Sutton New Town is the area east of the Sutton's High Street and stretches from Manor Park towards the boundary with Carshalton. It has been home to the famous and the infamous. Lenham Road was the childhood home of Noel Coward and Myrtle Road was where Thomas Dudley the "cannibal captain" lived. It is a place of industry and business, of schools and homes.
Sutton New Town owes its existence to a man and a sledgehammer. The man was Thomas Alcock who bought the Manor of Sutton in 1845. The hammer was the one used to break the padlock on the gate that blocked access to the lane that led across the fields away from Sutton and east towards Carshalton and the Wrythe.
The new Lord of the Manor was progressive(1). He had bought the Manor the same year that the railway was brought to Sutton. Thomas Alcock knew that the only way to for Sutton to grow from a village to a town was for development to spread out from the confines of the High Street.
The town couldn't grow southwards as there was no water to be had on the chalk above the Cheam and Carshalton Roads. There was, however, plenty of water to be had on the Thanet sands. This was where the chalk of the downs met the clay. It was the ideal area for Sutton to spread except there was a problem.
The road through Sutton was a toll road and was maintained by the Reigate Turnpike Trust. To protect their revenue, in 1801, the trust erected gates across the lanes accessing the western and eastern fields. These lanes were Back Lane and West Street on the west and Whible Lane on the east. These lanes had been the only possible ways of avoiding payment of toll at the Cock. Whible Lane is now called Manor Lane and was identified in a map of 1785 since the old Manor House was named as "Whible Lane House". In 1845 Thomas Alcock destroyed the locks the gate "kept locked by the trustees for over 40 years." (2)
In 1847 a Swedish opera singer called Jenny Lind visited England and gave her first performance in London in the May of that year. At the height of her fame, she was given the nickname "The Swedish Nightingale". Around the same time, Alcock caused a new road to be built that connected Manor Lane to the Carshalton Road. The new road was called Jenny Lind Road.
Alcock sold off the land around this new road in small parcels. As a consequence development was sporadic and houses and workshops were built without a dominant style. The pub that is now known as "The Nightingale" was built in 1854 as the Jenny Lind (3).
The Ordnance Survey map of 1866 didn't use the term 'New Town'. However, the first Sutton directory of 1869 says the area "has recently received the official designation from the Postal authorities of Sutton New Town" (4).
From the start, the area was working class and poor. Many of the first inhabitants were families of railway and water company workers. Others were in service to middle-class families that lived in the larger houses in the Benhilton area or in South Sutton. The area nevertheless developed a strong sense of identity with cultural groups forming quickly. The "Newtown Mutual Improvement Society" had started before 1876 and possibly as early as 1872. Even as late as 1901 the most common employment given for men in the census of that year was 'gardener'.
The concern for the social conditions led to many churches being built in the area. A conventional district called "Sutton New Town" was formed in 1882 (5) from part of each of the parishes of Sutton, Benhilton and Carshalton. The Church of England parish called 'St Barnabas, Sutton New Town' was then created in 1884. The boundaries of the new ecclesiastical parish divided the New Town area into two portions with about 40% of the New Town remaining in St Nicholas parish. The parish boundary was further shifted in the 1980s when the Watergardens Estate was built on the site of the old waterworks.
1) Thomas Alcock, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Alcock_(MP)
2) Robert Smith "A History of Sutton".
3) Sara Goodwins "Sutton Past and Present".
4) J. Morgan "A History and Description of Sutton, Surrey, with a Directory of the Inhabitants: And Map, Showing All the New Roads"
5) Parish Records of Sutton New Town, London Borough of Sutton Archives