Have you ever wandered through a graveyard and seen a gravestone that so attracts your attention that you wonder more about the occupant or occupants underneath?
Sometimes it might be because the gravestone, once erect, is now leaning at a dangerous angle or the sepulchre has a gaping hole – was the occupant trying to escape??? Othertimes it might be the beauty of the design or an unusual name or description.
Mitcham is one of those parts of London that most people drive through on their way to Croydon and the south, with the odd glimpse of the occasional 18th century house, former village ponds and Mitcham Common itself.
The Parish Church was completely rebuilt in 1819-1822 by a local master-builder John Chart in a simple Perpendicular Gothic style designed by George Smith (1782-1869), though it is thought that the tower may incorporate remnants of the medieval church dating as far back as 1250.
The extensive graveyard has now become a natural meadow with butterflies dancing between the flower and contains monuments that pre-date the existing church in additional to several monuments to young men who died during the First Young Men including two memorials to young men who tragically died aged at the young age of 19 years – Private V Burles from the Essex Regiment and Private J C Marshall from the Suffolk Regiment. The most interesting artistically is undoubtedly the Art Deco memorial to Ida Augusta Beuttell who died in 1932 and her husband Alfred William Beuttell who died in 1965, the lettering for the latter retaining the original Art Deco style. There is also an example of a cast-iron memorial, though the name has been lost.
Who was Alfred William Beuttell? The memorial is so outstanding and the name unusual that I sought out more information. Surprisingly it was the Malmesbury Historical Society who came to the rescue with a biography of Alfred William Beuttell on their website. Born in London in 1880, around the time that Edison and Swan had produced the first incandescent electric lamps, Beuttell was an entrepreneurial inventor who in 1901 invented and patented the tubular electric lamp much used by retailers and others for their shop window displays and which he had manufactured in quantity by Ediswan and registered as the “Linolite”. In 1959 he was appointed President of the Illuminating Engineering Society and received a Honorary Membership in 1959 in recognition of his lifetime achievement.
During the Second World War he was seconded to Government work, co-ordinating munitions production and taking over running one of the factories in the western suburbs of London.
After the war, his business flourished, and further inventions followed, such as the K-Ray (apparently one of his favourites). This gave uniform illumination of a display by reflecting light from a concealed source from the ingeniously curved cover glass.
He had to move his factory out of London during the Second World War to somewhere safer from the risk of enemy bombing and chose Malmesbury in Wiltshire, where the factory remained until the company closed, after several mergers, in 1993 and where Beuttell himself moved and established himself as a member of the local community.
Alfred Beuttell and his fascinating achievements deserve to be further known. One further question remains – who was the artist who designed and carved the beautiful Art Deco memorial stone?