While Lord’s and The Oval may be more famous, the honour of being London’s oldest (still-in-use) cricket ground goes to a rather less-well-known ground in Mitcham, south London.
Once located in Surrey but now part of greater London, Mitcham Green has been the home of the Mitcham Cricket Club since 1685 (cricket was reportedly being played earlier elsewhere in London but the grounds haven’t survived).
There are reports that Lord Nelson was among those who came to watch a game here (he lived nearby) and in the 19th century, Mitcham Cricket Ground was used as a practise wicket by the visiting Australian team (the team would apparently stay at the aptly named pub The Cricketers, which formerly overlooked the green).
The ground is rather unusual for the fact that the club’s pavilion, which was built in 1904, lie on the other side of a road (the A323).
In July, 2002, the ground hosted a game between Mitcham and Hambledon, a Hampshire village which boasts a team founded about 100 years after Mitcham. Known as the Golden Jubilee Challenge Match, it was played in honour of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and resulted in a draw.
The closure of two fire stations in 2014 – Clerkenwell (which opened in 1872) and Woolwich (which opened in 1887) – has left New Cross Fire Station in the city’s south as the oldest in London (and, according to the London Fire Brigade, the oldest in Europe as well.)
The station, which was designed in a rather grand “chateau-style” by the brigade’s chief architect Robert Pearsall, was opened at 266 Queen’s Road in New Cross in 1894. It was built to accommodate the divisional superintendent, a station foreman and 16 firefighters – eight married and eight unmarried – as well as two coachmen and stables for four horses.
The fire station initially housed a steam-powered and a manual firefighting appliance as well as a hose cart and van, a long ladder (which had its own shed in the yard) and four fire escapes.
The fire station underwent a major upgrade in 1912, improvements included the addition of more flats for married officers and self-contained houses for the superintendent and foreman as well as a sliding pole to give firefighters a quicker trip to the engine house. In 1958, a third appliance bay was added.
One of the most infamous incidents the firefighters from New Cross attended was in November, 1944, when a V2 bomb hit a Woolworths store in New Cross just after midday on a busy Saturday. Some 168 people were killed, 33 of whom were children, and a further 123 were injured in the attack.
Given the heat, we thought it was a good idea to take a look at where London’s oldest public swimming pool can be found. There’s a couple of contenders but it’s the Dulwich Public Baths (now known as the Dulwich Leisure Centre) which we think take the title as the oldest public baths still in use.
Located in Dulwich in the city’s south, the baths opened on 25th June, 1892, and was the first of seven designed by Spalding & Cross. There were two pools for most of the bath’s history but one was covered in the early 1980s and now serves as the main gym area.
The baths were closed and used for as a hospital and refugee housing in World War I and the water in the pools were used to put out fires caused by air raid damage in World War II. The baths have also hosted dances and various sports events over the years.
The pools have been refurbished a couple of times, most recently having undergone a five year redevelopment ahead of its reopening in June, 2011.
The Grade II-listed baths located in Crystal Palace Road were opened just a couple of months before the Camberwell Public Baths, which were also designed by Spalding & Cross, opened on 1st October of the same year (again, one of the two original pools there has now been boarded over).
Opening on 10th October, 1881, the first show at the new premises was Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience, which had been previously playing at the Opera Comique. It continued to solely show Gilbert and Sullivan’s works until 1886 when a falling out led to the end of the partnership between Gilbert and Sullivan.
The theatre subsequently hosted comedic operas by other composers as well as productions of Shakespeare (Henry Irving was among those who trod the boards here in the early 20th century).
It was rebuilt in just 135 days in 1929 and the new premises featured an exterior designed by Frank Tugwell and interior designed by Art Deco expert Basil Ionides.
A fire caused considerable damage in 1990 after which the theatre was again renovated, this time under the guidance of the theatre’s then chairman Sir Hugh Wontner and architect Sir William Whitfield, with the public areas returned to how they had looked under Tugwell and Ionides’ scheme from the 1920s. It reopened in July, 1993, with a Royal Gala performance by the English National Ballet (Diana, Princess of Wales, was among those in attendance).
Now owned by the The Ambassador Theatre Group, the Savoy these days it shows a range of different productions. It’s currently hosting Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5: The Musical. For more, see www.thesavoytheatre.com.
PICTURES: Above – Neon sign for The Savoy Theatre advertising a previous production with the hotel and theatre entrance (Loren Javier/image cropped/licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0); The Savoy Theatre with a Westminster City Council Green Plaque commemorating it being the first public building with electric lighting in London (David Adams).