Interesting Facts about Thames Ditton No. 37: Viking marauders often came to Thames Ditton for their holidays. For them, the village offered an unbeatable combination of women, church silver and table-tennis.
Thames Ditton, just a couple of miles up the river from Kingston upon Thames, has a long history both as a pleasure-seeker's paradise and as the location of many water-related tragedies. As this article will show, there is (slightly) more to Thames Ditton than its role as Long-term Parking Zone C for Jonathan Porritt International Airport (Surbiton).
Twinned in Europe
In 1978, the village was accidentally twinned with Rampton by a residents' association which had no idea that Nottinghamshire was not part of mainland Europe. Nevertheless, Thames Ditton plays host each summer to an excursion by a van-load of poorly guarded inmates from the mental hospital. This visit is reciprocated every ten years by a delegation of Ditton pensioners to one of the hospital's more secure wings, and a productive exchange of pharmaceutical products is normally achieved.
The two Dittons
Thames Ditton is not to be confused with its neighbour, Long Ditton, which opens its borders once a fortnight, to enable the fulfilment of conjugal rights and milk deliveries. The sterling exchange rate with the Long Ditton szurbi fluctuates wildly, and sentries on the border have done little to discourage a thriving currency black market which takes place in the local Woolworths.
Bronze Age Barrow
The earliest trace of mankind in the area is the sunken long barrow in the centre of what is now known as Giggs Hill Green. According to Sir Mortimer Whaler, it is believed that this monument of c.1500 BC was originally above ground level, but gradually subsided, due to natural erosion, an underground stream, and the cumulative effects of "bloody kids". The barrow is about 22 yards long by 10 foot across. Archaeologists interested in investigating the site further during the summer are kindly requested to wait between cricket innings before commencing any large-scale excavations.
Ditton is, of course, famous as the village where morse code was invented, by Sir Francis Dashwood—hence the rather tedious dit-dash-dit-dit nature of this language.
Thames Ditton was home in the 16th century to the madrigal group Los Muchachos del Río (literally, the River Boys), who had fled persecution from the Inquisition for their unusual leatherwear. By day they would work in the boatyard by the Thames; by night they would sing their one hit, 'Buenas Vibraciones', in the snug of 'The Angel' pub. Their continued support for the motherland enabled them to claim ownership of the only boat in the Spanish Armada to arrive safely, where it had started, on British soil. This event was inaccurately commemorated in 1973 by the popular early-evening television show, Nationwide, which can now be enjoyed again on the DVD boxed set of Series Three, Episodes 173-249.
Thames Ditton is also remembered as the place where Jimi Hendrix grew up. In those days he was plain old James Henderson, but there are still pensioners around today who can remember the schoolboy playing in his shorts in the gutter of St Leonards Road, with his rough friends, Mick and Keef, from nearby Richmond.
In the late 1960s, the three would frequently return to the area to jam together at The Swan in Thames Ditton. Their blond-haired chum Brian would occasionally join in, but he insisted on wearing inflated arm-bands, due to the proximity of the pub to the river. This encumbrance meant that his guitar-playing at the venue was never at its best.
It was here that potential classics such as 'All Along Thames Ditton' and 'Hey, Mr Thames Ditton Man' were composed. It was unfortunate that the audience at The Swan included a Mr. Zimmerman, who had an even keener grasp of intellectual property law and other people's material than Mr Jagger himself. 'All Along the Watchtower' and 'Mr Tambourine Man' were the result.
Transcendent Thames Ditton
In ancient times, Ditton was the philosophical centre of what the Romans called Britannia and the Druids called Watford. Anyone who was anyone in the Aristotelian universe wanted to debate the toss with the country's top philosopher, Ditto. Ditto held court, during opening hours, at a licensed forerunner of McDonalds which overlooked Giggs Hill Green. Ditto's dialectical method typically started with "What do you mean by ...?" and quickly moved on to "Who are you looking at?" and "Hands off, pal!", with the discourse being brought to a conclusion in the chariot-park at the back.
To this day, the highways of Thames Ditton remain a favoured location for students of Kingston University to pursue their early-morning arguments, often throwing in for good measure a bout of car aerial-bending and vomit.
The village is also the venue for the notorious DittonParties.net swingers club. Twice a month, the well-to-do owner of the nine-bedroomed manor house opens his home to like-minded (and typically middle-class) individuals. On these evenings, guests are encouraged to let all their inhibitions go—for example, by sometimes opening bridge hands on only 10 high-card points.
Thames Ditton's highlights remain:
- The queue at the Post Office counter. Why do pensioners always leave it until lunch-time to run their errands?
- The pay-and-display car parks. They used to be free and they used to be full. Then, in the name of uniformity, the council introduced parking fees, which incidentally cost more to administer than the revenue they bring in, because nearly everyone has stopped using them. Instead cars now clog up residential roads, making it more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.
- STOP PRESS: The latest episode in this sorry tale is the council's proposal to restrict parking on the village's roads. There will be far fewer roadside parking spaces, and many of the surviving spaces will be charged on a pay-and-display basis. So, rather than reverse their dreadful decision to impose charges on the free car parks, the council is seeking to get motorists using the car parks by making parking elsewhere even more expensive.
- Wheelie-bins. Elmbridge Council is proposing to collect household waste just once a fortnight, so expect some unpleasant odours and rats.
- Thames Ditton Island. Why would anyone buy a house there, when the nearest they can park their car is behind the former Somerfield in Surbiton?
- Thames Ditton will be the location of a number of sports in the London 2012 Olympics. The Distressed Gentlefolk's Modern Dodecathlon, which was a demonstration event in Beijing, will receive full recognition for the 2012 games, and should help achieve the Labour Government's objective of reducing the pension burden.
Perspectives on Thames Ditton
- If you're an Esher teenager, Thames Ditton is merely a bus stop on the way to The Works in Kingston. Alex and Sophie from Surbi Hi get on here, but their garden only has one pool, so there's little point in sucking up for an invite to their 15th.
- If you're an airline pilot, Thames Ditton marks the point where you dump excess fuel and the contents of the cabin toilets on the approach to Surbiton. The favoured external decorative motif of many houses in Thames Ditton is brown.
- If you're a footballer's wife from Cobham—in other words, your hubby 'works' a couple of hours a day for José Mourinho—you just don't bother with Thames Ditton. It contains too many letters. Even Oxshott would be a difficult spell, if you knew how to work the GPS.
Days Out from Thames Ditton
You can have too much of a good thing. Here's a short video suggesting a local excursion, if desperate.