Possibly one of Wimbledon Village’s best-kept secrets, Southside House is an absolute gem of a heritage property.
Packed with treasures and memorabilia, the house serves as the enchanting backdrop to one family’s story through the centuries. It is also home to a mix of cultural and community events.
History of the house
Southside House’s story begins in the 17th century. After the English Civil War, King Charles II, the so-called ‘Merry Monarch’ had been living in exile in Holland, along with his entourage – including his friend, Robert Pennington.
Following the Restoration in 1660, Robert Pennington returned to London. After his son died in the Great Plague, he took up residence in Holme Farm, on the south side of Wimbledon Common, seeking refuge in this quiet village, a few miles from the capital.
Southside House was built by Dutch architects, who incorporated the original farmhouse into its design. When you visit, look out for two niches either side of the front door containing statues of Plenty and Spring – they are said to be the likenesses of Pennington’s wife and daughter.
The building was later re-fashioned in the style of William and Mary and passed down the generations of Robert Pennington’s descendants – the Pennington-Mellor-Munthes. Over the years, the house was maintained in a traditional style. Crammed with art, furniture and possessions, it offers a fascinating insight into changing times. Artefacts also reveal the Pennington-Mellor-Munthe family’s many famous connections; from Queen Natalie of Serbia and the poet Lord Byron to Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton.
The house eventually came into the possession of Malcolm Munthe, who worked behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied Scandinavia. After the war, he took on the painstaking restoration of the house, creating the intriguing museum that can be visited today.
Southside House is still cared for by Robert Pennington’s descendants, as a residence and a museum, administered by the Pennington Mellor Munthe Charity Trust. You can visit the house and take a guided tour. It is also the venue for a wide range of artistic and cultural events, as well as community initiatives; A level art students use the house as a creative space; there’s a children’s charity Christmas party and summer holiday workshops for young musicians. The house recently featured in the news for offering a home to a young Syrian refugee.
When you visit, make sure you check out the Southside House gardens for secret pathways, a woodland wilderness, follies and water features. The gardens are home to plenty of wildlife species too, from woodpeckers and tawny owls to newts and toads.
When to visit
The house is open for guided tours from Easter Saturday to the last Sunday in September, on Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and public holiday afternoons, at 2pm and 3.30pm. Gates open 20 minutes before each tour and you can book online. Groups of 15 or more can enjoy an evening tour of Southside House by candlelight, including prosecco. Find out more here.
The house has hosted a range of literary, artistic and musical events – including Wimbledon’s Bookfest Spring Weekend in March. Coming up later in 2019, look out for the Jigsaw Players 10th anniversary viola concert, featuring recent masterpieces composed for the instrument. Later in the year, you can catch celebrated jazz pianist Toby Boalch and vocalist Brigitte Beraha.
Find out more about the house, and upcoming events on the Southside House website.
Charming and eclectic, Southside House is one of the quirky finds that make Wimbledon Village such a special part of South West London. To learn more about the village, read our area guide, and if you’re thinking of making a home here, contact us to discuss our selection of properties.
Photo Credit – Southside house