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Wimbledon is a suburb in south west Londonmarker, part of the London Borough of Mertonmarker and located from Charing Crossmarker. The area is identified in the London Plan as one of 35 major centres in Greater London. For most of the past one hundred years, Wimbledon has been internationally known as the home of the Wimbledon Tennis Championshipsmarker.



The name Wimbledon means "Wynnman's hill", with the final element of the name being the Old English dun (hill). The current spelling appears to have been settled on relatively recently in the early 19th century, the last in a long line of variations.

The village is referred to as "Wimbedounyng" in a charter signed by King Edgar the Peaceful in 967 and is shown on J Cary's 1786 map of the London area as "Wimbleton".

Early history

Wimbledon has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age when the hill fort on Wimbledon Commonmarker 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 Mortlakemarker. 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 Leedsmarker 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 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 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 Portsmouthmarker 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 Commonmarker (then called a heath) and the enclosed parkland around the manor house. The area of the park corresponded to the modern Wimbledon Parkmarker 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 Housemarker from 1841) was home to a series of grand residents.

19th century

Wimbledon's Population
19th Century 20th Century
1801 1,591 1901 41,652
1811 1,914 1911 54,966
1821 2,195 1921 61,418
1831 2,195 1931 59,524
1841 2,630 1941¹ war
1851 2,693 1951 58,141
1861 4,644 1961 57,312
1871 9,087 1971 53,844
1881 15,951 1981 47,834
1891 25,761 1991² n/a
  1. no census was held due to war
  2. census data no longer relates to parish boundaries
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 Parkmarker 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 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 fifteenfold 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 Parkmarker and Raynes Parkmarker.

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).

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.

20th century

The Broadway, looking east from Wimbledon Bridge
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 Wimbledonmarker, 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 Artmarker 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 Mordenmarker which had remained rural until the arrival of the Underground at Morden stationmarker in 1926. Wimbledon stationmarker was rebuilt by Southern Railway with a simple Portland stone facade for the opening of a new railway branch line from Wimbledon to Suttonmarker. 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.

54 Parkside is home to the Papal Nuncio (ambassador) to Great Britain.

During the 1970s and 1980s Wimbledon town centre struggled to compete commercially with the more developed centres at Kingstonmarker and Suttonmarker. 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. 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.

Present day

As it was in the 16th and 17th centuries, 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 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 Theatremarker on the Broadway is also popular throughout London, bringing in a large number of West End productions.

There is a Buddhist temple where on 15 August of every year a chariot festival takes place, open to the general public.


Although now best known as the home of tennis, this was not the first sport to bring Wimbledon national fame.


Wimbledon has also been well known for another 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 national professional 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 never developed 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 - the beginning of what could have been the end.

Having already played their matches outside their home territory at neighbouring Crystal Palace's Selhurst Parkmarker since 1991 when their former Plough Lanemarker ground was left for financial reasons, an FA commission controversially allowed the owners of the club to relocate 70 miles north to the town of Milton Keynesmarker 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 FC 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 National, placing them just one promotion away from The Football League.

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 Bisleymarker in Surreymarker.


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 Clubmarker 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 Schoolmarker.

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.

Motorcycle Speedway at Wimbledon Stadium

For many years Wimbledon Stadiummarker has been host to Greyhound racing [14144] as well as Stock car racing [14145] and Speedway.

Speedway began at Wimbledon Stadiummarker 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 finshed 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 running event held on Wimbledon Common every week is the Wimbledon Common Time Trial, which was the second running event in a collection of Time Trials. The run is 5 km and timed by volunteers every Saturday morning at 9am.


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.

Notable residents

Only a few particularly notable names are listed here. See :Category:People from Wimbledon for a fuller list

Nearby places


Major public open spaces


Places of worship

Scout groups

Nearest railway stations

Nearest Underground stations


Wimbledon Village, High Street
Wimbledon Village, High Street
Wimbledon Village, High Street on the corner with Church Street
The Broadway at the junction with Queens Road
Wimbledon Bridge
The Broadway near Wimbledon Theatre


  1. Room, Adrian: “Dictionary of Place-Names in the British Isles”, Bloomsbury, 1988
  3. English Heritage - List of Blue Plaques, B
  4. English Heritage - List of Blue Plaques, D
  5. The Friends of Cannizaro Park - Statue of aile Selassie
  6. The Friends of Cannizaro Park - History
  7. London Borough of Merton, Nelson
  8. English Heritage - List of Blue Plaques, R
  9. English Heritage - List of Blue Plaques, S
  10. English Heritage - List of Blue Plaques, T
  • 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

External links

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