Going down to Lonesome Town

I stayed in on Saturday through a need to save money, due to my landlord’s entirely unreasonable demand that I pay a certain amount of money each month in order to live in his property. Every month!

While sitting around, being bored, I heard the song Lonesome Town by Ricky Nelson (actually I heard a cover by the yummy Zooey Deschanel, but you know). And this prompted me to research something that’s been bugging me for literally years. See, I live in Colliers Wood, in South West London (not North, as many people seem to think), and have done since 2006. When I first moved there, as I like to do when moving to a new area, I had a long walk to get to know the place. I did find myself getting horrendously lost somewhere around Mitcham/Streatham, which is an awful place to get lost. Having lived north of the river, I’d heard some terrifying stories about South London. They say the people of Streatham have no Tube lines at all!

What really creeped me out, though, apart from the presence of what appeared to be an abandoned and boarded-up school, was the discovery that the place I had wandered into was called “Lonesome”. I mean, nowhere is called Lonesome outside of Gothic horror movies. I decided to basically just keep going along the road and not ask for directions at any dilapidated petrol stations, isolated farms, castles etc.

Not Lonesome, but you get the idea.

Not Lonesome, but you get the idea.

I rather put it from my mind (repressed memories?) until a few hours ago, and I thought I’d look into just what the deal was with this scary-named place.

Well, turns out it genuinely is a spooky nineteenth century village, very possibly cursed. This area was, for a long time, a pretty vile place. It was wild and more than a little damp, haunted by highwaymen, cutpurses and probably werewolves. The Merton Historical Society notes that the area had remained largely unchanged until the middle of the nineteenth century, with the medieval fields still in place.

The only structure in the area was Lonesome House, about which I’ve been able to find no information other than the fact that it’s not there any more. From the mid nineteenth century onwards, there was some industry – a chemical works, a fireworks factory owned by a gentleman named Pain, a farm owned by one Mizzen and some lavender fields. And some gypsies.

 Then someone had the bright idea of constructing a residential village there. Out in what was still rural countryside, next to the Pain factory, in a district called Lonesome. This was the result:lonesome-00186-350

lonesome-00187-350As you can see, it’s basically what you’d get if the Blair Witch decided to go into town planning. None of the sources of information I’ve been able to find mention if these abandoned houses were haunted by hatchet-wielding serial killers, but I think in the absence of any evidence to the contrary I’m going to assume they were. Better safe than sorry.

Since then, it’s been absorbed into Streatham and largely forgotten by the outside world, mostly commemorated in a few street names and the name of the local primary school. Most of the pages Google comes up with relating to Lonesome belong to estate agents, who have a peculiar affinity for cursed ground. They probably describe it as “an exorcist’s dream!” It doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page.

And now the name. I’ve consulted several books and a handful of websites, and nobody seems to know whence it originates. We know the name dates back a long way, pre-dating accurate records. All anyone can suggest is that the area got its name by being, yes, lonesome…

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2 Comments

Filed under 19th century, Geography, History, London, Medieval London, Occult, Psychogeography, Suburbia

2 responses to “Going down to Lonesome Town

  1. JOHN W BROWN

    316 GREEN LANE
    STREATHAM
    LONDON SW16 3AS

    I am a member of the Streatham Society Local History Group who has researched the history of Lonesome. If you contact me by post at the above address I would be happy to let you have details of the history of the location.

    JOHN W BROWN
    LOCAL HISTORY GROUP
    STREATHAM SOCIETY
    MAY 2011

  2. Pingback: Foulwell and Kingston-Upon-Railway | London Particulars

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