Layers Of London-Our July 2019 Monthly Meeting

Layers of London is a map-based history website. Users can access free historic maps of London and contribute their own stories, memories and histories to create a public social history resource about their area.

Come and hear Amy Todd from The Layers of London Project tell us how we can put Tooting on the Layers of London map.

You can see the Layers of London website here.

The meeting starts at 7.30 on Tuesday 9th July at our usual venue – The United Reform Church, Rookstone Road, SW179NQ.

Beating The Bounds Of Tooting Graveney Parish

In 1884, a very precise description was published of the boundaries of Tooting Graveney Parish. It details the boundary fields of the Parish,who owned them and what they were being used for. We are retracing the route again in July 2019 and hope to evoke some of the historical landscape of late Victorian Tooting, stopping at the historic buildings and boundary markers on the way.

Tooting Graveney was the smallest parish in Surrey so the walk is approximately 8 miles long. We will be taking a break half-way round and you can join us for the morning or afternoon session or preferably both.

The walk is on Saturday 6th July. We are starting at 10am at Amen Corner at the junction of Mitcham Road and Southcroft Road. We will be taking a break for lunch in Tooting and reconvening at 2pm outside The Selkirk Pub, Selkirk Road (Junction of Fishponds Road) ,SW17 0ES.

Last year we did the walk in baking hot temperatures so bring some water and wear suitable footwear, as they say in all the best walking guides!

Poster for Beating The Bounds Event on July 6th 2019

Beachcomber (J B Morton): Born In Tooting

Picture of Beachcomber from National Portrait Gallery
J B Morton (“Beachcomber”), born in Tooting 1893 (Photo licensed from National Portrait Gallery)

“Beachcomber” was a long-running 20th Century newspaper columnist born in Tooting. Local resident Jesse Honey has written for us about his life and achievements.

John Cameron Andrieu Bingham Michael Morton, better known as J B Morton, and even better known by his pen-name of Beachcomber, was born at Park Lodge, Mitcham Road, Tooting on 7th June 1893. The house where he was born, now demolished, was on the site of what is now the Morley’s store on the corner of Franciscan Road.

The son of a journalist and drama critic, it must be admitted that Morton didn’t stay long in Tooting. Though his father appears at Park Lodge in the 1891 Census, two years before J B’s birth, the family are no longer Tooting residents by 1901 and seem never to have returned. The young John attended prep school in Bromley and then went on to Harrow, which he hated and later satirised as ‘Narkover’. He fought in World War I, gradually drifting into journalism afterwards. Ironically, he neither invented the name Beachcomber, nor was he the first to use it. Rather, he took over the eponymous column in the Daily Express from a colleague in 1924; the reason it is now Morton who is remembered as Beachcomber is because he wrote under the name for another 51 years, only being dropped in 1975.

Why was Beachcomber so important and why does he deserve to be remembered? It’s because his column was pioneering in terms of comedy and satire. He was among the first to employ genuinely surreal humour, long before the Goons and Monty Python. Spike Milligan named Morton as one of his heroes. He also influenced Raymond Briggs, author of Fungus the Bogeyman and The Snowman, who chose Morton’s complete works as his Desert Island Discs book. Evelyn Waugh, no mean humourist himself, described Morton as having ‘the greatest comic fertility of any Englishman’.

Beachcomber’s satire was ground-breaking and daring. He was the first columnist to poke fun at the very paper he was writing in (though this would be easy today, the Express was at the time a far more serious paper). Morton’s taste for parodying press pomposity was a major inspiration for Richard Ingrams when he helped set up Private Eye, showing you can trace a direct link between Beachcomber and humour of the present day.

Among the recurring characters he invented in his column were Mister Justice Cocklecarrot, Captain Foulenough and Doctor Jan van Strabismus of Utrecht. Famed in Fleet Street as a practical joker, Morton used to speak loudly into pillar boxes, pretending a friend was trapped inside- once a concerned crowd had gathered, he quietly slipped away. He was also known for laughing uproariously and dancing after finishing each paragraph he wrote, explaining this behaviour to startled colleagues by asking ‘if I don’t find it funny, who will’?

After marrying Mary O’Leary, an Irish doctor, in 1927, he moved out of London and, after the Second World War, settled in Worthing, from where he continued to post his column into London. He died in a nursing home there in 1979 and is buried at Windlesham in Surrey.

Tooting…Out Of This World

Picture of Tooting Crater on March
Tooting Crater, Mars (Photo: Dr Peter Mouginis-Mark)

Janet Smith (Vice-Chair, Tooting History Group) has written for us about how Tooting has been put on the map again…on Mars.

Yes, it really is!  Tooting is not only in south London, but also on Mars!

This is entirely thanks to Dr Peter Mouginis-Mark, who grew up in Tooting in the Fifties and Sixties and is now Professor of Geology at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.

His special interest is the geology of the Red Planet and because of his analytical work on a new meteorite crater, he was invited to give it a name. All suggestions have to go before the International Astronomical Union and they gave the thumbs up to naming the crater after Peter’s home town.

Map of part of Mars Surface showing Tooting Crater
Map of Mars Surface Showing Tooting Crater (Photo: Dr Peter Mouginis-Mark)

Tooting Crater is about 28 km in diameter and is located to the west of the Olympus Mons volcano – thought to be the largest volcano on Mars. Peter estimates it was formed 3-5 million years ago making it one of the planet’s newest craters.

Picture of Dr Peter Mouginis Mark At Tooting Bec Station
Dr Peter Mouginis-Mark on a trip to Tooting (July 2006)

Many thanks to Peter’s brother David for alerting us to this wonderful story!

You can find out more about Tooting Crater here.