Raynes Park

Raynes Park, Merton

To some an enduring community, to others an ‘underwhelming commuter suburb’, situated one-and-a-half miles south-west of Wimbledon

Hidden London: Coombe Lane shops, Raynes Park, by David Anstiss

Archae­o­log­i­cal digs have revealed evi­dence of Bronze Age human activ­i­ty and the sum­mer graz­ing of live­stock, but not of con­tin­u­ous habi­ta­tion at that time, which is under­stand­able giv­en the propen­si­ty of the low-lying clay ter­rain to flood­ing – a vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty that per­sists to the present day. Rem­nants of Romano-British pot­tery and tiles and medieval roof tiles indi­cate that the area may have been inhab­it­ed for the past 2,000 years or so – though very sparse­ly for most of that time.

Edward Rayne owned and man­aged Park House Farm from 1822, divid­ing the land into three ‘parks’: for pas­tur­ing sheep and cows, for grow­ing peas, turnips and swedes, and for pro­duc­ing hay for local hors­es. After his sud­den death in 1847, Rayne’s wid­ow retained the farm until her son’s finan­cial mis­man­age­ment forced her to sell to the lord of the manor of Mor­den, Richard Garth, in 1867.

Garth laid out Grand Dri­ve and in 1871 fund­ed the open­ing of a sta­tion, named after the farm’s for­mer own­er. Poor mar­ket con­di­tions restrict­ed prop­er­ty sales, so Garth leased some of the land as play­ing fields and a golf course.

A few shops and hous­es were built in the 1880s, but it was not until the exten­sion of Wimbledon’s Wor­ple Road to Raynes Park in 1891 that growth began to pick up and two shop­ping parades were built oppo­site the sta­tion. Nev­er­the­less, it was sev­er­al decades before the area was ful­ly built up, despite the con­struc­tion of the Raynes Park Tav­ern (shown below) in 1904 and the arrival of tram ser­vices in 1907.

Hidden London: The Raynes Park Tavern by Marathon

With plen­ty of space still avail­able for non-res­i­den­tial pur­pos­es, Carter’s Test­ed Seeds pur­chased 19 acres west of West Barnes Lane in 1909 and built a large com­plex of lab­o­ra­to­ries, offices and work­shops. (Carter’s real­ly did test their seeds.)

The largest of the area’s spec­u­la­tive devel­op­ers was George Blay, who bought the Can­non Hill estate in 1924 and obtained a gov­ern­ment sub­sidy to build free­hold hous­es. First­way was the first road he laid out, fol­lowed by an exten­sive series of oth­er ‘ways’. The for­mer golf course that lay west of Grand Dri­ve is remem­bered in the names Green­way, Fair­way and Linkway.

Raynes Park coun­ty school for boys opened in 1935 and has since become Raynes Park high school, a mixed com­pre­hen­sive.

Carter’s left Raynes Park in 1966 and the coun­cil acquired the site for hous­ing, lay­ing out streets with names end­ing in ‘Gar­dens’. Remark­ably, that was the last time Raynes Park expe­ri­enced any­thing approach­ing rad­i­cal rede­vel­op­ment – mak­ing this one of the most unchang­ing places in a rapid­ly evolv­ing metrop­o­lis. There are no aban­doned hos­pi­tals ripe for con­ver­sion to lux­u­ry apart­ments (unlike in Copse Hill to the north) nor neglect­ed estates of coun­cil flats to knock down and rebuild. With few brown­field sites, there has been – and is scope for – very lit­tle new con­struc­tion beyond the occa­sion­al pri­vate road (like Green­view Dri­ve), a bud­get hotel above the Co-op or a rebuilt library or two with some flats on top.

Some new­com­ers have arrived from far-flung places like South Africa, Sri Lan­ka and South Korea but the demo­graph­ic pro­file and pop­u­la­tion den­si­ty remain much the same as they were ten or twen­ty years ago – cer­tain­ly com­pared with most oth­er parts of built-up Lon­don.

The Jeff Beck Group’s 1971 album Rough and Ready includes the jazz-fusion instrumental ‘Raynes Park Blues’, alternatively titled ‘Max’s Tune’, in a reference to keyboard player Max Middleton, who wrote the piece while he was living in the area.

Postal district and postcode area: SW20 and New Malden KT3
Population: 9,738 (2011 census)
Station: South West Trains (zone 4)
Further reading: Evelyn M Jowett, Raynes Park with West Barnes and Cannon Hill: A Social History, Merton Historical Society, 1987
Website: Raynes Park and West Barnes Residents’ Association
Twitter: Raynes Park and Love Raynes Park
See also: Bushey Mead, West Barnes and Motspur Park
The map above shows Goals Wimbledon, Tesco’s New Malden Extra store and Raynes Park high school, all within a stone’s throw of each other. In amongst these, there’s also World of Golf at Beverley Park and Krispy Kreme doughnuts at Shannon Corner, “a place that isn’t really a place,” as one reviewer has observed. Sometimes it’s hard to know where you are in London.
* The picture of the Coombe Lane shops, Raynes Park, at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright David Anstiss, and the picture of the Raynes Park Tavern is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Marathon, both 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.