The History of Wimbledon

[vc_row el_class=”content pd-l mg-t mg-b-large mg-t-none-md”][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Fascinating history of Wimbledon” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner offset=”vc_col-lg-6 vc_col-xs-12″][vc_column_text]Wimbledon is often described as one of London’s most perfect villages, full of beautiful shops, prime period properties and outdoor spaces. It’s no surprise, therefore, that this part of south-west London attracts discerning buyers who are looking for beautiful houses and flats in a ‘village-like’ atmosphere, with excellent facilities, transport links and bustling pubs, wine bars and restaurants.

As well as this, SW19 also has an intriguing story behind it, interwoven throughout the history books. The area is known for being the birthplace of writer Raymond Briggs and actors Martin Clunes and Oliver Reed, but long before they – or even the Wombles – made Wimbledon their home ancient Greeks and Romans settled here. In fact, evidence exists that during this period there was a full-on iron fortress built on what we now call Wimbledon Common.

The original nucleus of Wimbledon was at the top of the hill where “the Village” can be found today. However, a charter signed by King Edgar the Peaceful in 967 refers to this area as “Wimbedounyng”. In Anglo-Saxon times, Wimbledon was known as “Wynnman’s hill”. Wynmann was a local landowner, while the “don” part of the area’s modern-day name derives from “dun” – the old English word for hill.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner offset=”vc_col-lg-6 vc_col-xs-12″][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][vc_single_image image=”2152″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row bg_type=”bg_color” bg_override=”full” el_class=”content pd-l pd-t-large pd-b-large” bg_color_value=”#ebf1fb”][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Early history” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner offset=”vc_col-lg-6 vc_col-xs-12″][vc_empty_space height=”10px”][vc_single_image image=”2153″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner offset=”vc_col-lg-6 vc_col-xs-12″][vc_column_text]When the Domesday Book was compiled around 1087, Wimbledon was part of the manor of Mortlake, and so was not recorded. According to the history books, the ownership of the manor of Wimbledon changed hands many times, held by the church until 1398 when Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Arundel fell out of favour with Richard II and was exiled. The manor was then confiscated and became crown property until the reign of Henry VIII when it was granted to Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex. Cromwell was executed in 1540 and the land was confiscated again, but it came into the hands of Henry VIII’s final wife and widow Catherine Parr until she died in 1548, when it was once again returned to the monarch.

Henry’s daughter Mary I gave the manor to Cardinal Reginald Pole, who kept it until his death in 1558, when Elizabeth I took it back and then gave it to Christopher Hatton, an English politician. He sold it the same year to Sir Thomas Cecil, Earl of Essex. The lands of the manor were given to the Cecil family in 1588 and a new manor house, Wimbledon Palace constructed and the gardens laid out in the more formal Elizabethan style.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row el_class=”content pd-l mg-t mg-b-large mg-t-none-md”][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”17th, 18th & 19th Century ” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner offset=”vc_col-lg-6 vc_col-xs-12″][vc_column_text]The proximity of Wimbledon to central London started to appeal to wealthy families. In 1613, Robert Bell, a director of the British East India Company, built Eagle House as a home close to London. As well as this, Charles I purchased the manor back from the Cecil family in 1638 for his Queen, Henrietta Maria. She then sold the manor in 1661 to George Digby, Earl of Bristol, who upgraded the landscape. On his death in 1677, the manor was once again sold on to the Lord High Treasurer, Thomas Osborne, Earl of Danby. The manor was next sold to Sir Theodore Janssen in 1712 and then Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, who increased the land belonging to the manor. Her death meant the property passed to her grandson, John Spencer, who later became the first Earl Spencer.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][ultimate_modal modal_title=”17th, 18th & 19th Century” modal_on=”text” modal_on_align=”left” read_text=”Click here to read more” txt_color=”#17347a” modal_size=”block” overlay_bg_opacity=”80″ header_bg_color=”#0e396d” header_text_color=”#ffffff”]The 1735 manor house was destroyed by fire in the 1780s and replaced with Wimbledon Park House in 1801 by the second Earl. During this time the manor lands included Wimbledon Common and the parkland around the manor house.

In the first decades of the 19th century, Wimbledon’s largely rural population lived alongside nobility and wealthy merchants from the city. Upheaval came in 1838 with the opening of the London and South Western Railway, which brought a station to the south east of the village at the bottom of the hill.  Transport links expanded further with a line to Croydon being built in in 1855 and a line to Tooting following in 1868. The District Railway further extended its service over new tracks from Putney in 1889.

In the second half of the 19th century, Wimbledon experienced an increase in its population. In the 1851 census, there were a small base of just under 2,700 residents recorded, but the population grew by no less than 60% each decade up to 1901 during which time many villas and terraced houses were built along the roads from the centre towards Putney, Merton Park and Raynes Park.

There was also a lot of commercial development in the town in this period. Ely’s department store opened in 1876 and shops began to spring up across the Broadway towards Merton. The area got its first police station in 1870 and a library opened in 1887. As well as this, St Mary’s Church was rebuilt in 1849, Christ Church was constructed in 1859 and Trinity Church followed in 1862.

All of these developments made travel easier and cheaper. The new links to the City attracted more affluent families and they purchased large houses with servants needed to maintain them. Wimbledon’s reputation as an affluent suburb started to grow, with new houses popping up in the 1850s south of the Ridgway with small cottages also built. New roads were also built close by: Ridgway Place, Grosvenor Hill, Sunnyside and South (or Denmark) Road were the first to appear, followed by Clifton Road. Grange and Lauriston Roads in the 1880s and 90s and Murray Road in 1905.[/ultimate_modal][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner offset=”vc_col-lg-6 vc_col-xs-12″][vc_single_image image=”2154″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row bg_type=”bg_color” bg_override=”full” el_class=”content pd-l pd-t-large pd-b-large” bg_color_value=”#ebf1fb”][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Modern history” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner offset=”vc_col-lg-6 vc_col-xs-12″][vc_empty_space height=”10px”][vc_single_image image=”2155″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner offset=”vc_col-lg-6 vc_col-xs-12″][vc_column_text]By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, the Wimbledon School of Art had been established and the town acquired its first cinema and theatre. Bizarrely, there was also a Turkish baths included in the theatre’s facilities! The population also continued to grow, so the urban district was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Wimbledon, with the power to select a Mayor.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”15px”][ultimate_modal modal_title=”Modern History” modal_on=”text” modal_on_align=”left” read_text=”Click here to read more ” txt_color=”#17347a” modal_size=”block” overlay_bg_opacity=”80″ header_bg_color=”#0e396d” header_text_color=”#ffffff”]By the 1930s, residential expansion peaked in Wimbledon and Morden was growing instead.  The area had remained rural until the arrival of the underground at the station in 1926. However, damage to housing stock in Wimbledon and other parts of London led to a final building stage, with many of the earlier Victorian houses built with large grounds in Wimbledon Park and sub-divided into apartments or demolished. Other parts of Wimbledon Park saw local authority estates constructed by the borough council to house some of those who lost their homes.

The London Borough of Merton was created in 1965, under the London Government Act, 1963. Later, during the 1970s and 1980s the town centre failed to compete with the bigger chains in Kingston and Sutton, part of the problem being that there was a shortage of locations for large anchor stores to attract customers. This led to the development of The Centre Court shopping centre on land next to the station, to expand on the retail expansion of Wimbledon. The shopping centre incorporated the old town hall building and a new portico was designed by Sir George Grenfell-Baines who worked on the original design over 50 years earlier.

Wimbledon is an exciting and interesting place to live, with a rich history that is well worth exploring. If you’re out and about in Wimbledon, have a look at some of the interesting exhibitions and museums in the area – such as Wimbledon Museum – where there’s so much to do, see and learn.[/ultimate_modal][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_row equal_height=”yes” bg_type=”bg_color” el_class=”pd-t-large pd-b-large”][vc_column el_class=”box border-box padding-box download-box-sm mg-b-md” offset=”vc_col-lg-4 vc_col-md-4 vc_col-xs-12″][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_empty_space height=”20″ el_class=”hidden-sm hidden-xs”][vc_column_text]

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