Sutton is a place full of history that no one seems to care about! I have had connections with Sutton since the late 1980s (and my partner and children were born here), and yet find-out the history of the place we call home has been a continuous uphill battle which has seen Sutton Council actively ‘retain’ the historical knowledge it possesses – or levy a ‘charge’ against the people for data they already own! Since 1965, Sutton has been a Borough of Greater London, and despite being inherently conservative, it has attracted a diverse and yet mobile population dominated by a bedrock of permanent White middle-class. Although gated communities are now commonplace in Sutton, (removing this sedentary population even further from the vagaries of real life), in the past Sutton has been a very affluent place and despite an obvious down-turn in the last ten years or so, Sutton is still considered the 6th most affluent Borough in London – which just goes to show how badly London in general is doing when the state of the Sutton High Street is understood through personal experience – but I digress.
King Henry VIII, who apparently could not construct English language senses correctly – is supposed to have greatly admired the Sutton and Cheam countryside – and is once quoted as stating ‘There is nonsuch as beautiful as this!’ – or something close to these words. (This is the tyrant of an absolute monarch who once had 75,000 former-serfs and former-soldiers ‘executed’ via ‘hanging’ – because they were unemployed). Henry VIII had a small pleasure-palace constructed on the site of Nonsuch Park (the ‘Nonsuch Palace’ that became known as ‘Cheam Park House’) – where he liked to visit on occasion whilst traversing the tides of the River Thames on his pleasure-ships. Bear in mind that each of the palaces in the broad area he was inhabiting (at any one time) had to keep a full larder stocked with food and a selection continuously on the boil and roasting in the fire – just in case the King of England unexpectantly arrived with his entourage – all of whom needed instant feeding and lodging! This wasteful practice of food management led to tones of perfectly fine and edible food being thrown away – when the peasantry of England at the time were routinely starving and in need of sustenance (eating the King’s food – even his ‘waste’ – was punishable by death). Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the late 1530s – this situation was compounded by the fact that the only functioning Welfare System in medieval Britain had been administered by the now abolished Catholic Church!
This brings me to the ‘star’ of this article – one ‘Wiiliam Francis Gamul Farmer’ (d. 1860) and who is buried in the local St Dunstan’s Church (we will endeavour to visit and acquire a photograph of his grave to make our records complete)! My mother – ‘Diane Wyles’ – has carried out a genealogical search and discovered everything I am about to relay. The 20 feet high (estimate) stone monument – featuring a gothic cross and a four-sided water-trough – is positioned about 20 feet from the Bellgate Entrance of (East) Nonsuch Park and is immediately adjacent to Ewell Road (about 100 feet from Cheam Village). The local press seems to have suggested that this person was a ‘Farmer’ and that the monument was raised by his eleven sons – but research has proven both of these assumptions to be incorrect. Some historical texts state that the exact birthdate of ‘Wiiliam Francis Gamul Farmer’ is unknown, but it is clear that he was born in Essex around 1812 (I believe this fact is extrapolated from the known ages he received certain ennobling entitlements and promotions, and the ages he gave on various Census forms). The 1851 Census of England and Wales, for instance, records this gentleman as living in the Cuddington area of Surrey (England) and having been born in ‘Fabens’ in Essex. The same Census record states that in 1851 he was aged ‘39’ (giving his date of birth as being around 1812 depending upon the exact date of the Census). (During 1851, the Census also records that the family possessed 17 servants). In the 1841 Census, however, he gives his age as being ‘25’ (suggesting a birth date of around 1816). I suspect ‘William Francis Gamul Farmer’ never carried out such mundane tasks as form-filling – and may have delegated the task. Whatever the case, it looks as if ‘25’ is a mistaken interpretation of ‘29’ (perhaps due to handwriting). When he died (in the first quarter of 1860) he was registered as being 48 years old (which would again suggest a birth date of around 1812). According to online records – his gravestone states he died on March 10th, 1860.
Samuel Farmer purchased Nonsuch Mansion (or ‘Palace’) – also known as ‘Cheam Park House’ – in 1799 (which seems to be a ‘re-build’ of the original Henry VIII structure) and claimed his family lineage could be traced back through the paternal lines to the Fermor family of Easton Neston (who had become the Earl’s of Pomfret) and through his mother’s line to the Gamull family of Chester (later shortened to ‘Gamul’). As the name suggests, this was a working-class family (from Witney in Oxfordshire) who originally traded in sheep and in wool – before becoming ennobled through wise marriages and accumulated wealth (acquired before, during and after the Industrial Revolution). Due to their staunch Catholicism, the Farmer family had problems with Henry VIII and with Oliver Cromwell – before the Restoration (with stories of ‘Irish’ connections). The Farmer family of Nonsuch spread themselves through marriage across Europe (including Prussia) to America and Canada. They rose through society establishing links to English and European aristocracy. Eventually, through Alice’s marriage to the Honourable Francis Lionel Lydstone Colborne, (Equerry to Princess Henry of Batternberg) the Farmer family entered royal circles. Unfortunately, Alice and Francis did not have any children and the estate at Nonsuch passed to Pamela Farmer a granddaughter of William Francis Gamul Farmer at Alice’s death. As there were no male heirs – the estate was sold to Surrey County Council in 1938.
Willian Francis Gamul Farmer married one ‘Matilda Farmer (nee ‘Wilkinson’) [1815-1889] and produced eleven children with here – seven boys and four girls. The names of his children were William Robert Gamul Farmer, Thomas Allix Farmer, Matilda Frances Farmer, George Lancelot McLean Farmer, Margaret Anna Farmer, Emily Mary Farmer, Charles Edward Farmer, Revd. James Edmund Gamul Farmer, Henry Lowth Farmer, Catherine Augusta Farmer and Francis Colebrooke Farmer. He inherited from his grandfather when aged 26 years old (in 1838) and again from his father – William Meeke Farmer (1778-1840) – when he was 28 years old in 1840! This is why he lived the care-free life associated with the landed gentry. Willian Francis Gamul Farmer was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Surrey before reaching the Office of High Sheriff of the County of Surrey – when he received his appointment in 1849 (when he was around 37 years old). Indeed, so important a person was he – that an oil painting was commissioned to record this important event – which seems to show him around 37 years old (although I cannot find any verification for the date or the name of the artist, etc).
The cross and four-sided drinking-trough (fountain) lies at the eastern entry point to Nonsuch Park – known as the Bellgate Entrance. According to the limited data available, it was raised by the surviving eleven children of William Francis Gamul Farmer – but only in 1895! In other words, around 45 years after his death! Why there was such a long gap in raising a memorial inspired by filial piety is currently unknown. Other than being moved a few feet slightly nearer to the park entrance (to safely accommodate the flow of traffic) – this statue remains obscure to the minds of many local people – despite the founding idea being a good and positive one. On what must have been a dry and dusty road in the summer, the Farmer family paid for a publically accessible water fountain so that travellers (or local people) could acquire a supply of clean and ‘free’ water when taps were not yet a common fixture in most ordinary homes, and a steady supply of water was not yet considered a Human Right! Undoubtedly, this amenity would have benefit wild and domesticated animals – although today the memorial is no longer connected to a water supply.
Side One Reads:
THIS FOUNTAIN IS ERECTED BY THE
Side Two Reads:
SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF THE (INDECIPHERABLE)
Side Three Reads:
INDECIPHERABLE – April 1895
Side Four Reads:
TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN LOVING
MEMORY OF THOSE GONE BEFORE