Merton Abbey Mills is perfect for anybody looking to escape the stress and hassle of Central London, especially if they are hunting for a special Christmas gift for a loved one. As estate agents in Wimbledon, we have a wide variety of local attractions to enjoy, but this Arts and Crafts Village on the River Wandle is one of our favourite places to visit at this time of year.
With an open-air mini weekend market, Merton Abbey Mills has so much to offer for all the family (or just you on your own if you're more of a solo player). Shops in the village are open throughout the week and sell a range of crafts, furnishings, herbs and spices; as well as clothing and jewellery.
There are a variety of eateries, including Caribbean, Italian and Thai. We especially enjoy the Vintage Tea Shop, while those seeking something slightly stronger can take time out in the riverside pub that is named after the famous William Morris.
For families, why not catch one of the many shows for both children and adults in The Colour House Theatre or take part in the regular workshops on the site? And after dark, there's evening weekend jazz nights. If music is your thing, make sure you don't miss Abbeyfest – the two-month highly-acclaimed summer festival of Music, Comedy and Theatre which has been running for 16 years .
Going back in time
Merton Abbey Mills used to be an Augustinian Priory built in the early 12th century. The Priory used to own much of the surrounding land. In fact, in Roman times, the area around the river Wandle was a settlement which had grown up around the river and the crossing was used by the legionnaires. By the year 1600, many textile mills had started popping up around the river; this was because of the special quality of the water (a chalkstream ideally suited to the washing, dyeing and printing of textiles). By the year 1792, more than a thousand people were employed by the associated businesses in the area.
The printing industry ended up attracting skilled workers from all over the UK and many vital advances in the techniques of printing textiles were made here. The enormous steampowered mills of the Midlands dominated the mass production industry. For many centuries, the mill was a centre for the manufacture and printing of textiles, and until 1979 was the silk-printing works of the well-known Regent Street store Liberty's. There's also The 'Showhouse', which was constructed for the showing of the fabrics created at the mills. It was left derelict for nearly 20 years, but was restored in 1989 as a visitor centre, arts and crafts market and venue for cultural entertainment, and now attracts some half a million visitors a year.
If you've got children, they could attend Kidsfest. This unique and inspirational festival is held annually and is a fantastic opportunity for the family to enjoy spending time together. From activities and workshops which include hands-on lessons in arts, crafts, pottery and cake making; there are even bouncy castles and storytelling areas with archaeological digging and face-painting. As well as this, The Colour House Children’s theatre will be running puppet and magic shows throughout day and there are visits from the animals at Dean City farm, the local Fire Brigade and AFC Wimbledon running football skills workshops.
Merton Abbey Mills is an open site and the market runs every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5pm.