Higham’s book uncovers the murky tale of how the most powerful steam engine in the world was first brought to London; the extraordinary story of how one Victorian London water company deliberately cut off 2,000 households, the details of a financial scandal which brought two of the water companies close to collapse in the 1870s; and asks whether today’s 21st century water companies are an improvement on their Victorian predecessors.

Nick Higham is a retired BBC journalist and he will be signing copies of his book at the end of the talk.

The meeting is on Tuesday 10th May 2022, beginning at 7.30pm. We meet at our usual venue: United Reformed Church, Rookstone Road, SW17 9NQ (Tooting Broadway tube, G1,270,280,57,127,264,355,77,44,333 buses)

The River Graveney In Tooting

The River Graveney through Tooting has formed a boundary since Anglo-Saxon times. It has also been an open drain, a peril to travellers, a flood-risk and an inspiration to poetry. Come and hear all about the River Graveney at the next meeting of the Tooting History Group on Tuesday 12th April 2022 at 7.30pm. Philip Bradley (Chair, Tooting History Group) will be giving a short talk.

We look forward to seeing members and guests old and new at our first in-person meeting after lockdowns.

 We meet at the United Reformed Church in Rookstone Road, Tooting, SW17 9NQ. (Tube: Tooting Broadway, Buses 57,127,333,264,280,G1,77,355,44). Refreshments will be available.

Balham To Tooting Trail



The SW12/SW17 Neighbourhood Network published a delightful walking trail from Balham to Tooting a few years ago. The walk takes you from Balham Station to Tooting Bec Underground.

There is an accompanying soundtrack where you can hear memories and reminiscences of life in Balham and the characters who live and work there. They include comedian Arthur Smith, local shopkeepers and local residents.

You can download the whole recording from the link below.

Balham to Tooting Trail Leaflet

Gently Flows The Graveney

Explore the hidden lower reaches of the River Graveney with Tooting History Group. Starting at the Roe Bridge , we will be walking two miles to the junction of the Graveney with the Wandle. Along the way there will be occasional glimpses of the River Graveney. And some history of golf in the area, boundaries, bridges, music hall stars, a lost waterfall, sewage and an early railway line.

We will be meeting at the Roe Bridge on Mitcham Lane/Streatham Road near the junction with Rural Way on at 11am on Saturday 25th September 2021. Buses 201,127,333,57 stop nearby.

The walk will be about two miles and we should finish by 1pm. Free, no need to book.

The walk is part of the Wandle Fortnight which takes place from the 11th to the 26th September 2021. You can find more details of all the Wandle Fortnight Festival events here.

“The Common Story” On Sale

“The Common Story” makes an excellent Christmas present for any body interested in the history of Tooting.

Now in it’s second edition, The Common Story is a comprehensive history of Tooting Common. The book was published with lottery funding and Tooting History Group members played a major part in doing the archival research.

The Historical Association in it’s review said: “This book traces the development, and survival, of this open area and its surrounding neighbourhood. Its remarkable escape from developers in the 1870s is a crucial turning point in its history.”

If you are interested in a copy for £10, please fill out the form below and Tooting History Group delivery elves will swing into action and deliver/post a copy to you in time for Christmas.

Copies are also available for sale from Sprout Arts, 74, Moyser Road, Furzedown, SW16 6SQ