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Wimbledon

Wimbledon is a district of southwest London, England, in the London Borough of Merton, south of Wandsworth, northeast of New Malden, northwest of Mitcham, west of Streatham and north of Sutton. Wimbledon had a population of 58,449 in 2011 which includes the electoral wards of Abbey, Dundonald, Hillside, Trinity, Village and Wimbledon Park.

It is home to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships and New Wimbledon Theatre, and contains Wimbledon Common, one of the largest areas of common land in London. The residential and retail area is split into two sections known as the "village" and the "town", with the High Street being the rebuilding of the original medieval village, and the "town" having first developed gradually after the building of the railway station in 1838.

Wimbledon has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age when the hill fort on Wimbledon Common is thought to have been constructed. In 1087 when the Domesday Book was compiled, Wimbledon was part of the manor of Mortlake. The ownership of the manor of Wimbledon changed between various wealthy families many times during its history, and the area also attracted other wealthy families who built large houses such as Eagle House, Wimbledon Manor House and Warren House. The village developed with a stable rural population coexisting alongside nobility and wealthy merchants from the city. In the 18th century the Dog and Fox public house became a stop on the stagecoachrun from London to Portsmouth, then in 1838 the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) opened a station to the south east of the village at the bottom of Wimbledon hill. The location of the station shifted the focus of the town's subsequent growth away from the original village centre.

Wimbledon had its own borough larger than its historic boundaries while still in the county of Surrey; it was absorbed into the London Borough of Merton as part of the creation of Greater London in 1965. Since 2005, the north and west of the Borough has been represented in Westminster by Stephen Hammond, a Conservative MP. The eastern and southern of the Borough are represented by Siobhain McDonagh, a Labour MP.

It has established minority groups; among the most prominent are British Asians (including British Sri Lankans), British Ghanaians and Polishpeople and Irish.

History

Early History

Remains of the ditch between the two main ramparts of the Iron Age hill fort

Wimbledon has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age when the hill fort on Wimbledon Common, the second-largest in London, is thought to have been constructed. The original nucleus of Wimbledon was at the top of the hill close to the common – the area now known locally as "the village".

The village is referred to as "Wimbedounyng" in a charter signed by King Edgar the Peaceful in 967. The name Wimbledon means "Wynnman's hill", with the final element of the name being the Old English "dun" (hill). The name is shown on J Cary's 1786 map of the London area as "Wimbleton", and the current spelling appears to have been settled on relatively recently in the early 19th century, the last in a long line of variations.

At the time the Domesday Book was compiled (around 1087), Wimbledon was part of the manor of Mortlake, and so was not recorded. The ownership of the manor of Wimbledon changed hands many times during its history. The manor was held by the church until 1398 when Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury fell out of favour with Richard II and was exiled. The manor was confiscated and became crown property.

The manor remained crown property until the reign of Henry VIII when it was granted briefly to Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, until Cromwell was executed in 1540 and the land was again confiscated. The manor was next held by Henry VIII's last wife and widow Catherine Parr until her death in 1548 when it again reverted to the monarch.

In the 1550s, Henry's daughter, Mary I, granted the manor to Cardinal Reginald Pole who held it until his death in 1558 when it once again become royal property. Mary's sister, Elizabeth Iheld the property until 1574 when she gave the manor house (but not the manor) to Christopher Hatton who sold it in the same year to Sir Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter. The lands of the manor were given to the Cecil family in 1588 and a new manor house, Wimbledon Palace, was constructed and gardens laid out in the formal Elizabethan style.

17th Centruy

Wimbledon's convenient proximity to the capital was beginning to attract other wealthy families and in 1613 Robert Bell, Master of the Worshipful Company of Girdlers and a director of the British East India Company built Eagle House as a home at an easy distance from London. The Cecil family retained the manor for fifty years before it was bought by Charles I in 1638 for his Queen, Henrietta Maria.

Following the King's execution in 1649, the manor passed rapidly through various parliamentarian ownerships including Leeds MP Adam Baynes and civil war general John Lambert but, following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, was back in the ownership of Henrietta Maria (now Charles I's widow and mother of the new King, Charles II).

The Dowager Queen sold the manor in 1661 to George Digby, Earl of Bristol, who employed John Evelyn to improve and update the landscape in accordance with the latest fashions including grottos and fountains. On his death in 1677 the manor was sold on again to the Lord High Treasurer, Thomas Osborne, Earl of Danby.

St Mary's Church

The Osborne family sold the manor to Sir Theodore Janssen in 1712. Janssen, a director of the South Sea Company, began a new house to replace the Cecil-built manor house but, due to the spectacular collapse of the company, never finished it.

The next owner was Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, who increased the land belonging to the manor and completed the construction of a house to replace Jansen's unfinished effort in 1735. On her death in 1744, the property passed to her grandson, John Spencer, and subsequently to the first Earl Spencer.

The village continued to grow and the introduction in the 18th century of stagecoach services from the Dog and Fox public house made the journey to London routine, although not without the risk of being held-up by highwaymen such as Jerry Abershawe on the Portsmouth Road. The stage coach horses would be stabled at the rear of the pub in the now named 'Wimbledon Village Stables'.

The 1735 manor house burnt down in the 1780s and was replaced with Wimbledon Park House in 1801 by the second Earl. At this time the manor lands included Wimbledon Common (a heath) and the enclosed parkland around the manor house. The area of the park corresponded to the modern Wimbledon Park area, The house was east of St Mary's church.

Wimbledon House, a separate residence close to the village at the south end of Parkside (near present-day Peek Crescent), was home in the 1790s to the exiled French statesman Vicomte de Calonne, and later to the mother of writer Frederick Marryat. Their association with the area is recorded in the names of nearby Calonne and Marryat Roads.

Directly south of the common, the early-18th-century Warren House (called Cannizaro House from 1841) was home to a series of grand residents.

19th Century Edit

Wimbledon section of Edward Stanford's 1871 map of London

The first decades of the 19th century were relatively quiet for Wimbledon, with a stable rural population coexisting alongside nobility and wealthy merchants from the city, but renewed upheaval came in 1838 when the opening of the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) brought a station to the south east of the village at the bottom of Wimbledon hill. The location of the station shifted the focus of the town's subsequent growth away from the original village centre.

For a number of years Wimbledon Park was leased to the Duke of Somerset, who briefly in the 1820s employed a young Joseph Paxton as one of his gardeners, but, in the 1840s, the Spencer family sold the park as building land. A period of residential development began with the construction of large detached houses in the north of the park. In 1864, the Spencers attempted to get parliamentary permission[5] to enclose the common for the creation of a new park with a house and gardens and to sell part for building. Following an enquiry, permission was refused and a board of conservators was established in 1871 to take ownership of the common and preserve it in its natural condition.

Transport links expanded further with new railway lines to Croydon (Wimbledon and Croydon Railway, opened in 1855) and Tooting (Tooting, Merton and Wimbledon Railway, opened in 1868). The District Railway (now London Underground's District line) extended its service over new tracks from Putney in 1889.

In the second half of the century, Wimbledon experienced a very rapid expansion of its population. From a small base of just under 2,700 residents recorded in the 1851 census, the population grew by a minimum of 60 per cent each decade up to 1901 increasing fifteenfold in fifty years. During this, time large numbers of villas and terraced houses were built along the roads from the centre towards neighbouring Putney, Merton Park and Raynes Park.

The commercial and civic development of the town also accelerated during this period. Ely's department store opened in 1876 and shops began to stretch along the Broadway towards Merton. Wimbledon built its first police station in 1870. Cultural developments included a Literary Institute by the early 1860s and the opening of Wimbledon Library in 1887. The religious needs of the growing population were dealt with by a church building programme starting with the rebuilding of St Mary's Church in 1849 and the construction of Christ Church (1859) and Trinity Church (1862).

Street names reflect the period: Denmark Road and Denmark Avenue, and the Alexandra pub on Wimbledon Hill, all mark the marriage of the then Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

The change of character of Wimbledon from village to small town was recognised in 1894 when, under the Local Government Act 1894, it formed the Wimbledon Urban District with an elected council

Modern History

Wimbledon Hill Road, looking north-west from Wimbledon Bridge

Wimbledon's population continued to grow at the start of the 20th century, a condition recognised in 1905 when the urban district was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Wimbledon, with the power to select a Mayor.

By the end of the first decade of the new century Wimbledon had established the beginnings of the Wimbledon School of Art at the Gladstone Road Technical Institute and acquired its first cinema and the theatre. Somewhat unusually, at its opening the theatre's facilities included a Turkish baths .

In 1931 the council built itself a new red brick and Portland stone Town Hall next to the station on the corner of Queen's Road and Wimbledon Bridge. The architects were Bradshaw Gass & Hope.

By the 1930s residential expansion had peaked in Wimbledon and the new focus for local growth had moved to neighbouring Morden which had remained rural until the arrival of the Underground at Morden station in 1926. Wimbledon station was rebuilt by Southern Railway with a simple Portland stone facade for the opening of a new railway branch line from Wimbledon to Sutton. The Wimbledon to Sutton line opened in 1930.

Damage to housing stock in Wimbledon and other parts of London during the Second World War led to the final major building phase when many of the earlier Victorian houses built with large grounds in Wimbledon Park were sub-divided into apartments or demolished and replaced with apartment blocks. Other parts of Wimbledon Park which had previously escaped being built upon saw local authority estates constructed by the borough council to house some of those who had lost their homes.

In 1965, the London Government Act 1963 abolished the Municipal Borough of Wimbledon, the Merton and Morden Urban District and the Municipal Borough of Mitcham and in their place created the London Borough of Merton. Initially, the new borough's administrative centre was at Wimbledon Town Hall but this moved to the fourteen-storey Crown House in Morden in the early 1990s.

During the 1970s and 1980s Wimbledon town centre struggled to compete commercially with the more developed centres at Kingston and Sutton. Part of the problem was the shortage of locations for large anchor stores to attract customers. After a number of years in which the council seemed unable to find a solution The Centre Court shopping centre was developed on land next to the station providing the much needed focus for retail expansion. The shopping centre incorporated the old town hall building. A new portico, in keeping with the old work, was designed by Sir George Grenfell-Baines who had worked on the original designs over fifty years earlier.

 

Geography

Aerial view of Wimbledon from the north in August 2015, with Wimbledon Park (left) and the All-England Club, the venue for the Wimbledon Championships (right).

Wimbledon lies in the south west area of London, south of Wandsworth, west of Mitcham, north of Sutton and east of Kingston upon Thames on the outskirts of Greater London. It is 7 miles (11.3 km) south-west of the centre of London at Charing Cross. It is considered an affluent suburb with a mix of grand Victorian houses, modern housing and low rise apartments. The residential area is split into two sections known as the village and the town, with the village, near the common, centred on the High street being part of the original medieval village, and now a prime residential area of London commanding high prices, and the "town" being part of the modern development, centred on The Broadway, since the building of the railway station in 1838.

The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London.

The population consists around 57,000 adults, the majority in the ABC1 social group. The population grew from around 1,000 at the start of the 19th century to around 55,000 in 1911, a figure which has remained reasonably stable since.

Governance

At the time the Domesday Book was compiled (around 1087), Wimbledon was part of the manor of Mortlake. From 1328 to 1536 a manor of Wimbledon was recorded as belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The ownership of the manor of Wimbledon changed hands many times during its history. Wimbledon formed the name of a larger borough of Wimbledon and was within the county of Surrey; it was absorbed into the London Borough of Merton as part of the creation of Greater London in 1965. It is in the Parliamentary constituency of Wimbledon, and since 2005 it has been represented by Conservative MP Stephen Hammond.

In 2012 the businesses in Wimbledon voted for the introduction of a Business Improvement District. Love Wimbledon was formed in April 2012, funded and managed by the business community to promote and enhance the town center.

The Tennis Championships

In the 1870s, at the bottom of the hill on land between the railway line and Worple Road, the All-England Croquet Club had begun to hold its annual championships. But the popularity of croquet was waning as the new sport of lawn tennis began to spread and after initially setting aside just one of its lawns for tennis, the club decided to hold its first Lawn Tennis Championship in July 1877. By 1922, the popularity of tennis had grown to the extent that the club's small ground could no longer cope with the numbers of spectators and the renamed All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club moved to new grounds close to Wimbledon Park.

Wimbledon historian Richard Milward recounts how King George V opened the new courts. "He (the king) gave three blows on a gong, the tarpaulins were removed, the first match started - and the rain came down..." The club's old grounds continue to be used as the sports ground for Wimbledon High School.

New Wimbledon Theatre

The New Wimbledon Theatre is a Grade II listed Edwardian theatre built by J B Mullholland as the Wimbledon Theatre on the site of a large house with spacious grounds. The theatre was designed by Cecil Aubrey Masey and Roy Young (possibly following a 1908 design by Frank H Jones). The theatre opened its doors on 26 December 1910 with the pantomime Jack and Jill. It was very popular between the wars, with appearances by Gracie Fields, Sybil Thorndike, Ivor Novello, Markova and Noël Coward. Lionel Bart's Oliver! and Half A Sixpence starring Tommy Steele received their world première at the theatre in the 1960s before transferring to the West End.

The theatre was saved from redevelopment when it was bought by the Ambassador Theatre Group in 2004. With several refurbishments, most notably in 1991 and 1998, it retains its baroque and Adamesque internal features. The golden statue atop the dome is Laetitia, the Roman Goddess of Gaiety and was an original fixture back in 1910. Laetitia is holding a laurel crown as a symbol of celebration. The statue was removed during the Second World War as it was thought to be a direction finding device for German bombers, and replaced in 1991.

Polka Theatre, Wimbledon

Polka Theatre is a children’s theatre in Wimbledon, London Borough of Merton, for children aged 0 – 13. The theatre contains two performance spaces - a 300-seat main auditorium and a 70-seat studio dedicated to early years performances. As well as the theatre, Polka also has a creative learning studio, a garden, an outdoor playground, indoor play area, exhibition spaces and a cafe. Polka is a producing theatre which also tours shows nationally and internationally, and provides a range of education and community engagement programmes for children.

Polka Theatre is a registered charity and an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. It is also funded by the London Borough of Merton and a number of private charitable trusts and foundations, individuals and commercial companies. All of these locatioons can be visited when a Minicab or Executive Taxi is booked with Ridesmiths.

The theatre (formerly the Holy Trinity Halls in Wimbledon) opened in November 1979.

Transport

  • Wimbledon station
  • Wimbledon Chase railway station
  • Raynes Park railway station
  • Wimbledon Park
  • South Wimbledon

Literature

In the world of literature, Wimbledon provides the principal setting for several comic novels by author Nigel Williams (including the best-selling The Wimbledon Poisoner and They Came from SW19) as well as for Elisabeth Beresford's series of children's stories about the Wombles.

Wimbledon was also the site where the sixth Martian invasion cylinder landed in H.G. Wells' book The War of the Worlds and is mentioned briefly in his books, The Time Machine and When the Sleeper Wakes.

Each October thousands attend the Wimbledon BookFest which has been running since 2006. Over 60 events are held around Wimbledon including at the Big Tent on the Common.

 

Wimbledons local newpaper is The Wimbledon Guardian 

 

Should you require a taxi or mini cab whilst in Wimbledon please contact the team at Ridesmiths