The Tyre Dump Fire

The black stuff was coming down for weeks

Does anyone else remember this event?  Was it arson, as the rumour went, or just a result of the hot weather?

Photo:Workers at the tyre dump post-war

Workers at the tyre dump post-war

Patricia Dearlove

This page was added by Cheryl Bailey on 20/02/2011.
Comments about this page

At the same age as David Fenn I too walked(from Rosehill) to the rubber dump fire.We could see the flames from our garden. Is anyone aware of possible effects of the prolonged fallout on their health?

By Helen Harlow
On 09/02/2012

We could see the massive cloud of smoke St Benets and we joined just about every other child on the estate in running down there to see what had caused it. It wasn't just tyres that were dumped there, it was other rubber items...many people were taking things, I managed to purloin a couple of inflatable beds which were ideal for laying on in the garden.

By Ray Crawley
On 14/02/2012

At that time I was living in Sherbourne Crescent, and a gang of us kids went down to see what was going on and to see what we could (as Ray politely puts it) purloin, and there was lots of stuff most of it army surplus. life jackets flying goggles, inflatables of all sorts sadly when we got them back home, though they looked good the vast majority were perished, and unusable. It was an extremely hot that particular day in fact I think we had quite a spell of warm weather we heard that the sun reflecting through some glass was the cause of the blaze and I wouldn't doubt it as there was all sorts on that dump.

By Ted Blowers
On 11/05/2012

I lived at 195 Peterborough Road when 'The Rubber Dump' caught fire. My back garden ran down to Poulter Park with the River Wandle beyond it. The Rubber Dump and The Aeroplane Dump were on the other side of the river and places where us nippers and the bigger kids foraged for 'treasure' when we could avoid the workers and watchmen. Rubber tyres were flitched on a regular basis and kept for November 5th, while the other dump contained anything and everything that the armed forces had decided to rid themselves of. My mother and I first became aware of the fire when the smell of burning rubber came into the house, causing us to take a look outside and see the great plume of smoke rising in the direction of Deeds Water Mill. I could see children of all ages running across the park, followed by adults at a far slower pace, most of them being our neighbours. Mum let me join my pals, so I too ran to the river, the near bank of which soon filled up with excited, chattering folk, but as we watched the deep red flames roar into the sky, the wind changed and sent a fog of foul, black smoke across the water and into our faces. People choked, coughed and rubbed their eyes as the fire boombed and crackled and shot flaming, spinning tyres into the air. The heat was such that steam was coming off the further river bank and causing a hot wind out of which span drop driving us spectators back towards the hillbank and into the park. Us kids loved it especially the whirring black flakes that were begining to drift down but then a whole wall of smoke forced us all to run and watch the fire from a much safer distance. I went home to watch events through my uncle's binoculars from my bedroom window, but soon mum had me sticking bits of paper into the airbrick openings to try to keep the stink out of the house. When dad came home it looked as though the whole sky was just one massive, tumbling black cloud with at its base, a roaring red mass. I don't know how long it took the firebrigade to get the fire under control but the smell, floating ash and black/grey flakes lingered for days. I seem to remember that the flames continued to break out for quite a while and that a couple of fire engines remained on site for maybe a week. It was a long time before we could grab tyres, gas masks and odd bits of hose and tube, but within weeks us kids were raiding the supposed theft proof sheds in the Aeroplane Dump, where at most, three old men guarded the pistols, 303 rifles, shotguns and Saturday Specials that people had donated to the nation soon after war broke out. I don't think that an inventory was kept but whatever, the old guys would walk away for a mug of tea and a smoke or to check the rest of the site which contained such things as rubber dinghies, field telephones, map cases, tin helmets, catering equipment and of course, aircraft and bits of aeroplanes together with odd tools and pieces of motor bikes. As soon as their backs were turned, in would go the hunters and out would go 'The Profits'. Many is the time that the local police came knocking at doors looking for 'borrowed' guns, having caught kids playing war and cowboys and indians with real guns. All good fun and no Health and Safety.

By Ron Harris
On 26/03/2013

After school on hot summer afternoons in the late 40's hordes of us children would rush across Poulters Park to gather on the banks of the Wandle to bathe, paddle and splash in the Mill Pond. I don't know if it was a real Mill Pond but the sun was hot, the water cold and it was free. One of the boys earned a commendation for helping the fire brigade at the rubber dump fire, (exploits covered in the Carshalton and Wallington Times) but he was drowned in the Mill Pond shortly afterwards. I never swam there again. Although we were not related he had the same surname as mine at the time

By Jennifer Ball (nee Morgan)
On 24/07/2013

Hi Jennifer, The boy who you are talking about lived at the Wandle end of Middleton Road. I recall that his death was a local topic of conversation for months. The mill pond was a real one and fed Deeds Mill beside it; the pond being dark and forbidding in all but strong, summer sun. As you say, lots of kids splashed around in the river during those days but only a few dared to swim in that pond after the accident. You may be interested to know that many years later, the boy's death was denied by many, just a ploy by parents to keep their children away from that part of The Wandle. It almost became an Urban Myth I think, but I knew better because one of the older boys in my street helped pull the body from the water.

By Ron Harris
On 16/08/2013

Is that the David Fenn who went to The "Holy Family" school in the 1940s and early 50s?.

By Mick Adley
On 10/09/2013

I lived in Peterborough Rd during the last years of the war and attended Welbeck Rd school.. remember the fire well. The lad that drowned lived at the junction between our road and Middleton Rd . His name was Billy Morgen. In my class. For the advice of one of your readers. Welbeck school is now Wandle Vally High. Thanks.

By peter
On 27/09/2013

It's great to read all your memories. We used to get the airplane fuel tanks and cut a square hole in the top to sit in and paddle it as a boat on the river. Great times.

By Terry Buckle
On 12/05/2014

Message to Mick Adley - yes it was the same David Fenn who attended Holy Family School. how lovely of you to remember him - we have only today found this website and it is lovely to hear his voice again.  Sadly, Dave died on 21st September 2011 but would have been very proud to see his exploits on this website.

By Dee Fenn
On 13/10/2015

I'm glad to see that we weren't the only kids who used to nick the aluminium fuel tanks from the dump - which I thought was on the industrial estate next to The Goat - can still smell the kerosene left in the tanks!

We also used to cut a hole in the top, put in a rudimentary seat, make some paddles and float them on The Wandle. This was after trying to make them leakproof by pulling-up the tar in the road between the concrete sections, melting it and running it onto the rivets of the strengthening bars in the tank.

I used to love playing in the Wandle along by The Banjo and the Leather Factory but I nearly drowned at the age of 3 when myself and Colin Nicholson, my next-door neighbour in Bramblewood Close went down to the river on our trikes and fell in. We were rescued by a Mr Bradford who lived in Buckhurst Avenue and had a son named John Bradford.

My brother, Dennis, and his mates constructed the cycle speedway track which existed on the banks of The Wandle  near the Leather Factory. I used to enjoy watching the racing there as It reminded me of our weekly visits to Wimbledon Speedway track with Mum and Dad - up the Dons!

By Ted Jarvis
On 28/04/2016

I lived at 67 Shrewsbury Road, and like many contributors used Poulters Park, the Wandle and its Mill pond as our playground, using those empty aircraft tanks as canoes. That is until we ventured further to Mill Green, where local transport owner, Barbers Coaches and Lorries would burn his pallets and rubbish on bonfire night to give all us kids a bonfire treat, it still burnt several days later.

Further on was the Goat Pub, and Mitcham Common, where we watched Trains. and next to Mitcham Junction Station was the Army Camp, remember the searchlights which could be seen for miles when the soldiers were in training.

On the common we tried to collect golf balls, and sell them back to the golf club for 6d each. Beyond that there was the One island pond, and the Seven Island pond.

To the right was the sewage farm, and mile long road.

What adventures we had.

By Peter Bird
On 14/12/2017

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