To see the archway in person, you can visit the Chapter House at Merton Abbey Mills (Wimbledon) by the underpass near Sainsbury’s car park.
This is open every Sunday until October from 11am to 4pm.
A friend of mine forwarded me a local newspaper article that explained that this artefact had been kept (in storage) for over 30 years at the Wandle Industrial Museum, before an expert realised what it was! Chapter House is a building in a car-park opposite a very large supermarket – but the entire grounds of an Augustine monastery lie under this car-park with only part of it currently being visible to the general public! This project requires a major input of money and expertise so that the entire complex can be excavated and enjoyed by the general public! I suspect the car-park needs to be removed and rebuilt at a higher level – so that the monastic ruins can be exposed and preserved in a safe and protected underground environment that the general public can visit. At the moment, adults and children can visit for ‘free’ (and meet ‘Toby‘ the Sheepdog) with the exhibition being open only on Sundays between 11 am – 4 pm! The people that administer this project are friendly, knowledgeable and are willing to engage absolutely EVERYONE who finds their way into the Chapter House!
The documentation states that this monastic complex was destroyed by order of King Henry VIII in 1538 (my initial guess was 1539)! I am always amazed how the British people were prepared to destroy their own Judeo-Christian culture at the whim of absolute King – and do so with such a thorough vigour and determination! As history is an important aspect of the education of our two daughters – Kai-Lin and Mei-An – we have visited many ruined abbeys, priories and monasteries all over the UK! When King Henry VIII decided to usher in modernity, individuality and modern capitalism – he achieved this with a shocking efficiency which just goes to show that perhaps the ordinary people do not want their lives regulated by an established religion! Having said that, however, Henry VIII soon replaced the destroyed Roman Catholicism with a ‘new’ Church (the so-called ‘Church of England’) which was meant to be a ‘joke’ that got out of hand but which his daughter – Queen Elizabeth I – took very seriously indeed! Henry VIII also abolished Serfdom and the old feudal order – meaning that the new ‘individuals’ had to find paid employment – but no one really understood the new system and there really was not the paid jobs to go around! Henry VIII solved this problem by having the ‘unemployed’ rounded-up and sentenced to death for vagrancy – killing at least 75,000 British peasants by hanging them from trees and posts erected all along the roadsides throughout the country! This 900-year-old wooden archway represents the end of one form of oppression and the beginning of another! This is why history is important as it embodies our past!