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 Winter 2007

News from the Residents' Association

27 August to 19 November 2007

Our shops

There's a good deal about local shops in this issue of Thames Ditton Today. Rightly so. The number of shops in these villages declined up until the 1990s. Trading conditions for retailers are not easy, while developers of commercial premises often try to convert them to residential space with a view to quick profit. Nevertheless we hold the line, while resourceful, often redoubtable, retailers perpetuate an essential part of the individual character of Thames Ditton and Weston Green. 

The former Thames Fireplaces has re-opened as Bradley and Brown with interior design and gift items. The Village Bakery's relocated to fresh and airy premises, and with photographer Micaela Cianci's attractive new studio and the Pro Shop we have a pleasing stand of shops that has shifted the centre of gravity of the High Street. Angelina Colarusso's wedding couturier's opposite the Home of Compassion is open again, a year after the floods. We welcome also the ingenious new Pottery and Craft Studio next to Moss Pharmacy in the High Street. 

Common characteristics of our shops are their individual character and very high quality. Bachmann's Patisserie at Winter's Bridge won the gold for best Patisserie in the country again this year - no less than five times in all. They have six full-time chocolate chefs! You wouldn't think that an unassuming stand of shops along the Portsmouth Road would house such high quality - unless you live in Thames Ditton, where unassuming top quality is everywhere. Helen Ryder and Chris Evans, who took over the Secret Garden florist last year, have just won the silver medal in one of that industry's most prestigious awards. Bernard Leon of Assimi must be the best silversmith in the country. The High Street's Lodge Brothers, in the same family for seven generations, are another firm of the highest order and over the past year have undertaken funerals for comedian Charlie Drake, and less well-known but worthy clients, with style, tact and discretion.  

Our shops and businesses are well embedded in the community, a key part of its liveliness, and offer generous help to local good causes. For all these reasons, we celebrate and support them. We know you do, too.

Post Office Inspection

The vital Post Office in Thames Ditton is about to be inspected. The signs are that it has a very healthy profile, and our postmaster is confident. But recalling the long, unsuccessful struggle to keep open the post office in Weston Green and the unsatisfactory nature of that 'consultation', we are keeping a weather eye open for any early sign that Thames Ditton may be considered for closure. The government's national criterion applicable to Thames Ditton requires that 95% of the total urban population across the UK should be within 1 mile of their nearest Post Office outlet. The Post Office management also consider usage, the capacity to take on more customers and services, proximity to another branch and any cost savings.


27 - 31 High Street: we supported residents' concerns that the developer does not appear to have scrupulously respected the plans, drawings and specifications considered at the time of planning permission, especially the external appearance of the new building that fronts the High Street. Over 100 letters were received by the Planning officer, who set out the objections to the developer. Some, but not all of the problems will be put right. The issue has brought to light unsatisfactory shortcomings in the detail accompanying planning approvals in Elmbridge's Conservation Areas, and in Council staffing required to oblige their implementation. These will be addressed. Meanwhile the unsightly temporary boarding across the front of no.31 is deemed by EBC not to contravene regulations. The Conservation Area Advisory Committee will approach the owner directly on this and the adjacent Rose to see what can be done. 

13 Queens Drive: plans to replace this house with a terrace of six were refused by Elmbridge and the subsequent appeal by the developers has now also been refused, but only on the technical grounds of insufficient thought to flood measures. Disconcertingly, the Planning Inspector in Bristol commented that although 'somewhat more prominent than other properties in the vicinity, the proposed development would provide an attractive variation within this part of the street scene'. This does not accord with majority local views. 

Royal Thames House, Portsmouth Road: initial applications to develop this site have been refused by Planning officers and on appeal. There seems to be acceptance that the site is appropriate for development provided that plans are suitable and neighbourly, and further applications may be expected. 

29/31 Ember Lane: an application for 8 town houses was dismissed at appeal. A new application for 12 flats totalling 20 bedrooms and an underground area providing some parking, swimming pool and gym, came before the planning committee on 19 November where our Councillors supported the Planning officer's recommended refusal.

Weston Green Tile Heist: dénouement

Community spirit thrives in Weston Green. Surrey Highways promised our tenacious Councillors Maureen Sheldrick and Tannia Shipley that they would replace the 560 antique red tiles stolen from the pavements (News - TD Today Autumn 2007), but then could not source any. Residents who had been keeping the old tiles thrown out by workmen during cabling work some years before, fielded over 600 and the job was done. Thanks to all, particularly Joanne who re-designed her garden to supply more than half the tiles, and to workmen Andy Simpson and Troy Hall of Carillion who relaid them so skilfully. 


Cllr. Tannia Shipley reports that the combined level of recycling and composting in Elmbridge has risen to just over 32% of waste. Commingled collection of glass in our blue-topped bins will begin from January and Elmbridge will send you details as the dates approach. It is expected to increase recycling rates by up to 2%. Elsewhere, the trial of separate kitchen waste collection appears to be heading for success and a working group is examining the implications of rollout throughout the borough. Food forms an estimated 20 % of total waste.  

The news is not good for residents accustomed to using the nearby Recycling Centre in Villiers Road. The Council in Kingston decided that from the beginning of November it would be available only to residents of the Royal Borough of Kingston. They went ahead with their plans despite the eagerness of Surrey CC and Elmbridge to negotiate some arrangement: it is estimated that more Kingston residents use tips within Surrey near to them, than Elmbridge residents use Villiers Road. SCC and EBC are meeting further to determine whether there will be any riposte and how best to address the problem. Meanwhile, we will have to burn more fuel to take our waste all the way to Sunbury or Leatherhead.


Following Cllr. Peter Hickman's 'Dittons in Bloom' campaign (News - TD Today Autumn 2007), by early November Surrey's contractors had cleared all the neglected streetside weeds we had photographed in the Dittons. 

Crime / policing

Since our last issue there has been a further reduction in numbers of reported crimes in both Thames Ditton and Weston Green, by some 10%. Collectively, there have been around half a dozen crimes involving burglary or violence each month, and of the rest the majority involve vandalism or criminal damage, theft of or from cars, or stolen bicycles. The past quarter saw a flasher reported on Ditton Common, a Land-Rover burnt out on Summer Road, and a digger brazenly stolen at dawn from road works in Weston Green. Large amounts of cannabis were found at the Warwick Road home of a man arrested in London, who was tried for drug-dealing and sentenced to two years in prison. We offer our police thanks for their patient work and good wishes for a quiet Christmas.

Guide Hut Appeal

A heart-warming community response following publication of the Appeal in our last issue saw several donations towards restoration of the Guide Hut, including one of £2,500 from an anonymous donor. B & Q New Malden gave £500 worth of hardware, and the Cricket Club contributed some proceeds from the Harry Hawkes 8. Our High Street shops have adopted the Appeal as the primary charitable beneficiary of this year's Christmas Fayre, and very many of them have provided generous prizes for the Raffle, as they frequently do for other good local causes such as the Hospital Raffle. Please buy tickets - which are being printed at the expense of Hawes & Co. The Guides and their Friends, who have meanwhile earned some hundreds more by direct efforts, are most grateful to all. This is a fine start towards raising the necessary funds.

Thames Ditton Hospital at Emberbrook 

The Friends of the Hospital bought new ultrasonic and Ear, Nose and Throat equipment for £60,000 to be used for patients of our local GPs at Emberbrook. Three ENT consultants from St George's Hospital will attend on Fridays and these services will drastically cut waiting times for scans and consultants' appointments from 12 weeks to a couple of weeks, as well as being more convenient for local patients. Meanwhile through our County Councillor Peter Hickman and Councillor Ruth Lyon the Friends are challenging the Surrey Primary Care Trust's decision unilaterally to close the remaining NHS beds at Emberbrook. They are badly needed for intermediate and postoperative care and the decision was made without any consultation, contrary to Health Service requirements.

Healthy Village

Recent national headlines finger excess weight and regular alcohol consumption among the affluent middle classes as adversely affecting the Health of the Nation. New Year's resolutions are imminent and a new 'healthy village' section on our website carries tips from young professional fitness instructor John Cann on getting fitter! There are inspiring examples to hand. In Colets' recent rowing machine challenge, Tannia's husband Nigel Shipley recorded 7mins 06 sec for the 2000 metres - several seconds faster than any of the fitness instructors there have managed! Our Association Treasurer Keith Baldwin was also there with 7mins 38 sec. Both men are in their sixties: clearly, 60 is the new 30.

Remembrance Sunday

Councillor Maureen Sheldrick and our Secretary Lorraine Sharp laid wreaths at the Weston Green war memorial. Councillor Ruth Lyon and RA Vice-Chairman Martin Wilberforce laid wreaths at St.Nicholas Church, and at the war memorial on Giggs Hill Green where the ceremony was very well attended with participation by the Ditton Scouts Group and a fine Last Post sounded by the trumpeter who also played at the Church - a wonderful addition to the open-air ceremony.

Winter Flowers and Spring Bulbs

A special thank you to Ted Woolley, the gardener at the Home of Compassion, for planting the winter flowers in the fountain at the Boyle Farm roundabout and to John Lyon who again planted hundreds more bulbs along the road sides and on the commons in Thames Ditton and Weston Green. This is the 16th year that the Residents' Association has funded these bulbs that cumulatively make such a splendid showing in the Spring.

Thames Ditton Today Photographer

Our warm thanks to Tony Harris, who has stepped down as our Thames Ditton Today photographer after several years during which his lovely photographs graced the front cover. Scott Hortop has kindly volunteered to be our new photographer. He lives in Thistledene with his wife Shirley, a period costume and wedding dress maker, and teenage children Jasmine and Wendel who attend Esher College and Hinchley Wood School. Scott specialises in bringing dynamic motion into photos. His commissions this year include corporate shoots in the City of London and locally, Kingston Hospital where you can see his large scale images of 'People and Places' on the walls of the 3rd, 4th and 5th levels of the hospital's new surgical wing and in the new café. If you'd like to see his work without being admitted to hospital it may be easier to look at his website:

Cover photo

Scott notes: "I was lucky to be passing through the churchyard of Saint Nicholas on an afternoon when large snowflakes were falling. All else was still. Magically, a shaft of late afternoon sunlight lit a gravestone through the falling snow. A graveyard can be a lovely place, temporarily."

Christmas Celebrations

The fourth High Street Christmas Fayre will take place on Wednesday 12th December between 6 and 9.30pm. The High Street between Ashley Road and the George and Dragon will be closed to traffic and there will be a festive evening of late night shopping, mulled wine, roast chestnuts, mince pies, carol singers and Father Christmas. Organised by Lottie and Thomas and Stitchery, and under the auspices of the Residents' Association, this evening is fast becoming a tradition for festive fun for residents of all ages. The Residents' Association will again provide a Christmas tree in the High Street. 

The Association's Christmas Party will take place on Saturday 15th December at the Vera Fletcher Hall - the perfect start to the festive season with a three course dinner and your favourite music. Tickets are £27 from Lorraine Sharp on 0208 873 3676. 

The Friends of the Thames Ditton Hospital are putting on Charles Court Opera's Christmas pantomime Cinderella on Friday January 25th. Young professional singers, with guest artist Richard Suart from D'Oyly Carte as Baron Hardup, will play the traditional Cinderella, Prince Charming and Fairy Godmother with all the usual fun and pastiche. Tickets in aid of the Thames Ditton Hospital Appeal including a three-course dinner are £30 from Karen Randolph, on 0208 398 5005. 

Those star Newlands Avenue carol singers will be singing in aid of charity around Weston Green on 18 December. 

Thanks and good wishes…

Last and most important, our thanks go to the many who take time to help in our community in small ways and big. Particular thanks to our advertisers and subscribers, without whom we couldn't publish Thames Ditton Today, and to the many who give their time to contribute articles and photographs, to produce the magazine and to walk it round to every household in Thames Ditton and Weston Green. Good wishes to all for a happy festive season and good fortune in 2008.


What's In A Name?

One of the unexpected perks of being a councillor is being consulted and able to influence the choice of names for new roads or developments. This summer Thames Ditton councillors were asked their views on the road off Claygate Lane leading to the Dittons Scouts' "Shack" and the Malden Model Railway, because the businesses at the rear of the houses in Claygate Lane were using the same numbers as the Claygate Lane houses for their address with consequent problems of letters going to the wrong place.Proposed names included "Little Claygate Lane" which could have been confusing since Claygate Lane runs from the Portsmouth Road through Hinchley Wood across the By-Pass up to Telegraph Hill. A visit to the model railway and the name of its station - Willowbank - provided the perfect answer and Willowbank is now the name for this road. The Malden Model Engineers Society, founded in 1936, has been operating their railway on the site since 1948, with public open days on the first Sunday of the month from April to October. They are delighted with the new name. 

We had been half tempted to name the road "Railway Cuttings" (shades of Tony Hancock!) as it lies just below the main Portsmouth railway line but were advised that this was not suitable. The same idea occurred when the flats were built beside the level crossing in Summer Road. The developers had suggested Ember Way which could have been confused with Ember Gardens and the other Embers. Councillor David Lowe came up with "Summer Crossing" - a nice mix of "Level Crossing" and "Summer Road" that pleased both the developers and local residents.

As local councillors we try to work with residents and suggest names that reflect local history or the geography of the site. In this we are continuing a tradition. While the early roads in Thames Ditton were called High Street, Portsmouth Road and Station Road, in the last century came Speer Road, St. Leonards Road or Watts Road after distinguished local residents Hannibal Speer, Lord of the Manor of Weston, Lord St. Leonards, Lord Chancellor in 1852 and Dr. C.F. Watts of Copper Hall.

It is amusing to note how developers have set ideas of names that will "sell". They are very fond of "Mews" and "Park", both of which are inappropriate in Thames Ditton. Mews were in London where they stabled their horses and "Park" implies house set amidst green lawns and avenues of trees, not where the garden length is often a bare 10 metres! In the 1970s developers wished to name the road alongside the Thames by the City Arms "Thames Gate Mews" but were persuaded to call it "Ditton Reach" reflecting its position along the reach of the Thames between Molesey and Kingston. Later, when flats were built at the end of Queens Road they were named "Albany Reach". When the old AC Car site between the High Street and the Church was developed in the 1980s, Philip Burchett, our then Residents' Association President and local historian, suggested we name the road "Harvest Lane". George Harvest, Thames Ditton vicar from 1744 to his death in 1780, was the son of a Thames Ditton brewer. He was an eccentric but learned man who preached on two occasions in St. Paul's Cathedral but also twice forgot his own wedding, being "out fishing"!

When the 24 acre Milk Marketing Board site was developed in 1997 I consulted colleagues, the Conservation Area Officer, the Conservation Area Advisory Committee, fellow residents and the nearby Cricket Club and researched local history and the following names for the new estate were adopted- Raphael Drive and Savile Close, named after the Raphael family and Captain the Hon. George Savile JP who both lived at Ditton Lodge, Giggs Hill Green, on the site of the MMB in the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century. The two roads next to the Cricket Club were named Hayward Road and Read Close. Maurice Read was born in Thames Ditton, joined the Cricket Club in 1879 and went on to play for Surrey and England. He was followed by Tom Hayward who also played for England and was a cricketing giant of his day. Atwell Place was named after Rome Atwell, the first Scoutmaster of the Dittons Scouts when they were formed in 1910. Their first meeting place was a lamp post on Giggs Hill Green, just opposite Atwell Place.

From scoutmasters and cricketers to the Lord Chancellor, the names of our roads reflect the rich and varied history of Thames Ditton.

Ruth Lyon


Parking: The Next Stage

From our Surrey County Councillor

The next stage of the Parking Proposals has arrived. Plans have been drawn up by SCC and are to be made available for inspection and discussion. They will be on display in the library from the second week of December to 18 January 2008. On Tuesday 11 December from 12-8pm and Saturday 12 January 10am - 4pm there will be an SCC officer exhibiting the plans who can explain their rationale, note comments and answer questions. I also expect to be in attendance during these sessions.

The proposals are the result of the two questionnaires sent to local households and have taken into account comments from the Parking Enforcement Officers at Elmbridge together with views of the SCC Transportation Dept. A majority of villagers supported a system of permits and short-stay places in the area of the High Street, and a mix of free parking bays and 'curfew' in the area of the Station.

There is a need to consider the following issues:

  • The enforcement issue is important as the monitoring of short term parking for shoppers in the High Street needs to be as simple as possible and workable. In order to make enforcement possible, a visiting warden needs to be able to tell when a car commenced parking. Some system of ticketing will be recommended.
  • Permits will be necessary for the residents of High Street, Ashley Road, Church Walk (Station Road End) and some for the Island. The parking bays would be zoned. Permits will be available for essential operational business vehicles in the High Street.
  • Road junctions where parking has caused obstruction will have double yellow lines to free up access and avoid congestion. 'Curfew parking' zones will have single yellow lines and bays for free parking will be marked out. Parking bays along Watts Road and other congestion points will be staggered to facilitate passing.
  • Yellow lines would be narrow, of "Conservation Area Standard" and there are prospects of getting that implemented around the station too (which is not a Conservation Area).
  • There will be some increase in the amount of street furniture albeit minimised as far as possible.

I would encourage as many as possible to examine the proposals and put your views and questions to the SCC officer attending, so that the final plans to be drawn up will be acceptable to a majority of residents and other users of the village. It is these final plans that will be progressed through a legal consultation before implementation.

Peter Hickman



Thames Ditton's Sporting Giants

This year, Sir Steve Redgrave (photo) launched the Sporting Giants programme, a joint initiative between UK sporting authorities to identify particularly tall and fit athletes from all over the country with the ability to take to the international sporting stage. The aim is that the best of them will stiffen the UK Olympic rowing, handball and volleyball teams in 2012. 

Nearly four thousand applicants for the rowing programme aged 16 - 25, all over 6'3" for men and over 6'0" for women, were earlier this year weighed and measured and put through a battery of tests at several centres throughout the country. Of those that met the ideal specifications for height, build, posture, reach, leg and arm length, symmetry, strength and cardio fitness, just 100 were selected for the programme. And of those 100, two of them live in Speer Road, Thames Ditton! 

Boyhood friends and close neighbours Nicholas Fitzgerald and Peter Brown, both aged 22 and a rangy 6' 5", have joined seventeen other regional giants being trained at Molesey Boat Club. If successful after a three month trial, they will then enter the next phase - the World Class Start programme. As well as training at Molesey they will attend regular sessions at the lottery-funded national training centre at Caversham, near Reading. Molesey Boat Club, one of just four clubs in this programme, is a leading rowing stablishment that numbers Olympic and World medallists among members past and present. Here our men are getting dedicated coaching and training nearly every day. While Nick, a former pupil at Thames Ditton Infants' School, had previously rowed at Kingston Grammar School, Pete is new to the sport. But both have been seen frequently burning up the rowing machines in Colets. 

Two rowing eights will be formed from the 'giants' at Molesey, with the initial aim of getting at least one of the eights qualified for the Thames Cup at Henley next summer. A tall order? Why not! Nick and Pete are determined to go all the way. We're right behind them!


Christmas Present


Ernst Bachmann tempts you...

Yearning for those simple ideals of Christmas past, you may begrudge the pressures, consumerism and waste of Christmas present - and Christmas presents. There's not much chance of escaping them without social censure but you do not have to spend many a frustrating day pounding the streets of London or Kingston buying something expensive and unsuitable for family and friends while the ideal answer lies in Thames Ditton and Weston Green! We're fortunate still to have a modest range of interesting shops and other businesses with good and imaginative things to offer - the fruit of their successful struggling and thriving in a tough retail climate. You can feel good about supporting the local economy and reducing your carbon footprint, while making things easier for yourself. You won't compromise on quality. You'll find that prices are good value as you're paying less than for the glitzy overheads of Oxford Street. And you can still park conveniently close to our shops where such a treasure-hunt is more enjoyable than stressful.


Neither will you be faced with the unimaginative monotony of the chain and fashion stores to be found in shopping malls from Glasgow to Gravesend. Here, Wise Men and Women will find plenty of gifts to bear. Some pointers from an unashamedly personal list:

For Her, of course, you might choose some masterly-crafted piece of silver or gold from Bernard in Assimi (TDT Winter 2006) - don't bank on it, my Dear, if you're reading this! Barbara Wolff also makes jewellery, and unusual, interesting and tasteful pieces can be bought at Bradley and Brown, and Stitchery. All are good value. Good quality beauty products can be had at La Clinique, and you can get vouchers for a choice of pamperings at Colets: you don't have to be a member. Several local style and fashion consultants with backgrounds of impeccable quality offer makeovers - if she won't take the thought amiss.

For Him, how about a sports massage (serve me right!) at Colets? A tea towel from Stitchery bearing Lisa Tolley's design of Thames Ditton houses? No? Well you can at least use it to wrap a bottle of good single malt. Threshers has Aberlour 10 year old, which deservedly scores a high 83 out of 100 in Michael Jackson's reference 'Malt Whisky Companion,' at less than £18 which is remarkably good value. I'm drinking one now.

While in Stitchery, you can look over the terrific collection of exotic Christmas decorations, and buy cards bearing Thames Ditton designs. Want stocking fillers? Plenty of scents - some of my favourites are the Esteban compound aromatic oils that are hard to find elsewhere, very reasonably priced, and get favourable reactions from dance partners. Perhaps a small book from the same shop - I couldn't help noticing one for coffee addicts, another on aphrodisiacs and a bizarre one on Dog Fashion…. 

After all you spent on them during the year, and failing to do the washing up and tidy their rooms, the kids probably deserve no more than a really enticing old-fashioned jar of sweets from Bradley and Brown. There are many tasteful lifestyle items to be had there for yourself, and proprietor Tracy will record your wish-list so that friends or family can pop in and select a 'surprise' for you that a priori will be entirely welcome! For children still in the very young and largely innocent stage, Lottie and Thomas in Station Road have very high quality, lovely eclectic clothes and other gifts.

  To satisfy animal needs, you can call on Beech House vets in Weston Green for either the practical - a dog toothbrush, perhaps an electrocardiogram for your ageing bulldog or a 5 kg bag of dried tuna snack if you know your kitty won't go off it immediately; or the whimsical - catnip cigars, cat teasers or 'greet me and eat me' cards. If you have a parrot, and who doesn't, then a single Belgian chocolate from Stitchery is enough to send her wild with delight for at least two minutes.  

Several local artists will do paintings of local scenes, for very reasonable prices. Edmund Woolley is one, who also specialises in pet portraits; Lisa Tolley and Roger Cowdray (who specialises in buildings) are others. A fine photograph, perhaps - try our own Scott Hortop, or Micaela Cianci whose bright new front window is an asset to the High Street. In Weston Green that little shop by the Esher station railway bridge offers glass and ceramic art in engagingly informal surroundings; and D & N Designs on Weston Green produce engraved glass or silvered 'incentive items' (Hmnn…. perhaps a trophy for housework?). Sport? The fishing tackle shop on Weston Green, and in the High Street the Pro Shop for hockey and cricket, attract custom from miles around.
Playful Alex of Beech House Vets with a cat teaser... The Lighted Window.
Artist Edmund Woolley (TD Today Autumn 2007) paints to commission. This is part of a winter view of his back garden. His private title for the painting : "Ready in five minutes, Dear!" click on image for larger
Presents sorted, you can address earthly delights. Taj of the Five Rivers Deli has some outstanding treats of a quality hard to beat outside Fortnums. My favourites include their Finnochiona salami; English Tunworth and Stinking Bishop cheeses along with genuine, well-ripened Brie that puts supermarket cheese to shame; the best lime pickle in the world made by Anila of Walton on Thames, and the fabulous Woody's apple and ginger relish that will help the cold platters down on Day Two. Their Rother Valley organic meat's terrific. At the Secret Garden greengrocery Nick's team will put together and deliver locally a box of fine fruit and vegetables for the Christmas period, fresher, riper, cheaper, better and much Greener than the supermarket. Next door you can buy lovely flowers, table and other Christmas floral decorations from silver medallists Secret Garden Floral Designs. A short walk to Winter's Bridge brings you to Bachmann's, five times proven to be the best Patisserie in Britain. Lord, my mouth waters just to think of their cakes and desserts. 

So do yourself a favour and feel good about it. Shop local. We do!

Merry Christmas. 

Fresh Veg from the Secret Garden

Keith Evetts


Just The Thing

Ready for a good shop...

Thames Ditton's High Street may see a lot of traffic but its pavements are not the most crowded in England. Retailers that thrive in the village are a resourceful bunch. This is not New York, New York - but if you can make it here, you'll make it anywhere. Two themes typically emerge among those that succeed: they usually have more than one commercial leg to stand on, and they pursue individual taste and high quality. Stitchery is a fine example: although in other aspects you may consider it far from typical - most of us villagers have grown to savour the idiosyncrasies that in many ways echo the individual and independent character of the village itself.

The original Stitchery was developed by Julia Hickman from a kitchen operation where needlework kits for embroidering cushions and so forth were designed, assembled and packaged by home-based 'outworkers' for wholesale distribution. In 1980 the business, having greatly outgrown the kitchen, moved to its High Street premises at number 6, which for many years had been a butcher's shop and later a second-hand bookstore before standing empty for a year. Other lines including some retail gifts and cards were added to the range over nearly twenty years more before the business, grown large and in need of renewal, was sold to Jeremy Hamilton, who moved here eight years ago. 

Jeremy is no ordinary person, either. With a strong grounding in textiles he ran a family business in that sector. He also had a distinguished retail background as fashion buyer for Harrods, no less. He took over Stitchery just before the market for needlework declined, but happily it's growing again as leisure interests increase, and is becoming fashionable once more in the USA. Stitchery remains one of the world's largest wholesale and mail order producers and distributors of needlework kits. Meanwhile the gifts side of the business has enlarged to the stage where in any case it can thrive alone. It relies on Jeremy's very individual taste and talent, seasoned at Harrods, and nourished by travels through Europe and the Americas to see Stitchery distributors. There's plenty of opportunity to spot and source interesting lines that he likes and knows will sell. He trusts his judgment and eye, provides new things constantly, makes sure they are good value and prices them within an accessible range for modest gifts. Jeremy is also very keen to develop his own brands. Latterly, Stitchery has stocked a number of desirable cards and items featuring the naïf Thames Ditton paintings of local artist Lisa Tolley. Jeremy's travels have led to brand development with the Van Gansen family of Argentina, who design and produce jewellery - and own mines for precious stones, which confers a great advantage in price. By the time we go to press he should have clinched a deal to sell this tasteful range to Liberty's, exclusive to that store and to our Stitchery.

The result of Jeremy's energetic, engagingly eccentric flair and enthusiasm is that you can never be sure exactly what you will find in Stitchery but you know you will find something! And that looking for it will be an agreeably entertaining activity. The constant unpacking of boxes, the use of every inch of display space, the cheerful and amusing people who staff the shop and provide its customers, make for a disarming and slightly disorderly charm that would be impossible to create by design; a delightful informality; and a rich browse. For every item that prompts an 'Aaarrgghhh!' (but you later discover your neighbour bought) there will be three that you'd never thought of but are just the thing for you or your beneficiary. 

One has never been disappointed. And neither, it seems, have you. It's a pleasure to report that Stitchery's retail customers come mostly from within three miles of the shop, and a high proportion of them are repeat visitors. Jeremy loves Thames Ditton and regards the village and its life as a really important anchor. And villagers look on Stitchery with warm affection. Moreover, it's an excellent place for gossip - usually following some disingenuous disclaimer that they don't know anything - which only adds to its appeal. 

Yes: Thames Ditton's Stitchery is independent, slightly quirky and admirably suited to this village!


Still Life At The Ember Centre

Elsie Kemp gets things in perspective

In 1945 the then Esher Council offered £3 towards starting a Pensioners' Club, and by the 1990s Elmbridge Borough Council was subsidising Day Centres throughout the borough. The restored Vera Fletcher Hall serves as a fine Day Centre on Mondays and Thursdays for sociable and lively-minded mature members of our community. There is a good 3-course lunch followed by some entertainment or activity, often of very high quality; or perhaps a visit to a local place of interest. There's also a selection of enjoyable afternoon classes, including Bridge, Tai Chi and Art, all with qualified teachers. Computer classes are planned.  

On a typical Thursday, for example, you can find a lively Art class taken by Victoria Fullbrook. "They are improving!" she says. "Art keeps people young and lively." Among the students, gregarious Elsie Kemp has been painting for 20 years, while retired engraver Michael Lefevre admits "I'm not used to colour…" Recent member Ronald Young has no background in Art and finds the social aspect appeals strongly, while trying to paint what you see is a stimulating new area for him. There is Still Life, of course, but "naked subjects are taboo!" students hasten to add, although Victoria's sister occasionally poses for the class fully clothed.  

These classes and activities are very sociable, an aspect particularly appreciated by those who live alone. The facilities, complete with stage, kitchen and an alcohol licence, are excellent. There's a splendid Manager and a great team of volunteers and helpers - (they could always do with more!). Why not go along and visit any Monday or Thursday and see for yourself? 


A Light Look at a Grave Subject

St Nicholas' churchyard - photo by Scott Hortop

English churchyards are a record of local history, reflecting not only the lives of the departed but also the attitudes to death of the times when they were erected. As a commuter for nearly 40 years I have walked through St. Nicholas Churchyard thousands of times past the gravestones recording this history but to which most of us spare only a passing glance. They are worth a second look. How many of us, I wonder, would deserve the epitaph earned by one Richard Faithful Gardiner who died in 1885:

His life was spent in usefulness
A husband kind and friend most true
We mourn his loss, but hope his gain
E'er long we'll meet in Heaven again

What a vast change there has been to attitudes to death since the Victorian age. Where now would you see on a present-day tombstone this touching belief, recorded on the tombstone of Mary Smithers who died in 1888:

No more shall Satan tempt my soul
Corruption shall be slain
And tides of pleasure o'er me roll
For me to die is gain

A more famous tombstone and one familiar to many residents is the one to "La Belle Pamela", Lady Edward Fitzgerald, known to French literature as Pamela and reputed to have been a daughter of the French royal house of Orleans. Her husband Lord Edward Fitzgerald was an Irish patriot, who, fired by the French Revolution, rushed over to Paris and was later shot in Ireland resisting arrest. Lady Fitzgerald then fled to France. Her tombstone has inset in it a fragment of marble from her original tombstone in Montmartre, which was shattered by a German shell in the 1870 war with France, and bears the inscription:

Pamela Ladye Edward Fitzgerald Par Son Ami le Plus Devoué L.L.

Her "most devoted friend" was the Duc de la Force.

A footnote to history is that in quiet, peaceful Thames Ditton we had one of the earliest cases of body-snatching. We all know of Burke and Hare in Edinburgh in the 1820s but in 1784 two local men, Peter Pratt "victualler" and William Scott "yeoman", dug up the body of one George Papps for sale to surgeons for dissection. We wonder today about the apparent leniency of some punishments for crimes but what are we to make of the fine of only 6s 8d for these two men, when fresh corpses at the time fetched £10- £12? Did this have anything to do with the fact that both men were churchwardens? 

25,000 gravestones are lost each year in England through "tidying" of churchyards and vandalism and together with the increase in cremations we will lose much of this insight into local history with its humour, touching records of affection, and social commentary. Where will we see again epitaphs such as this on a Speyside ghillie's grave in Scotland:

"If whisky be the water of life, then why am I lying here?" 


"The mortal remains of Robert Millthorp. 
He lost his life by inadvertently throwing this stone upon himself while in the service of James Raywood, who erected it in his memory".

There was obviously no Health'n Safety regime in 1826.

Let the last word go to William Shakespeare, on his own tomb:

"Good frend, for Jesus sake forbeare

To digg the dust encloased heare.

Blest be ye man that spares thes stones,

And curst he yt moves my bones."

John Lyon



plus ça change...

Carl Gustav Jung, the psychiatrist and philosopher, proclaimed that there was no such thing as a meaningless coincidence. I seem to have had quite a few of these in my life which have led absolutely nowhere and have appeared to be completely meaningless. But there was one which was truly astonishing and it occurred on the day that my first article was due to appear in the London EVENING NEWS (sadly this newspaper is now deceased but it was the rival to our present EVENING STANDARD). I had written it under the name that my family and most of my friends knew me - Peggy Briggs. Not unnaturally perhaps I wanted every bit of acclaim that was my due for bursting into print in such a prestigious London Daily. 

On that morning, Bill Lampitt, the Features Editor, rang me before 8 demanding that I go straight up to London because what he needed to see me about "couldn't be done on the phone." Full of trepidation I raced up to Fleet Street. "What," he asked, "are you doing writing for the DAILY MIRROR?" and he thrust in front of my astonished eyes a copy of that day's paper featuring and article written by - Peggy Briggs! I began to protest that it was not by me but he cut me short. "You'll have to change it," he barked. "Your article is already set up for the mid-day edition." "Oh-er-well, Vicky" I blurted out - I had a friend called Vicky, it was the first name that came into my head - "Vicky Briggs." I didn't want to lose my identity completely. So it was under that name (and Margaret Norton and plain Margaret Briggs) that I have written ever since. 

Not long afterwards I discovered that the other Peggy Briggs was well known in the newspaper world, and 30 years later when she died, in her obituary the Daily Telegraph referred to her as "an acclaimed Fleet Street journalist". 

I should like to report that people rang me up to make sure I was still here. But nobody did!

Margaret Briggs



By Michael Jackson


Residents of Thames Ditton and Weston Green are eligible for prizes. A £5 Voucher for spending in any Thames Ditton or Weston Green shop will be awarded to each of the first three correct entries opened after the closing date of 15 November 2007.

The completed puzzle (or photocopy) with your name and address, clearly marking the envelope 'Crossword Competition', should be sent to:

Thames Ditton Today
Crossword Competition
6 Church Walk
Thames Ditton


1. Play together in ship, a Filey map may help (5,8)
10. He sees things outside himself (9)
11. Give this to sing (5)12.  
The dessert was icy at 22 below (6)
13. One leapt like an okapi (8)
14. A sound piece to play (6)
16. An archaic choir has it's A.G.M in Slough (8)
19. Spendthrifts (8)
20. An 'Ode to Music' (6)
22. When 12 and 18 are served (8)
24. Devoted lover sounds like a Miss Bryan (6)
27. He understands the message (5)
28. Tim in duel but without an ending (9)
29. Ace flying mint condition Spitfire superbly (13)


2. Flower song in the Mastersingers (5)
3. He declares for a trial before the Queen (9)
4. What the poor man's gath'ring (4)
5. Bligh's crew were (8)
6. Girl in the French bank (5)
7. Keith's leader (9)
8. Registration of inhabitants (6)
9. His Highness was very calm (6)
15. Lost again in the past (9)
17. They regularly change at the Palace (9)
18. The fruit pudding is in the bag (4,4)
19. An Australian throwing stick (6)
21. Southern Constellation Goldfish (6)
23. Capital of old European Kingdom (5)
25. Animal like a badger (5)
26. A coalition of factions (4)

Solution to the Autumn 2007 Crossword:


Congratulations to our three winners this season.





















We teach residents how to boil an egg...


Jeremy Paxman wrote in his book "On Royalty" that Prince Charles is wont to order seven boiled eggs at a time so that he can get one that is just right. This was firmly denied by his staff. Had it been true, it would be quite understandable. A perfectly boiled egg is a sublime dish.  

The Prince is reported to employ five chefs. A case, perhaps, of too many cooks? Likely they are culinary artists and shun the scientific approach essential to producing a perfect egg. The trick is to get the white completely cooked with the yolk just cooking but still runny. Here's the recipe. You require an egg cold from the refrigerator, a small saucepan with lid, and most essentially, a timer accurate to seconds. Place your egg in a saucepan. Cover it with water no more than hand-hot. Bring to the boil while you are cutting bread to toast. As the water is just about to boil properly, turn off the heat, cover the pan, and start your timer. You will have exactly three and a half minutes to toast and butter your bread and get the eggcup and spoon laid out. Remove the egg immediately this time is up, and serve at once. Perfect. 

It's all about thermal gradients. Your egg is chilled to start with, the temperature of the water outside it is hot, to make the gradient as steep as possible without cracking the egg shell. If the egg is instead placed in cold water and brought to the boil, the process takes longer and the egg is more likely to reach an even heat throughout - which means the yolk will probably be cooked as hard as the white. If you put boiling water on a cold egg, it is likely to crack. Hence you start with hand-hot water. When the water has reached boiling point with the egg in it, you do not want your egg to bounce about and crack open. So you remove the heat source and cover the pan to keep the water just below boiling for the rest of the cooking time. Lastly, when you remove the egg from the pan it will still be slowly cooking, so you must serve it immediately. No egg-cosy, please! 

Opinion is divided on which end to open it for eating. The Small-Endians hold the advantage, unless you want to dip toast soldiers in the yolk. Palace sources are silent on this point. What is clear is this: if you had to choose between eating lobster thermidor for the rest of your life, and no eggs, or eggs and no lobster thermidor, why then, perfect eggs and hot buttered toast have it every time.

Small Endian