Parish Streets

Origins of street names in the neighbourhood of Merton Priory

Many of the streets around All Saints Church are named after people connected with Merton Priory. De Burgh Road is one of these.

Born around 1180, Hubert de Burgh was to become Chief Justiciar to Henry III and one of the most powerful men in England. He effectively ruled the country for twelve years, from Henry's succession at 9 years old in 1216 until his coming of age in 1228.

Among his notable achievements Hubert, as Constable of Dover Castle, defeated the French invasion fleet off Dover in 1217. But by 1232, following various intrigues, he had lost favour with King Henry who issued a warrant for his arrest.

Hubert fled to Merton Priory - which he knew well- seeking sanctuary. Whereupon the King instructed that he be seized. 20,000 armed Londoners subsequently converged on Merton, but fortunately, the Archbishop of Dublin prevailed on the King to disperse them.  Hubert then made for his home at Bury St Edmunds. The King, however, was persuaded to have him seized en route at Brentwood. Hubert received warning of this and sought sanctuary at the church of St Thomas a Becket, but was forcibly apprehended and taken to the Tower of London. This violation of sanctuary raised such a storm that he was returned to the church in Brentwood, but was starved out after a forty day siege. He was taken as captive to Devizes castle where after several months and adventures he was eventually "admitted to the benefit of a full pardon" in 1234. He died in peace and honour in 1243. His descendents exist today.

[1]. Merton Priory Records p80(Sept 28th 1222). p81(14th May 1223). p89 (26th March 1227). pp95-96 (Sept 1232)

[2]. Charlotte Yonge. Preface to “The Constable’s Tower.” 1891

Norman and Gilbert Roads

On Sunday 1st May 2005 (the eighth Nones held in the Chapter House remains) a group from Huntington presented the organisers with a plaque commemorating the coming of the canons of St Mary's Huntington to Merton Priory. Why is this relevant to the names of the roads around All Saints,Wimbledon? The link is Gilbert (as in Gilbert Road) the Norman (as in Norman Road).

Gilbert the Norman was born in Normandy and was known for his generosity to the poor. He was Queen Matilda's (1) Godson and became the longest serving sheriff for Surrey, Cambridge and Huntington. He personally oversaw the building of Merton Priory and is credited with founding at least three parish churches, Kingston, Merton Park and Bedford. For the record of Gilbert's life we are indebted to an article written by Master Gervase who wrote quoting an eyewitness.

Each church history mentions Gilbert the Norman as their founder but none give their sources. However it is possible to find references to each church in The Records of Merton Priory, pub 1898. The history of St Peter de Merton, Bedford states.:- " .... a few words about the dedication of the church. The "de Merton", which follows the name of the apostle St Peter, has traditionally been traced to Merton Priory in Surrey. The Canons who founded the priory in the eleventh century held the advowson of this church, and were patrons, until the dissolution of the monasteries .... " (2)

The history of All Saints, Kingston states:- "In about 1120-30, Gilbert the Norman, Sheriff of Surrey, built a large church in Kingston. This was shaped in the form of a cross, with its tower at the centre. The nave was as long as the present one but was probably without aisles. East of the tower was the chancel and to the north and south of it were two transepts of a depth equal to the present aisles………………     Little or nothing now remains of Gilbert the Norman's church. Some of the stones in the pillars under the tower may be Norman, and there are some Norman stones (shaped with an axe) where the end nave pillar on the south joins the west wall; these are thought to have formed part of the wall of the old Norman nave. When the Victorians were building the present west porch they uncovered a large Norman doorway cased up in an eighteenth century classical entrance; they photographed it and then unfortunately destroyed it….…"(2)

The history of St Mary the Virgin, Merton Park states:-. "The first stone church in the district was built in 1115, on the orders of Gilbert the Norman, Sheriff of Surrey and founder of Merton Priory. A small, solid building with rounded windows and door arches, sparse furnishings and a rush-strewn floor, it was dedicated to the honour of the most Blessed Mother of God." (2.)

Gilbert died 29th July 1125 (3) by which time there were 36 brothers living at the priory. By 1125 Thomas a Becket had trained there, Guy de Merton (founder of Taunton Priory) had taught there and the charter of 1121 had been signed by two archbishops,fourteen bishops, two abbots and five earls.

(1)    Queen Matilda was Henry 1st’s first wife His second , Adeliza of Louvain was the first to sign the charter in 1121.

(2)    (2) See ‘The Records of Merton Priory’ by Major Alfred Heales

(3)    M.S. no Lix in Corpus Christi Coillege, Cambridge and Arundel M.S. no28

Articles reproduced with thanks to the Friends of Merton Priory

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