An Arts & Crafts Village on the river Wandle with a bustling weekend market, live music, fantastic places to eat and exciting activities for all the family. Our shops are open daily, selling crafts, furnishings, jewellery and more,regular shows for both children and adults in The Colour House Theatre and there's also a wide range of food on offer, including Caribbean, Brazilian, Thai, Italian and a traditional carvery! The fully restored waterwheel, in motion every weekend, powers a pottery wheel in the Wheelhouse with classes available for all ages. There's also a Hair & Beauty Salon, Tattoo Parlour, Personal Training Studio and a Picture Framers on offer. Merton Abbey Mills really is the place to go!
Merton Abbey Mills takes part of its name from Merton Priory, one of the most important monasteries of the middle ages. Merton Abbey or Priory as it was known, was an Augustinian Priory built in the early 12th century. Up to Henry VIII's dissolution the Priory owned much of the surrounding land In Roman times the area around the river Wandle had been a settlement which had grown up around the river crossing used by the legionnaires. By 1600, textile mills were attracted to the River Wandle, not only as a source of power but also because of the special quality of its water, a chalkstream ideally suited to the washing, dyeing and printing of textiles. By 1792 over a thousand people were employed by the various print works or associated businesses in the area. Once established in the Wandle Valley, the printing industry attracted skilled workers from all over the UK, several important advances in the technique of printing textiles were developed here. The huge steampowered mills of the Midlands dominated the industry in terms of mass production, the Wandle Valley textile industry led the way in quality and innovation. For centuries afterwards it was a centre for the manufacture and printing of textiles, and until 1970 was the silk-printing works of the famous Regent Street store Liberty's. The 'Showhouse' adjacent to Merantum way being so named as it was constructed for the showing of the fabrics created at the mills, Left derelict for nearly twenty years it was restored in 1989 as a visitor centre, arts and crafts market and venue for cultural entertainment, since when it has become one of South London's major regeneration successes with up to half a million visitors a year. The market takes place every Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 5pm, with many of the shops staying open on weekdays. The Commonwealth Café, Mamma Rosa Restaurant and The William Morris Riverside Freehouse welcome the hungry and thirsty seven days a week. As well as many other events, craft classes and demonstrations, the Colour House Children's Theatre has shows nearly every weekend, with Abbeyfest, Merton Abbey Mills' two month long festival of music and drama, being held every July and August.
200 years ago there were nearly 100 watermills on the River Wandle. Only four still survive, Grove Mill Carshalton, The Snuff Mill and Ravensbury Mill at Morden, and the great wheel here at Merton Abbey Mills, which is the only one in fully restored working order. The Wheel is of the undershot type, with the current flowing beneath, and dates from 1885, though there were previous mills on the same site for hundreds of years before then. The wheel turns every weekend during the market. Liberty's used it for rinsing the gum off the printed silk, and inside you can still see the spools it powered. Nowadays the Wheelhouse is a pottery, and the wheel is used to turn the potter's wheel, the only one in the country directly driven by water power. It also generates electricity and powers other machinery including a lathe and its own self-lubricating device. The Wheelhouse is maintained by the volunteers of Wandle Heritage Ltd, a charitable company supported by The London Borough of Merton.
The site's most ancient building, probably the only remaining part of the medieval Merton Priory. Till 1970 Liberty's used it to mix their dyes for silk printing, hence its name. Since 1995 it has had a new life as a miniature theatre, staging over 2,000 drama performances and more than 400 concerts. The Colour House Children's Theatre is truly one of a kind. There are shows every weekend, lasting about an hour and aimed at everyone over the age of three. With the Colour House Theatre School for children, and regular classical and world music concerts, the Colour House perfectly blends the performing arts with the craft traditions of Merton Abbey Mills. There are now exciting plans to upgrade and expand the Colour House Theatre with a new foyer, while preserving its precious character.
The buildings here were a printing works, grouped around a garden on the River Bank. This explains their names, in which the word "shop" means a building for a print process.
The Long Shop, built in 1906.
The Apprentice Shop, built in 1926, was used for the training the skilled craft of hand printing, and now houses shops and offices.
The Coles Shop dates from 1890 and houses shops, offices and the Commonwealth Café.
The 1929 Shop now houses shops, offices and the Mamma Rosa Restaurant.
The Showhouse, the handsomebuilding nearest the entrance, was built in 1912 and among other things was Liberty's design shop. It now is a suite of offices.
The Block Shop dates from around 1925 and stored Liberty's intricate printing blocks. It is now the site's pub, named after William Morris.
The Colour House is at least 400 years old and is now a miniature theatre.
The Wheelhouse and its fully restored waterwheel dates from 1885 and is now a pottery.