William Williams was Estate Carpenter to Mr Hatfeild and lived in Keeper’s Lodge on Phipps Bridge Road on the Mitcham border of Morden Hall Park. His family had been in the Morden and Mitcham area since the 18th century, and had been connected with the estate since his mother, Sarah Madeline, had, following the death of William’s father, married Abram Clark, Farm Bailiff to Mr Hatfeild (the father of the war-time Hatfeild). As the size of the estate and the scale of Abram’s work increased as Hatfeild bought more and more land, Sarah Madeline kept the estate books for him.
William Williams served an apprenticeship at Harrods before coming to work for Gilliat Hatfeild in 1906. He was married with two young children when he signed up before conscription began in 1914 aged 31. He joined the Royal Engineers and was sent to Chatham to train. When they came to send him to France, they found there were 2 men too many on the roll. As his name began with a W, he was at the end of the list, so he and another man were sent to South Africa, and from there to India, where he was detailed to build bridges. After the war, he returned to Morden Hall and, following his stepfather’s retirement, became Farm Bailiff.
His daughter, Edith Williams, aged 6 when war broke out, later recorded her recollections:
I was born in 1904 and brought up at Keeper’s Cottage or Lodge as it was then called. My father, William Williams, was then Estate Carpenter to Mr Hatfeild of Morden Hall. I had a brother and a sister. We had a happy childhood on the whole. We had the garden, the river and there was also a brick building known as the “Fish House”. It was said that it had been used for fish breeding in its time. We had wonderful pretend games in there.
The little brook gave us much pleasure. We used to catch sticklebacks, frogs and toads with our nets. We kept them in a pail of water until when evening when we would return them carefully to the brook. We never hurt any of the little creatures. Mr Hatfeild occasionally walked down by the river from the park. He would stop and have a chat. He was always interested in whatever we were doing.
The whole of our large garden was cultivated. Our parents worked very hard. We always had fresh vegetables and fruit. Our favourite was the large strawberry bed! We did not have the luxuries and comforts of the children of today but we always had good food and warm clothing. During the 1914 war my father went into the army and my mother kept everything going. I suppose we were better fed than many. We had chickens and rabbits. I well remember the excitement when the chicks were hatched.
I remember going to the Flower Shows in Morden Hall Park. It was the usual village show with vegetables, flowers and cakes from the ladies. The Holborn schoolboys from Mitcham played in the band. We were allowed to walk in the grounds and I particularly remember the kitchen garden where of course the Garden Centre now stands. We were allowed to walk through the glass houses and I can recall the lovely smell in the tomato house. Even now, whenever I enter a tomato house it takes me back to Morden Hall all those years ago. Another happy memory is of hay making time. All the men helped with it and we used to take tea out to our father. We children hurried home from school and mother would be waiting with sandwiches, cakes and hot tea to take. Sometimes we were in the stack yard, which was at the end of Central Road. At other times they would be in the field. We loved it, especially when we were allowed to ride back in the empty wagon behind the big old horse.
I remember Mr Hatfeild’s funeral. He was brought into the church via Central Road in a plan farm wagon, drawn by an old farm horse and led by Harry Greenleaf. It was very moving.
With thanks to Madeleine Healey, grand-daughter of William Williams