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Wimbledon town centre
Wimbledon shown within Greater London
|OS grid reference|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||SW16 SW17 SW19 SW20|
|London Assembly||Merton and Wandsworth|
Wimbledon town centre
Wimbledon shown within Greater London
|OS grid reference|
|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||SW16 SW17 SW19 SW20|
|London Assembly||Merton and Wandsworth|
Wimbledon // is a suburban district of southwest London, England, in the London Borough of Merton, located south of Battersea, northeast of Kingston upon Thames, northwest of Mitcham, west of Streatham and north of Sutton. It is situated within Greater London.
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 area is split into two sections known as the "village" and the "town", with the High Street being part of the original medieval village, and the "town" being part of the modern development since 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 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 stagecoach run 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 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 most of the north and west has been represented by Conservative MP Stephen Hammond., while the eastern and southern parts by Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh.
Wimbledon has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age when the hill fort on Wimbledon Common is thought to have been constructed. The original centre 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 I held 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 House, was constructed and gardens laid out in the formal Elizabethan style.
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.
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 (then called 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 situated to the 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.
To the south of the common, the early-18th-century Warren House (called Cannizaro House from 1841) was home to a series of grand residents.
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 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 got its first police station in 1870, situated in Victoria Crescent. 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).
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 .
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.
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 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.
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 had its own 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.
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.
Although probably best known as the home of tennis, this was not the first sport to bring international fame to Wimbledon.
Wimbledon has also been well known for another period of sporting fame. From a small, long-established non-League team, Wimbledon Football Club had, from 1977, climbed quickly through the ranks of the Football League structure, reaching the highest national professional league in 1986 and winning the FA Cup against Liverpool in 1988.
However, the proximity of other more established teams, such as Chelsea and Fulham and its small ground, meant that the club struggled to increase its fan base to the size needed to maintain a top-flight team. In 2000 the team was relegated from the top division of English football after 14 years.
Wimbledon moved into a stadium at Plough Lane in 1912 and played there for 79 years, until beginning a groundshare with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park near Croydon, as their progress through the Football League meant that redeveloping Plough Lane to the required modern standards was impractical. The stadium stood dormant for 10 years until it was finally demolished in 2001. A housing development now occupies the site.
In May 2002, an FA commission controversially allowed the owners of the club to relocate 70 miles north to the town of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, despite vehement fan protests. This represented a previously unheard-of acceptance by the FA of American style sports team franchising, and the decision was universally criticised.
As soon as The Football Association approved this move in May 2002, former Wimbledon F.C. supporters founded their own replacement club, the semi-professional AFC Wimbledon, and the club's support overwhelmingly shifted to the new team, who in their second and third seasons of existence earned successive promotions to the First then Premier Divisions of the Isthmian League. The club also won the Combined Counties League Premier Challenge Cup in 2004 and the Surrey Senior Cup in 2005 to complete consecutive league and cup doubles, one of which finishing the season unbeaten in the league. Another great achievement by the Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association (WISA) saw the return of the Patrimony of Wimbledon F.C. in 2007 to care of Merton Council There is now a permanent display in Morden Library. In 2008 and 2009, AFC Wimbledon earned two more promotions, via the Conference South into the Conference Premier. On 21 May 2011, promotion to the football league was achieved when AFC Wimbledon won their Conference Premier play-off against Luton Town on penalty kicks (after a goalless draw and extra time) at City of Manchester Stadium This put Wimbledon back into English Football League, a remarkable achievement in such a short time. They are now only separated by one division from the much-maligned MK Dons.
In the 1860s, the newly formed National Rifle Association held its first competition on Wimbledon Common. The association and the annual competition grew rapidly and by the early 1870s, rifle ranges were established on the common. In 1878 the competitions were lasting two weeks and attracting nearly 2,500 competitors, housed in temporary camps set up across the common. By the 1880s, however, the power and range of rifles had advanced to the extent that shooting in an increasingly populated area was no longer considered safe. The last meeting was held in 1889 before the NRA moved to Bisley in Surrey.
Wimbledon Village Stables is the oldest recorded riding stables in England. The late Richard Milward MA, a renowned local historian, researched the background of horses in Wimbledon over the years and found that the first recorded stables belonged to the Lord of the Manor, and are detailed in the Estate’s accounts of 1236-37. Stables on the current site, behind the Dog & Fox pub in the High Street, were founded in 1915 by William Kirkpatrick and named Hilcote Stables; William’s daughter Jean took over on his retirement and continued to visit the stables until her death in 2005. From 1969 Hilcote Stables was leased to Colin Crawford, and when it came up for sale in 1980 it was renamed Wimbledon Village Stables. It is now Approved by both the British Horse Society Association of British Riding Schools and offers horse riding lessons and hacks on Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park.
In 1792 the Rev. Daniel Lysons published The Environs of London: being an historical account of the towns, villages, and hamlets, within twelve miles of that capital in which he wrote: "In the early part of the present century there were annual races upon this common, which had then a King's plate." However, he gives no further details and does not say how successful the horse racing was or how long it lasted.
Speedway began at Wimbledon Stadium in 1928 and the local team, the "Dons", was very successful over the decades.
The team started out in 1929 as members of the Southern League and operated until the Second World War. The track re-opened in 1946 and the Dons operated in the top flight for many years. In the 1950s the track was home to two World Champions in Ronnie Moore and Barry Briggs.
In the Dons' last season, 2005, the team finished 2nd in The National Conference League. However, following the collapse of lease renewal talks between the speedway promoters and the Greyhound Racing Association (the owners of the stadium) due to the high increase in rent required by the GRA, the team were wound up. Greyhound racing and Stock car racing continue to take place.
There is an active running club in Wimbledon called the Windmilers. The club includes some top athletes as well as beginners.
A parkrun is held every Saturday morning at 9am which sees in excess of 300 runners complete 5 km. The course starts and finishes at the Windmill. Prior to parkrun a similar event was held known as the Wimbledon Common Time Trial.
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 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.
The theatre (formerly the Holy Trinity Halls in Wimbledon) opened in November 1979.
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.
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