I’ve spent a bit of time reading through a new book I’ve just bought on Liberty in the 50’s and 60’s and to my surprise Liberty fabrics were actually printed just down the road from where I live! And upon further investigation William Morris also printed there. For the last three years I’ve been navigating the roads of Merton attending college and never knew the area is famous for it’s Water Mills (oh and Lavender fields apparently). This morning, a little unprepared, I decided to head there looking for Merton Abbey Mills.

If you’ve ever been to Merton you will know it’s a myriad of shopping super stores and A roads. Tucked behind a drive through KFC, Pizza Hut and two high rise blocks of modern flats I found a selection of beautiful mill buildings. I have no idea how the Local Authority gave planning permission for these buildings on the same site that had such a profound effect on British taste. It really annoyed me actually, as you can only imagine how beautiful the area once was. In fact I picked up this quote from the Wheelhouse “One of the first things Morris did was plant poplars around the meadow on the grounds in which the calico prints were to be cleared by exposure to the factory…even upon the great sunk dye vats the sun flickers through the windows where the carpet looms are built”…ahh, such a shame it’s all gone. Believe you me, my experience couldn’t have been further from this idillic vision.


The Wheelhouse dates back to 1860 and apparently it’s London’s only working example. Liberty used it to drive the spools and rinse the silk after gumming and printing. I love the way they feel it necessary to stipulate it’s Grade II listed. The irony!

This is the floor as you walk into the Wheelhouse- gorgeous isn’t it?


The Colour House – described as probably London’s oldest industrial building – was used by Liberty for mixing dyes.

These are two of the buildings also on the site.

About Vicky Grubb

Once a kitchen table Upholsterer, now a fully fledged tutor, author and hoarder of vintage fabrics. My Upholstery studio is based in Bournemouth, Dorset, where I live with my husband and two tinkers.

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