Wimbledon Heritage and Culture
Wimbledon’s inhabitance dates back to the Iron Age. The district has over 68,000 residents in present day, and the world knows the district for the famous Wimbledon Tennis Championship. The district is split into two areas: retail and residential areas.
High Street is where the original Medieval village stood. The railway station was the starting area of the town.
Brief History of Wimbledon
The Iron Age was important to Wimbledon, as the area was part of Mortlake manor. The manor became property of the crown in 1398 under Richard II after being owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The property was granted to Thomas Cromwell under Henry VIII.
Catherine Parr was granted the property before it reverted back to the crown following her death in 1548. The daughters of Henry VIII, Mary and Elizabeth, granted the rights to the land to several people before the Cecil family gained ownership.
Sir Thomas Cecil purchased the manor house, and the lands were transformed afterwards.
Wimbledon’s popularity grew among the nobility in the 17th century thanks to its close proximity to the capital. The manor transferred ownership numerous times in the 17th century, with the village continuing to grow.
The 19th century brought the South Western Railway to Wimbledon, with a rapid expansion in population in the second half of the century.
Culture grew in the district when the Literary Institute opened in the early 1860s along with the Wimbledon Library in the late 1880s. The first police station was erected in 1870.
Arts and Theatre
Wimbledon’s Art and Theatre culture is still growing. There are two main theatres standing: New Wimbledon Theatre and Polka Children’s Theatre. The New Wimbledon Theatre opened in 1910 and offers 1,670 seats over three levels.
The Grade II listed theatre thrived between wars, with Gracie Fields, Ivor Novello and numerous others taking stage.
Polka Children’s Theatre is a children’s theatre for children aged 0 – 13. The 300 seat theatre opened in 1979 and is a registered charity. The theatre offers community engagement and classes to help grow Wimbledon’s art and culture scene.
Wimbledon is also home to the Wimbledon Music Festival, which includes world class musicians and is held annually.
Notable literature contributions from Wimbledon include works from Nigel Williams. The author wrote They Came from SW19 and The Wimbledon Poisoner. Wimbledon was also mentioned in The War of the Worlds, penned by H.G. Wells.
The book mentions Wimbledon as the sixth invasion. When the Sleeper Wakes and The Time Machine, both books by Wells, mention Wimbledon.
Wimbledon BookFest is held in Wimbledon annually.
Wimbledon Tennis Championship
The Wimbledon Tennis Championships are held annually in the district. The Championships are of the utmost importance to the economy, with visitors from across the world coming to see the best in tennis face off.
Annual championships were held in the 1870s, but the sport was croquet at the time. The All-England Croquet Club held the annual meeting. Tennis was replacing croquet in popularity, with the first Lawn Tennis Championship held in 1887.
The sport’s popularity grew quickly, and by 1922, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet club moved near Wimbledon Park to accommodate the number of spectators attending the championships.
Wimbledon was the home of numerous notable residents, with the Duchess of Marlborough residing in Wimbledon from 1660 – 1744. Earls and Duchesses lived in Wimbledon, but beyond the wealthy were also numerous actors and actresses: Victoria Hamilton, Norman Coburn, Annette Crosbie, Ben Barnes, Ford Madox Ford, Oliver Reed, Margaret Rutherford and famous director Ridley Scott is from Wimbledon.
Joint winner of the Noble Prize Ernst Boris Chain was from Wimbledon.
Lawrence and Reginald Doherty, both Olympic gold medalists and winners of 13 and 12 Wimbledon Championships, were both residents of Wimbledon. Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons is from Wimbledon, too.
Notable Places to Visit in Wimbledon
Wimbledon’s history is best seen on The Broadway. The street offers ample sights to see, including:
The New Wimbledon Theatre
The Two Fat Ladies
Lara Craft Birthplace
When Broadway passes by Alexandra Road, you’ll come across Wimbledon Library, Bank Buildings, Bys and Wimbledon High School. A stroll down Worple Road leads to the site of the original Tennis Club. Continuing on Wimbledon Hill Road, you’ll come across:
The White House
Museum of Wimbledon
Dog and Fox
Old Fire Station
At the end of the road, it turns into High Street and leads directly to the Wimbledon Commons. Church Road, located near High Street, has numerous buildings of importance, including the All England Lawn and Tennis Club. The Dairy Walk is off the road, too.
St. Mary’s Road includes St. Mary’s Church, Stag Lodge and The Old Rectory.
Wimbledon does have several tour companies that will bring guests on a heritage walk to ensure that they get to see all the buildings and areas of historical and cultural importance.