Putney Vale, Wandsworth
A micro-locality with a place in motor racing history, separating Wimbledon Common from Richmond Park
The first significant structure in Putney Vale was the Halfway House, later the Bald Faced Stag, a public house established around 1650. The notorious highwayman Jerry Abershaw made the tavern the base for his operations from 1790 until 1795, when he was hanged at the age of 23.
The 47-acre Putney Vale cemetery was established in 1891 and a crematorium and garden of remembrance were added in 1938.
Shortly before the First World War, 175 acres were added to Wimbledon Common, including much of Newlands Farm, which had been here since the Middle Ages. The extension also created playing fields at Putney Vale that were named in honour of the scheme’s sponsor, Richardson Evans.
In 1912, working in the cellar of the disused Bald Faced Stag, racing car driver Kenelm Lee Guinness developed a spark plug that could withstand very high engine temperatures. Its applicability to fast cars, motorcycles and aeroplanes made the invention an immediate success and KLG became the largest employer in the area, with over 1,400 workers in 1918.
Smith’s Industries bought KLG in 1927 and built a new factory here just in time for the outbreak of the Second World War. Smith’s main factory was demolished in 1989 and replaced by an Asda supermarket and a petrol station.
In the mid-1950s Wandsworth council built the Putney Vale estate of 370 dwellings on land that had been earmarked for a possible extension of the cemetery.
As well as making spark plugs and special engines, Kenelm Lee Guinness built two world record-breaking cars at his Robin Hood engineering works in Putney Vale. Malcolm Campbell reached 175 mph driving Bluebird on Pendine Sands in 1927. Two years later Henry Segrave achieved 231 mph with Golden Arrow in Florida.
Postal district: SW15
Nearby: Wimbledon Windmill Museum
* The picture of the grave of Eugen Sandow on this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Peter Turner, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.