Merton Abbey Mills is a heritage site besides the River Wandle. It was originally a textile factory in the 18th Century and by the 19th Century textile designer, William Morris, made it suitable for textile printing and stained glass works.
There used to be almost a hundred watermills operating along the River Wandle, but there are now only four, and The Abbey Mills is the only one that still works. You can see the water wheel working every weekend, and it is a place where many visitors throw coins to make a wish. On a summer's day, it is also a lovely place to have a picnic. I've often seen families with young children, sitting on the river bank, watching the wheel go round as they eat their sandwiches.
In 1989, The Abbey Mills was turned into a visitors' centre, where you can learn about the history of the Mill and at weekends shop at the market. There are also a number of shops and eateries open throughout the week.
The Market is open every weekend at Merton Abbey Mills. It used to be held inside the Long Shop, and had a number of interesting stands such as a stall selling doll house accessories, a stall selling cigarette cards, toys stalls, and several different styled jewellery sellers.
Now the Long Shop has turned into a restaurant and the market is held outside. This is great during the summer, but at winter time there isn't really much point in going.
There are still quite a few stalls there, but not as many or as wide ranging. Most of the stalls are either part of the farmers' market, selling jewellery or artwork. Much of the charm and browse appeal has gone now.
If you want to visit the Abbey Mills the weekend is really the best time to go, but if you are walking by during the middle of the week it is worth popping over to look at the shops.
Over the past several years the types of shops there have changed several times, but here are the shops there right now:
A Chinese fashion stall that merges traditional designs with with modern styles. They specialise in silk outfits, and sell men's, women's and children's clothing.
This is an aromatherapy shop that sells essential oils, herbal teas, cooking spices, and handmade soaps. It is quite expensive, but there are a number of things there that I have not seen in other health shops, so it is worth a look.
The only shop still there that opened at the same time as the Abbey Mills was restored. It sells a huge range of precious and semi-precious gemstones, as well as fossils and crystal books.
These are the main shops, but they also have a tattoo parlour and a place where they do Yoga.
Places to Eat
My first memory of the Abbey Mills was as a child and the smell of fresh doughnuts. There was a mobile stalls where you could watch the doughnuts being made, and then choose which topping you wanted them dipped in. Yum.
Sadly the doughnut stall disappeared many years ago, but the number of places to eat has vastly increased. When Merton Abbey Mills first became open to the public, there were two places to eat: The William Morris Pub, named after the founder of the textile printing factories, and the Watermill Restaurant.