During the weekend of 12–13 June 2004 the Wandle Valley Festival was held to celebrate the history of the River Wandle. As part of the festival MoLAS’s David Saxby and Richard Hewett were responsible for opening the Merton Priory chapter house to the public to stage a series of displays and events, which attracted over 500 local visitors.
Inside the chapter house were displays of artefacts from Roman times to the Pre-Raphaelite and Art Nouveau movements of William Morris and Arthur Liberty (William Morris had factories at Merton Abbey in the late 19th century; see this report for more history of the Merton Abbey mills). A Roman shop and William Morris room were built within the chapter house, using donated timber and scrap wood from the adjacent building site’s skip. The Roman shop was fitted out with replica Roman items kindly supplied by Jenny Hall of the Museum of London. The William Morris room was decorated in the Morris style of the 1890s and contained fabric printed by Liberty & Co, and a fire surround with replica Morris tiles donated by a local potter. On the Sunday a silk block printing display was presented by Mary Hart of the Wandle Industrial Museum who printed with Liberty’s original wooden print blocks.
The chapter house was also the setting for the Museum of London’s ‘The Dig!’, an archaeological activity for children (see here for more information). This is the first time ‘The Dig!’ has taken place outside the Museum and over 100 local children and families took part. It was supplied by John Sheppard and Steve Tucker of LAARC and run by Lindy Casson, Chris Tripp and Alison Leppard.
At Merton Abbey Mills, Young’s Brewery provided rides with their shire horses and dray and there was the cutting of a giant birthday cake to celebrate Merton Abbey Mills’s 15th birthday and the opening of a new bridge over the River Wandle by the local mayors.