August 2016

In July it was Norman Williams’ turn for induction – Dennis Evans presented the badge, tie and constitution. Chairman, Adrian Lasrado, welcomed the 35 members present plus our speaker. He reminded us of our three new members since February and urged us to keep up the recruitment effort. Current membership is 46. The charity collection raised £39.35 and the raffle £34.

Eric Jenkinson suffered a severe stroke a week ago and was taken to St George’s Tooting. He has lost the use of his left arm and leg and his speech has been affected. This is sad news indeed especially as Eric had, shortly after our last meeting, agree to become Vice Chairman which he will not now be able to take up. He had also agreed to give us a presentation in February ‘On being a diplomat’.

Michael Blake is recovering at home – a get well card was signed by all. Please advise news of members to almoner,, tel:
01737 202243. Attendance: please notify Andrew Kellard, tel: 01737 554055.

Andrew asked to let him know in advance of any dietary requirements.


Outings and Events

Old Coulsdon Fair: Saturday 10th September (rescheduled). Help needed.

The Living Rainforest near Newbury: 15th September: Sanderstead Probus

Ladies Lunch: Thursday 13th October – with entertainment as usual.

Orpheus Centre Bletchingley (young disabled artists): Looking for a date to visit a rehearsal before it hits the West End. Proceeds to charity.

Contact: Please phone Jim on 01737 555974 or email

Annual Quiz: Thurs 17th Nov. –- £4 on the evening. Contact Dennis Evans.



Today:            Peter Jones: Milestones of the National Trust

September 1st:          Dr R Cruthers: Doctor at Sea

October 6th:  Ross Baker & Lynn Whitfield: Bats (mammal)

November 3rd:            Ian Currie: The day it rained crabs and frogs


Editorial – Ian Payne

In January this year, we voted by a large majority to keep Coulsdon Probus all male. Somehow I feel that at some time we will have to relent. I was recently discussing the issue in general at a local dinner. Two professional women there were ready to join when we open our doors. Moths (or as Inspector Clouseau would say ‘murths’). We’re infested and, I guess, so are you. In the 1950s, my father would get out the Flit (5% DDT) spray pump and spray until the air was thick, but we now know that DDT is a powerful carcinogen. I sit in the evenings with my hoover extension at the ready – at least they don’t fly off as one sucks them up. And then to bed – get undressed in the dark so they’re not attracted by the light. Do you have a solution?

Something’s wrong with our trains. Staff shortages (or is it strikes masquerading as ‘sickies’), reduced services, actual strikes, sinkholes at Forest Hill, fire on the line at Gatwick. Will we ever get a decent service again? The major upgrades at London Bridge include a train flyover so Bedford trains don’t have to cross the main tracks. But this is at the permanent expense of a stopping platform at London Bridge, so Coulsdon trains will be permanently downgraded. As I wait for a train, I notice the ‘minutes late’ indicator gradually increase and then, sometimes, suddenly says ‘cancelled’. Trains may have GPS but it’s not linked to the notification boards which are updated manually. When will we get a reliable service – bring back good old British Railways.

Mills on the River Wandle: Mick Taylor

Mick Taylor

In its heyday, the River Wandle was the most industrialised river in England with dozens of mills supporting many different industries. The River is 12 miles long and falls 126ft over its length making it fast flowing. It has been powering corn mills since Roman times. The river included many cuts (canals) thus increasing the area available for mills and industry. Mick’s presentation of the Wandle’s history included a large number of photos, many of which showed extant mills and industrial buildings some of which have been converted to modern use. Mick is a volunteer at ‘The Wandle Industrial Museum’ in Mitcham.

To whet our appetite, we were shown the well-known Merton Abbey Mills (originally Liberty Mills Works) on an island created by canals – originally the site of Merton Priory. This is the only currently working mill on the river – used by a potter. The Wandle is served by five Bourns which go under Croydon (two of which are the Caterham and Merstham/Coulsdon Bourns) and two tributaries which flow from Carshalton Ponds and Waddon Ponds and then join together at Beddington from where the river flows through Merton and joins the Thames at Wandsworth. In the 1970s the Wandle was classed as an open sewer but has since recovered and now has fish. The river through Wandle Park has recently been de-culverted.

Watermills can be either undershot, breastshot or overshot depending on how the water turns the wheel. Overshot wheels turn anticlockwise. The water turns the wheel which via cogs turns the millstone or drives whatever other machinery is used, e.g. hammers. Many industries once lined the river as shown on this timeline diagram.

Mick gave us many examples of mill uses: corn mills, snuff mills, gunpowder, dyes (then known as drug mills), printing (brought in by the Huguenots), fibre, paper. We were shown examples of waterwheels still in place and buildings which are now converted to other uses, e.g. flats. Mills frequently changed hands and uses, and needed constant repairing. Being made of wood, fire was a constant hazard. Since its heyday, the river table has dropped considerably (possibly due to Surrey Water boreholes) leaving wheels some 18″ above the river – hence the mills gradually declined in use. Otherwise, maybe they’d be generating today’s electricity.

Working Life: Michael Southwell

Well, we all have to start somewhere and it’s usually at the bottom. In 1960 in Edinburgh I became an apprentice – so where better to start than in the cashiers office staffed by two spinsters, who argued over small items all day long, and a fiery Commissionaire looking very important in his uniform. As soon as you are there you wished you were not and looked forward to doing something useful. Partners in those days wore bowler hats as a badge of rank. You only addressed them if they addressed you. Hours worked were limited and it was rare to do overtime. Life was relaxed. What a contrast to later working life. There were still offices with sloping desks as in Victorian times.

Nearly all accounting books were handwritten. As an apprentice you had to become very nimble at adding up columns of figures. Those were the days of heavy comptometer machines which, as an apprentice, you had to lug around to clients’ offices. I am sure it extended my arms. On the upside there were times of year when there was no work so we apprentices could enjoy games of cards in office hours. Well we were only paid a pittance.

However every year there would be a staff day out. Good lunch, a round of golf and a game of skittles in the evening at a local pub which had a skittle alley dating back to, I think, the 1700s. The balls were huge and weighed a ton – probably made of oak. When bowling them down you had to make sure you did not follow the ball. This pub is still in existence and even featured recently on a TV programme. What a contrast to life then in London where I went after passing my finals.

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