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Merton Abbey Mills

An Arts and Crafts Village on the River Wandle, with an open air mini weekend market, live music, fantastic places to eat and exciting activities for all the family. The weekend market keeps in touch with its historical past through its stalls selling arts and crafts, together with more general stalls including fresh produce and exotic hot foods. Our shops are open throughout the week, (with own individual opening times) selling a variety of crafts, herbs and spices, furnishings clothing, jewellery and more.

We have a wonderful variety of eateries, from Belgian, Brazilian, Chinese, Caribbean, Italian and Thai to the more traditional Café and Carvery.  There’s also a Vintage Tea Shop and a riverside Public House, named after the famous William Morris.

There’s regular shows for both children and adults in The Colour House Theatre and the fully restored waterwheel powers a pottery wheel in the Wheelhouse, with pottery classes for all ages, available every weekend. There's also regular workshops throughout the site and evening weekend Jazz nights, Brazilian music and even Dominoes & Vinyl nights… check our Events Calendar for full details. With a Hair & Beauty Salon, Tattoo Parlour, Personal Training Studio, Photographers Studio and a Picture Framers on offer…... Merton Abbey Mills really is the place to go!

Merton Abbey Mills is an "open" site.  Each business has their own individual opening times and the market runs every Saturday and Sunday from 10am - 5pm.

 

What's it all about?

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 Historic Wheelhouse

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 Colour House Theatre


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.

What's What?



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, now contains a variety of eateries, shops and a gymnasium

The Apprentice Shop built in 1926, was used for the training of the skilled craft of hand-printing, and now contains shops and offices.

The Coles Shop dates from 1890 and contains shops, offices and the Commonwealth Café.

The 1929 Shop now contains shops, offices and a restaurant

The Show House the handsome building 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.


Abbeyfest

Every July and August
abbeyfest.co.uk
Abbeyfest is the 2 month highly acclaimed summer festival of Music, Comedy and Theatre which has now been running for 16 years
The festival has a great line up of FREE Jazz concerts, top drawer late night comedy, Slaughterville at the Watermill, A delicious season of Theatre, Chamber Concerts a Blues Festival “Blues at the Mills” a free open air symphony orchestra concert. and a fantastic Children’s festival, Kidsfest on the bank holiday Monday in August .
Abbeyfest was launched in the summer of 1998 and has fast become one of South West London’s premier Arts festivals. Abbeyfest runs for 2 months during July and August and showcases performances in Music, Theatre and Comedy.
The philosophy of Abbeyfest is about being entertained, having fun and being accessible to all the family. The festival is a very popular community event which is also attended by people from all over south West London attracting in excess of 20,000 visitors every year. One of the many festival highlights is the free Friday night jazz and blues concerts that run throughout. These evenings encapsulate the festival in all its glory where up to 2,500 people per night have a wonderful experience. The Historic riverside setting of Merton Abbey Mills plays host to the festival making it the perfect partner for such a unique and entertaining event. From open air on the bandstand to performances in the more intimate Graded II listed Colour House Theatre, the Mills has it all in one location!
Abbeyfest boasts to be the longest event of its type with over 50 days of performance every year. The festival creates the opportunity for many new, aspiring and established actors, performers, musicians, writers and directors to have a platform to showcase their work. Every year Abbeyfest creates many valuable work experience placements for students in surrounding schools and colleges to gain a real hands on insight to the entertainment industry.

Kidsfest

Every August Bank Holiday Monday 11am – 5pm

Running annually for the past 7 years this special day is solely dedicated to kids. The day offers something unique and inspirational for all ages, it's a fantastic family day out with lots of activities and workshops that are free

Merton Abbey Mills is given over to Kidsfest for a day of fun, exciting and innovative things for kids to participate in which include great hands on workshops in art, crafts, pottery, cake making, printing music, drama, dancing and Karaoke singing. There are soft play, bouncy castle and storytelling areas with archaeological digging, face painting and caricaturing. The Colour House Children’s theatre will be running puppet and magic shows throughout day. There will be visits from the animals at Dean City farm, the local Fire Brigade and AFC Wimbledon running football skills workshops. To add to the excitement the main stage on the Bandstand at the heart of Merton Abbey Mills is home all day to great musical entertainment with performances by children and special guests with talent competitions, giveaways and a few surprises thrown in!! A superb day is in store that will have a real community feel focusing entirely on Children.

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