Recently I have been ‘mapping’ the men named on Carshalton war memorial to show where they lived in the area. My research into the men has really focused on them as individuals rather than looking at how the community was impacted, so my reasoning behind this was to try and produce a visual representation of how the war affected the local area. The information to do this has come from a variety of sources including Commonwealth War Graves Commission entries; census information (1911 and in some cases 1901); Surrey Recruitment Registers; local newspaper reports; and obituaries and rolls of honour.
There are some difficulties when trying to identify the correct address. Firstly, the address used might not be the last one at which the man lived, for example if using information from the 1911 census it is plausible that he may have moved before the war. In addition when using addresses given in Commonwealth War Graves Commission entries, these may not be the soldier’s address but rather that of his parents or relatives. However you can only use the information available, but it should be borne in mind that it will not be a 100% accurate representation.
Another issue is that it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact location of an address, such as if only a house name rather than a number is given, or where streets have been renamed or indeed no longer exist. So the pins have been positioned on the correct road where possible but might not reflect the true location.
Despite having been researching and writing about these men for the last six years, seeing this information visually has highlighted a few interesting aspects.
At first glance it may appear that there are noticeable gaps where roads do not have any casualties. However, Carshalton during the First World War was much smaller than it is now, and less built up. With a population of approximately 13,000 (compared to c.45,000 at the 2001 census), the footprint of the village was much smaller. For example, much of the land north of the Wrythe was undeveloped, as was the land north of Westmead Road.
The visual impact of the pins shows how the war affected different areas of Carshalton. For example, the area of Carshalton known as ‘the Wrythe’ was greatly affected, with 35 casualties from just four roads. The impact on these families and neighbours as they learned of the deaths of their loved ones can only be imagined.
Perhaps unsurprisingly there are few officers who lived in the working class areas. In general these men came from the south side of Carshalton and the Carshalton Beeches / Carshalton Hill area; the more affluent areas in the locality, with large family homes that housed the middle classes, and generally it was the sons of these families who became ‘temporary gentlemen’, in other words the junior officers. The more densely-packed working class areas such as the Wrythe and Mill Lane provided the ‘ordinary’ soldiers as well as a large proportion of the non-commissioned officers.
In Carshalton we are lucky that a comprehensive record of those who served survives, with a copy held in the Local Studies Centre in Sutton library. This lists 1,900 individuals who served, split by road. Mapping these names would be quite an undertaking to say the least, but would show exactly how the community responded to the war and was impacted by the departure of its men and boys.
Nevertheless, I hope that the map will be interesting to those who live in Carshalton and will help the community commemorate those who lost their lives in the war. If it helps personalise the names inscribed on the memorial, all the better.
The map can be viewed in Google Maps here: