What's it all about?
It’s impossible to write a guide to Wimbledon without mentioning the ‘T’ word, but there’s much more to the town than tennis. Its heritage dates back to the Iron Age, and there’s the remains of a fortified village on Wimbledon Common to prove it. There is also a handful of properties that date from the 16th century, when Wimbledon was a royal abode, and a 19th century windmill left over from the town's industrial era, lending a real sense of history to the area. With the wilds of the Common, plus verdant Richmond and Wimbledon Parks close by, and the village at the top of the hill, visitors would be forgiven for thinking they'd left London altogether. The area divides roughly into the busy town, where the station is, and the village. Combined they offer all the practical resources and amenities residents could wish for, alongside a taste of a more countrified life, with open space, boutique shopping and traditional pubs. Families settle here in large numbers and it’s an ever popular destination with commuters, who can get to work in central London in half an hour or so.
- Wimbledon has been a commuter town since long before the arrival of the trains. In the early 18th century, the Dog & Fox inn became a stop on the Portsmouth to London stagecoach route. The horses were stabled behind the pub, where the riding school is today.
- Wimbledon Stadium is the last dog racing track left in London.
- Arts and Crafts pioneer William Morris opened a factory at Merton Abbey in 1881. The Abbey Mills were also the base for the fabric printing enterprises of Arthur Liberty, founder of one of London’s most famous stores.
Architecture and property
Wimbledon has long had illustrious connections, with wealthy families choosing to live here from the 17th century onwards. The village expanded in the 18th century around the stagecoach route and, indeed, the Dog & Fox inn and surrounding streets look much the same now as they did then. In the area around Ridgway there are cottages also dating back to the early Georgian period, while you will also find ‘model’ cottages built by prominent Victorian architect Samuel Teulon.
By far the majority of houses in Wimbledon are handsome Victorian villas and four and five bedroom townhouses, or rows of sturdy terraces built after the arrival of the railway in 1938 to house the growing middle class. There's an enclave of Arts and Crafts properties around Merton Park, where John Innes built a garden suburb in 1868 to complement the picturesque landscape here. Tucked away behind the terraces surrounding Wimbledon Park is a Grade II listed glass and steel house designed by Richard Rogers. It’s not the only sleek contemporary building in town as new stylish construction is on the increase, with one off luxury homes and a few larger developments.
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Drinking: Wimbledon has an excellent selection of pubs to spend a lazy afternoon in, and bars for a weekend night out too. The best pub in the village is the Rose & Crown but the The Crooked Billet and The Hand in Hand, both a 10 minute walk across the Common, rate highly too. Art deco inspired Terrace is an excellent option in the town.
Eating: From The Light House on Ridgway with its high end menu, to the seasonal menu of The Lawn Bistro on the high street, the culinary standard in Wimbledon is good. There is also a clutch of high end chains, such as Côte, which serves tradition French fare, alongside the excellent Thai Tho and Chinese food at Bayee. Sticks'n'Sushi is a Scandi inspired sushi bar, and well worth a visit.
Culture and heritage: View old maps and photographs of the area at the wonderful Museum of Wimbledon. Southside House is a 17th century house maintained in traditional style and crowded with objects drawn from the family who lived here for generations. There are two theatres, the Edwardian era New Wimbledon Theatre, which mounts a varied programme of plays and music, and the Polka Theatre, a centre of drama for children.
Community and events: There's a book swap in the waiting room on platforms five and six at Wimbledon station, and the area shows off its village credentials to visitors with a country style summer fair in June.
Sport: For several weeks in the summer the tennis takes over, and most residents love to get involved. Few people know that you can actually join the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and play on the courts. Indeed, this part of London is a paradise for sport lovers, and there’s a multitude of gyms and fitness centres in Wimbledon, alongside a range of unique sporting facilities. Wimbledon Village Stables are the oldest in England, and offer hacks and lessons. Stock car racing takes place at Wimbledon Stadium, and there’s also a running club – Windmilers – that meets every Saturday morning to go off on 5k runs starting and ending at the Windmill.
- Wimbledon has the distinction of having two Waitrose stores and a Mark & Spencer Simply Food, as well as a Morrisons and a Sainsbury's. For those craving a homemade pho, there’s also a Fresh Asia supermarket here.
- The beautiful Wimbledon Free Public Library opened in 1880 and was saved from redevelopment by a valiant local campaign in 2013. Alongside its special collections of South Asian, French, Polish, German, Italian and Spanish books, it runs taster sessions in IT, crafts and fitness.
- There’s an Odeon Imax on The Broadway serving up blockbusters in 3D, and an HMV Curzon that shows films with an arthouse bend.
- Centre Court Shopping Centre is a haven for high street shopping, and is home to lots of fashion and lifestyle brands including a large Debenhams. Elys Department Store specialises in fashion and homeware and has been open in Wimbledon for 125 years. There’s a range of independent shops, like local bookshop Wimbledon Books & Music, as well as plenty of opportunities for designer shopping on Church Road, where you’ll find stores including Bridget Salmassian for fashion, Caroline Randall for lingerie and The Mint Source for gifts and homewares. When you fancy a picnic on the Common, head to deli Bayley & Sage and browse its excellent range of cheese, bread and carefully sourced produce.
There’s so much green space in Wimbledon that it’s easy at times to forget you are in one of the world’s busiest cities. The most famous park is Wimbledon Common, home of the legendary Wombles. The largest stretch of common land in the Capital, this space has find nine ponds, as well as an 18 hole golf course, an athletics track and cricket pitches. Cannizaro Park, formerly the landscaped gardens of a grand house, has been bequeathed to the local community to enjoy. There’s a rose garden, rare trees and a water garden, with many quiet corners for reading and reflection.
There are many new housing projects going ahead in Wimbledon. The development at Wimbledon Hill Park by Berkeley Homes has brought some luxury new build family homes onto the market, while the Hartfield Road development will see a range of one, two and four bedroom apartments built within walking distance of the town centre.
Tube: Wimbledon Station and Wimbledon Park are both on the District Line and can take you to Earl’s Court in about 17 minutes. Wimbledon South is on the Northern Line and will get you to Bank in 26 minutes.
Rail: National rail services run from Wimbledon Station, including a South West Trains service running to Waterloo (18 minutes) and calling at Clapham Junction (seven minutes) and Vauxhall (12 minutes). Wimbledon Chase and Wimbledon are also served by Thameslink trains that reach Farringdon in 38 minutes.
Tram: A tram runs from Wimbledon all the way to Beckenham Junction, stopping at Croydon and Mitcham Junction passing a multitude of other stops along the way.
Wimbledon boasts a selection of schools, from nursery and primary onwards, with a range of state secondary, sixth form colleges and an academy that specialises in performing arts and sciences. There are an above average number of independent schools here, including the Norwegian School and the highly regarded King’s College School, which serves boys from seven to 18 and offers a co ed sixth form. Wimbledon High School is an option for both primary and secondary age girls.
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