Summerstown is an historic corner of Wandsworth, halfway between Earlsfield and Tooting in south west London, nestling between Wimbledon Stadium and Burntwood School. It grew up as a hamlet off Garratt Lane, a collection of cottages for those who worked the mills on the River Wandle. Between 1890 and 1915 it witnessed extraordinary population growth as farms and fields in neighbouring areas were submerged with housing. Charles Booth rather uncharitably described it in 1901 as ‘a region of mists, low-lying, on heavy clay soil, exceedingly depressing one should imagine to health as it undoubtedly is to the imagination’. Three years later a magnificent new church was built at the junction of Keble Street and Wimbledon Road and a new era beckoned.

In August 1914 the British and German empires went to war and the choirboys and sunday school children from a decade earlier swapped their surplices for uniforms. As we commemorate the centenary of the First World War, we will attempt to build a picture of this much-changed community as it stood one hundred years ago. This will be through the stories of 182 men whose names are inscribed on the war memorial in St Mary’s Church. We are creating a map to show where they lived. Have a look and see if any came from your road – a poppy marks the home of each soldier or sailor and most of them are just five minutes walk from the church. We have promoted the project through a blog and on the streets, through a popular guided walk which goes past many of the houses where they lived and other significant locations. We are keen to learn more about the 182, where they worked, how the war affected the area and how the roles of women changed as a consequence.

Our Heritage Lottery Funding allowed us, over the past year, to develop the project to work with schools, to set up a ‘Friends of the 182’ history group and involve a wider section of the community in learning about the First World War period and how it affected this area. We launched this period of funding on Saturday 24th September 2016 with an event at St Mary’s Church, Summerstown. A memorable afternoon started with the unveiling of a Blue Plaque outside the Tooting home of Sidney Lewis at 934 Garratt Lane. We would like as many people as possible will get involved in our project. If you live locally, we would love you to become a ‘Friend of the 182’ and attend our quarterly meetings, library-based family military history roadshows, talks or guided walks. There is still plenty happening, look on our events page to see what’s coming up next!