Learn more about Wimbledon, London
- This article is for the district of London, for the Tennis championship, see The Championships, Wimbledon
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|OS grid reference:||TQ239709|
|County level:||Greater London|
|Sovereign state:||United Kingdom|
|Ceremonial county:||Greater London|
|Police force:||Metropolitan Police|
|Fire brigade:||London Fire Brigade|
|Ambulance service:||London Ambulance|
|Post office and telephone|
|Postal district:||SW19, SW20|
|London Assembly:||Merton and Wandsworth|
|London | List of places in London|
For most of the past one hundred years, Wimbledon has been best known as the home of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.
The original meaning of the name is uncertain. The current spelling appears to have been settled on relatively recently in the early 19th century, the last in a long line of variations.
 Early history
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".
In 1087 when the Domesday Book was compiled, Wimbledon was part of the manor of Mortlake. 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.
 16th century
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 was constructed and gardens laid out in the formal Elizabethan style.
 17th century
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.
 18th century
The Osborne family sold the manor to 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 Janssen'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 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.
 19th century
|19th Century||20th Century|
|source: UK census|
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 ownership of the common was transferred to a board of conservators for preservation 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 Metropolitan 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 fifteen-fold in fifty years. During this time large numbers of villas and terraced houses were built out 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).
 20th century
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 new 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 custom. 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.
 Present day
As it was in the 16th and 17th century, Wimbledon's attraction remains its combination of convenient access to central London with the benefit of plentiful recreational facilities. Strong demand for homes, especially the larger properties in the Wimbledon Village and Wimbledon Park areas, has seen prices increase to amongst the highest in the outer London area.
Wimbledon Village provides a good collection of quality bistros, restaurants and pubs and during the fortnight of the tennis championship the streets are crowded with visitors enjoying the facilities. The newly reopened New Wimbledon Theatre on the Broadway is also extremely popular throughout London, bringing in a large majority of West End productions.
Although now best known as the home of tennis, this was not the first sport to bring Wimbledon national fame.
 Rifle shooting
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.
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 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.
Wimbledon has also been known for another brief period of sporting fame. From a small, long-established non-League team, Wimbledon Football Club had, starting in 1977, climbed quickly through the ranks of the football league structure, reaching the highest league in 1986 and winning the FA Cup against Liverpool in 1988.
However, the close proximity of other more established teams such as Chelsea and Fulham and its small ground, meant that the club was never able to develop its fan base to the size needed to maintain a top flight team. In 2000 the team was demoted from the top division of English football after 14 years - the start of a rapid decline.
Having already played their matches outside their home territory at neighbouring Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park since 1991 when the Plough Lane ground was closed for safety reasons, an FA commission allowed the owners to move the club 70 miles north to Milton Keynes in 2003, despite fan protests. The team now plays under the name Milton Keynes Dons F.C. and has cut any connections to Wimbledon.
As soon as The Football Association approved this move in May 2002, former Wimbledon FC supporters founded the semi-professional AFC Wimbledon, and WFC's support overwhelmingly shifted to AFCW, who in their second and third seasons earned successive promotions to the First and 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.
 Horse racing
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, the racing of motorcycles on dirt track circuits, introduced to the UK from Australia in the 1920s, began at Wimbledon Stadium in 1928. The last events were held in 2005 after lease renewal talks between the landlords of the stadium the GRA (Greyhound Racing Association), and the speedway promotion were unsuccessful. 
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.
 Famous residents past and present
- Lord Baden-Powell - founder of the Scout movement; wrote parts of Scouting for Boys while staying at the windmill on Wimbledon Common
- Michael Ballack - Chelsea F.C. football player and captain of German national team
- Joseph Bazalgette - civil engineer; his creation in the mid 19th century of the sewer network for central London eliminated the incidence of cholera epidemics
- Adrian Borland - Post-punk pioneer/songwriter
- Richard Briers - actor
- Raymond Briggs - cartoonist
- Josephine Butler - feminist campaigner of the Victorian era
- Charles Alexandre de Calonne - French statesman
- Duke & Duchess of Cannizaro
- Ernst Boris Chain - joint winner of the 1945 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of penicillin
- William Congreve - inventor
- Annette Crosbie - actress
- Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville - Home Secretary and Secretary of State for War to William Pitt the Younger (who himself spent a lot of his time in Wimbledon)
- Hugh Dowding - commander of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain in 1940.
- Ford Madox Ford - novelist
- John William Godward - painter
- Robert Graves - poet
- George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen - prime minister 1852-55; resident of Cannizaro House 
- Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia - guest at a house in Parkside while in exile from Ethiopia owing to the Italian invasion; his statue stands in Cannizaro Park 
- Tubby Hayes - jazz saxophonist
- Ted Heath - bandleader
- Georgette Heyer - novelist, was born and grew up in Wimbledon. She wrote her first five novels there. A later novel, 'Pastel', is set in a suburb very like Wimbledon.
- Leslie Hore-Belisha, 1st Baron Hore-Belisha - while Minister of Transport, 1934-7, he introduced the driving test and the Belisha Beacon; then Secretary of State for War, 1937-40
- Thomas Hughes - author of Tom Brown's Schooldays which was written in Wimbledon
- James Hunt - 1976 Formula 1 World Champion
- Don Lang - Britain's answer to Bill Haley; with his band, a mainstay of Britain's first television rock and roll programme Six-Five Special
- Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer - English scientist and astronomer; joint discoverer of helium
- John Lyde-Brown director of the Bank of England; resident of Cannizaro House ; his collection of classical sculpture was acquired by Catherine II of Russia in 1787 and is held by the Hermitage Museum
- Frederick Marryat - novelist
- Lord Horatio Nelson - Admiral. Nelson's estate, Merton Place, included part of Wimbledon at the eastern end of the Broadway , though, strictly he was a resident of Merton the neighbouring parish.
- Sharon Osbourne - A music manager, chat show host and personality
- Charles Pepys, 1st Earl of Cottenham - Lord Chancellor
- Oliver Reed - actor
- Margaret Rutherford - actress
- Jack Stanley - Actor
- Jamie T - singer/songwriter and musician
- Ralph Tubbs - architect; his buildings include the Dome of Discovery and Charing Cross Hospital
- Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham - twice Prime Minister
- June Whitfield - actress
- William Wilberforce - 19th century anti-slavery campaigner
- Merton Park
- Raynes Park
- New Malden
- Kingston upon Thames
- South Wimbledon
Major public open spaces close by:
Local football teams:
Some local schools:
- King's College School, Southside, Wimbledon
- Rutlish School, Watery Lane, Merton Park
- Wimbledon College, Edge Hill, Wimbledon
- Ursuline High School, Crescent Road, Wimbledon
- Donhead Lodge (Boys School), Edge Hill, Wimbledon
- Wimbledon High School (Girls School), Mansel Road, Wimbledon
Some local churches:
Some local scout groups:
- 8th Wimbledon Scout Group
- Ninth Wimbledon Scout Troop, Edge Hill, Wimbledon
Nearest railway stations:
Nearest Underground stations:
 External links
- London Borough of Merton
- 1871 to 1874 Ordnance Survey Map of Wimbledon Showing Wimbledon Village the station and Wimbledon Park House, Wimbledon House and Cannizaro House
- Stanford's 1862 Library Map of London and its Suburbs
- Complete Guide to Wimbledon
- WHSA - Wimbledon High School Parents Association
- Live video of Wimbledon town centre
- Wimbledon first online community portal
- Milward, Richard (1989). Historic Wimbledon, Caesar's Camp to Centre Court. The Windrush Press and Fielders of Wimbledon. ISBN 0-900075-16-3
- Brown, John W. (1991). Lysons's History of Wimbledon. Local History Reprints. ISBN 1-85699-021-4