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London Property Spotlight: John Innes and Merton Park

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Published: 07/09/2016   Last Updated: 15/09/2016  
Author: Sean Purtill    Tags:

How Merton was transformed from a sleepy village to a burgeoning London suburb.

Merton, or more specifically Merton Park, owes its existence to John Innes, a 19th Century businessman, philanthropist and property developer. But who was John Innes, and how did he shape the Merton we know today?

Grand beginnings: The Innes family

John Innes was born in Hampstead in 1829, in what was then a village in the historic county of Middlesex. His family had grown wealthy from imported sugar and rum from their plantations in the West Indies. By the time John was born, however, the Innes’ had sold their interests in the Americas and become leading proponents of the anti-slavery campaign.

In 1864, having enjoyed a number of years as a Wine Merchant in the City of London, John Innes formed the City of London Real Property Company with his brother. London, like today, was on the rise and its population was quickly expanding beyond its historic bounds. Noticing this trend, John purchased farm land in Merton to create the Merton Park Estate Company - and through ownership of the Manor Farm (and accompanying Lordship) soon picked up the nickname of ‘the Squire of Merton’.

A sign of the times: Merton rises as a garden suburb

With Wimbledon developing quickly to his North, Innes began converting the arable land into residential housing under the guidance of architect H G Quartermain. Between 1870 and 1904, Merton Park was transformed into a garden suburb - taking the concept from nearby Chiswick’s Bedford Park. Wide tree-lined avenues accompanied a variety of semi-detached housing styles and the holly hedges that still permeate the area today. To cement the area as South-West London’s newest suburb, Innes renamed the local railway station as Merton Park in 1887.

Innes’ Merton legacy

But it was as a philanthropist that John Innes’ legacy was cemented. In the 1890’s he established Rutlish School for the education of the poor in the grounds of his Manor House south of Watery lane, and designated the remainder to be converted into a public park for the residents of Morden and Merton. His home and wealth was left to establish a horticultural institute that still bears his name today.

As the oldest independent Estate and Lettings Agent in Merton, at Ellisons we’re incredibly interested in the area’s architectural history, and in how the recent past shaped the area we live in today. This knowledge allows us to achieve the best results for those buying, letting, selling or renting in Merton Park and South West London.

To find our more about property in your area of South West London, or to hear more about Ellisons sales and lettings service, contact one of our team today.