The Wimbledon Way
Please click each numbered item to view a detailed description of each point of interest on the Way.
The Polka Theatre is a unique theatre for children. It was opened in 1979 by the Queen Mother, in a building which was originally the church hall of Trinity Church, to provide young audiences with their first taste of live theatre.
Designed for the actors of Wimbledon Theatre, the baths can be found downstairs in The Pod bar under the theatre.
The theatre first opened its doors on Boxing Day in 1910. Many famous actors have appeared and even started their careers there. The theatre has many stories to tell of star-studded performances, rich and famous guests, wartime fund-raising galas, threats of closure and stunning refurbishments. A performance by Gracie Fields was so popular that over 500 people were turned away after every ticket was sold. When the theatre was built it also housed Turkish Baths, parts of which still exist in the basement of what is now Bar Sia.
For Latin lovers the motto "Sine Labe Decus" means "Honour without Stain" and is inscribed on the coat of arms above Tesco Metro - granted in 1906 to the municipal borough of Wimbledon.
A popular statue affectionately dubbed "the two fat ladies" caused a local uproar when it was removed for roadworks in 2011. But was just temporary - the two fat ladies remain a permanent addition to Wimbledon town centre and were designed by Andre Wallace.
In the early nineties in a studio within the office block known locally as the “Fridge”, Lara Croft a fictional character in Tomb Raider was devised.
A local artist, Isabelle Southwood, has produced the sculpture of a stag; which becomes a landmark for Wimbledon on 21st June 2012. It was inspired by the architectural ornamental stag which sits upon Stag Lodge in Wimbledon Village. The artist’s vision was for the sculpture to link the heritage of Wimbledon Common with the busy urban environment of Wimbledon town, giving the impression that it has wandered down from its rural landscape.
The gold post box on Worple Road was painted to celebrate Sophie Hosking, who won the women’s lightweight double sculls to claim Britain’s fourth rowing gold medal of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Sophie is a Wimbledon resident and international rower.
Joseph Ely opened his first Elys store in 1876 on the corner of Alexandra Road, more or less opposite the present shop, which he opened 10 years later. When trams first linked Wimbledon with nearby towns, in the early 20th century, the tramline passed by Elys store. Tram conductors were known to have been "encouraged" by gifts of pullovers and gloves to shout "Elys Corner" at the appropriate point in the journey.
In 1887 the first “free” library was opened at its current site. At its opening the library had a stock of 6,000 books and within a year one in twelve of the local population had registered to use its facilities. Note the clever terracotta decorations in the form of bookshelves on the side of the locally listed building.
Bank Buildings is one of many locally listed buildings with interesting architectural building design to be found in the area. Built in 1886-87 this building is of Jacobean classical design – red brick, terracotta, extravagant classical detail around windows, doors, eaves, corner turrets and gables.
The All England Croquet Club was started in 1868 in Nursery Road. In 1875 the new game of Lawn Tennis was added to the club and in 1877 it was renamed the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club (now known as the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club - AELTC). In 1922, the AELTC moved to its current site in Church Road, when it was realised that the tournament was rapidly outgrowing Nursery Road.
Wimbledon High School, a private girls’ school on the corner of Mansel Road, opened in 1880. It was funded by the Girls’ Public Day Schools Trust which still owns it, and a number of other girls’ schools, today. The school sports field in Nursery Road once housed the original All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club which was founded in 1868 (originally called the All England Croquet Club). The Pavilion in the grounds of the original club is probably the only building still standing that hosted the London Olympic Games in 1908.
Much of Wimbledon Hill Road was bombed by V1s in the Second World War. On the left hand side nearing the top of the hill stands The White House, the only remaining example of the Victorian mansions which formerly graced this road. It was built in the 1860s and is said to be haunted by an immaculately dressed gentleman with grey hair and piercing blue eyes. He was thought to be a member of the Jones family who lived in the house from the time it was built until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.
At the top of the hill, the Village proper begins, marked by a drinking fountain erected in 1868 in memory of Joseph Toynbee. The fountain is in front of a bank building (1895), not in the usual solid style, but with a decorative turret.
The Museum of Wimbledon is open at weekends from 2.30pm-5pm. It is situated over the Village Club at 22 Ridgway. The museum was first established by volunteers from the area in 1916 and is run by the Wimbledon Society, one of the oldest civic societies in England. The museum holds information and exhibits of Wimbledon’s heritage and much more besides.
The nineteenth century saw an explosive growth in the population of Wimbledon, from under 2,000 in 1831 to 55,000 in 1911, as new transport and communications systems brought Wimbledon so much closer to London. Shops and services grew to provide for the new population. The Bakery has been in use from 1860. Ronald B Gravestock was the baker from 1932-83.
There has been an inn on the site of the Dog and Fox since 1617 – initially recorded as My Lord’s Arms. It was used in 1797 for meetings for Volunteers, a forerunner of the Home Guard set up to repel any Napoleonic invasion, and the land behind the inn was used to drill the men. The stables at the rear are still in use.
The Old Fire Station with bell tower and clock was built in 1890 and is now a listed building. From 1869 the Village had been protected by a volunteer fire brigade operating with hand pumps from a shed next to the Dog and Fox.
In 1613 Eagle House was built for Robert Bell, a prosperous merchant dealing in diverse items such as elephant’s teeth and exotic spices. He also engaged in diplomacy, delivering letters from James I to the Emperor of China and the King of Japan. In 1787 it became the “Wimbledon School for Young Noblemen and Gentlemen”. Although Eagle House has passed through many hands, most recently being the centre for an Islamic foundation, it still stands in the Village as a fine example of the architecture of the time, though sadly, not often accessible to the public.
Wimbledon Common is designated an area of scientific interest due to the varied and unusual species of flora and fauna. Being an unfenced Common, the whole area is open to the public 24 hours a day throughout the year. On an average weekend there can be some 10,000 visitors and users.
It is evident from the discovery of Neolithic hunting tools and Bronze Age round barrows, that Wimbledon Common has been used since ancient times. Wimbledon’s earliest evidence of habitation is the Iron Age fort on Wimbledon Common. Wimbledon is mentioned in the Domesday Book as part of the Manor of Mortlake.
At the heart of the Common lies the Wimbledon Windmill, a hollow post mill built in 1817 by local carpenter Charles March. It ceased working as a mill in 1864 and was later converted into cottages. In the adjoining Mill House Robert Baden Powell wrote “Scouting for Boys” (1907), the book which led to the creation of the Boy Scout movement. The Windmill now houses the Windmill Museum.
The Common is also famous for the ‘Wombles’. Created by author Elisabeth Beresford the Wombles originally appeared in a series of children's novels from 1968. Although Wombles supposedly live in every country in the world, the stories are concerned with the lives of the inhabitants of the burrow on Wimbledon Common.
A right of way since the 16th Century, Dairy Walk linked St Mary’s Church and Manor Farm.
At the start of this lane is a white cross of wood mounted on a white pole. This is a very basic turnstile marking the way through into Dairy Walk.
The Stag marked the gatehouse to Earl Spencer’s Estate. The Stag was removed for safety during World War II but was lost (replacement stag is in place). The Stag was the inspiration for the new art installation at Wimbledon Station in 2012.
The first record of a church building on this site was in the 1086 Domesday Book where the survey simply says 'there is a church'. There is nothing remaining of this church today but as the population of Wimbledon at the time was less than 100, it is likely to have been a simple wooden building, the size of the present chancel. The work of Sir George Gilbert Scott and its development through the years has resulted in the landmark building today – often featured on TV during tennis tournaments.
Wimbledon’s oldest remaining inhabited building is The Old Rectory, which stands just north of St Mary’s Church. It was built around 1500 by the Lord of the Manor - the Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry VIII stayed (and nearly died) there when taken ill on a tour of his Surrey palaces in 1546. In its early days this was a very grand house and has had some very grand owners, including Sir William Cecil – Secretary of State to Edward VI in the mid 1500s and subsequently adviser to Elizabeth I, and more recently rock guitarist Brian May.
Situated on Church Road, overlooking the All England Lawn Tennis Club grounds, the red post box was painted to commemorate Andy Murray's gold medal in the men's singles of the London 2012 Olympic tennis event at Wimbledon. Murray grabbed golden glory with a straight sets defeat of Roger Federer, his first over the great Swiss in a best-of-five set final. Coming exactly a month after Murray lost to Federer in the final of The Championships, Wimbledon, the 25-year-old described it as the biggest win of his life.
Each and every one of our Internationally, the name of Wimbledon is closely associated with the prestigious Tennis Championships. One of the top international sporting events, the Wimbledon Championships are a source of interest and fascination to people globally, and not solely tennis fans.
The award winning Tennis Museum at the AELTC has achieved a great deal to extend the impact of tennis by providing a year round attraction. In 2012 the AELTC hosts tennis as part of the London Olympics, more than 100 years after filling the same role in the London Olympics of 1908.
Opposite the AELTC and substantially covered by car-parks during Wimbledon Fortnight, Wimbledon Park was originally part of the grounds of the Cecil House built in 1588. It was pulled down in 1720 and another house built in 1735 by the Duchess of Marlborough. This house burned down on Easter Monday 1785. By the mid 18th Century the land was in the hands of Earl Spencer (as in Althorp, Princess Diana...) who employed Capability Brown (the most famous of all English landscape architects) to landscape it and he created the present lake of 30 acres.