Rubbed Out! Artist’s Historic Tooting Home Bulldozed by Developers – South London News

By Mark Bryant

Further to my 2021 report in the South London Press that the Tooting home of the celebrated illustrator of Jerome K. Jerome’s classic Victorian comic novel Three Men in a Boat was at imminent risk of demolition, I can now inform you of its sad demise.

Merton Lodge, at the corner of Tooting High Street and Woodbury Street, somehow managed to survive the Blitz and wartime attacks on the neighbourhood by flying-bombs and V2 rockets, but ironically it has now been reduced to rubble by a developer’s bulldozers to make way for a hotel.

In 1884, exactly 140 years ago, Merton Lodge became the home of the artist Arthur Frederics, who was a descendant of George III’s baker.

The Tooting High Street view of Merton Lodge now (Picture: Mark Bryant)

It was while he and his wife and their two young sons lived here – joined by a daughter born in the house in 1888 – that he illustrated Jerome K. Jerome’s classic Victorian comic novel Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) in 1889.

It was an instant hit and is still available with Frederics’ original drawings today.

It also remains popular worldwide, regularly appears in lists of the top 100 novels of all time, and has been dramatised for radio, television, film and the theatre.

Fig 3AThe Woodbury Street view showing the studio window of Merton Lodge in 2021 (Picture: Mark Bryant)

Frederics himself even has an entry in the prestigious Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

As revealed in the South London Press on June 18, 2021, the exact location of Frederics’ Tooting home had only just been tracked down after considerable detective work when it was discovered that it, together with the adjoining Tooting Constitutional Club – of which Merton Lodge later became a part – was earmarked for demolition.

Now, three years later, all that remains of Merton Lodge is a pile of rubble. A sad end indeed.

Fig 6A 1940s edition of Three Men in a Boat with a cover drawing by Arthur Frederics (Picture: Mark Bryant)

However, a small comfort is that the photos taken in 2021 give an idea of what it looked like more than 100 years ago when Frederics and his family lived here, especially the one which shows the large south-facing window in Woodbury Street which it is believed illuminated the artist’s studio as he created the original images of J, George, Harris, and the immortal Montmorency the dog.

Pictured top: The Tooting High Street view of Merton Lodge and Tooting Constitutional Club in 2021 (Picture: Mark Bryant)

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