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WIMBLEDON District Line 
LONDON TUBE RAMBLES ROUTE



Three for the price of one - the Old Village, the Common and the Windmill. A total of 4 miles.

The village: to get to the village take the right-hand exit from the Underground and, crossing Alexandra Road, walk up Wimbledon Hill Road where you will find a pleasant collection of brick buildings at St. Mark's Place, including a Victorian library. If you pop round the corner of the library into Compton Road you will see several clever terracotta decorations in the form of bookshelves.Soon the commercial area gives way to a leafy hill with mixed residential development. After about five minutes look over the road for the striking white stuccoed Byron House ca1860,  currently a nursery school.

At the top of the hill, the village proper begin
s, marked by a drinking fountain erected in 1868 to the memory of Joseph Toynbee, Victorian surgeon and philanthropist who help to preserve old Wimbledon. The fountain is near a flamboyant bank building (1895) with splendidly over-decorated corner tower. The village shops and restaurants are small-scale and varied in style, and while exploring you may encounter a string of horses with impeccably turned out riders clip-clopping neatly through the traffic on their way home from a work-out on the Common – a cheerful sight. Continue to a T junction. 
The building with a perky bell tower opposite the large Dog and Fox pub was once the fire station (1890). Cross Church Road and go left, past the old fire station. This is the oldest and most attractive part of Wimbledon Village. Continue towards the Common. Soon you will come to Eagle House, now The Islamic Heritage Foundation. Although the brickwork has been rendered, the shape of the three curved gables is not lost, the centre one being topped by an eagle. The house was originally built in 1613 for Robert Bell, one of the founders of the East India Company. Cross over the High Street at Marryat Road. To get straight to the Windmill, follow the directions below,  but as you will see, you can also reach it by branching off from the Common route. 


The Common: Turn right and follow the curve of the road left to The Green, with the War Memorial on your right.  After some modern building there are some delightful dwellings.  (You might wish to download this local government PDF for more information about individual houses in the whole Wimbledon area.)  At Southside Common potter left for a few steps to see the elegant Claremont House. Then walk alongside the Common past a collection of enormous architect-designed Victorian houses. At the corner of Lauriston Road you will find an old farmhouse. This bears a plaque declaring that ‘on this site’ William Wilberforce lived (the actual house where he lived for a few years as a child, was demolished in 1958).

Continue to the end of the Common. Here in Woodhayes Road are the extensive buildings of King’s College School. Just after the chapel look out for a hexagonal Penfold letter box. Half-hidden behind a brick wall is Southside HouseThis has a mellow brick pedimented frontage of 1687 which disguises an older building. It struck me as a rather romantic house. There is something appealing about its weather-beaten appearance, and it does have a fascinating history, having been the home of the Pennington Mellor Munthe family for generations. The most famous inhabitant was Axel Munthe who wrote the 1929 best-seller ‘The Story of San Michele’. Rather surprisingly this reticent house (and garden), packed full of family memorabilia and art treasures is open to the public. It has limited opening hours, so please check if you want to enter this intriguing time warp.

A little further on No. 6, Gothic Lodge, has delicate ogee windows set in green-washed stuccoed walls. Originally eighteenth-century, it was enlarged in Victorian times. It is best viewed from over the way, as the house has a high front wall. Although there is a plaque commemorating the sailor, writer and inventor Captain Frederick Marryat, he probably spent little time there, the house having been leased primarily for his family to use while he was at sea. Now go back in the direction you came from and turn right into Crooked Billet, where buildings are jumbled up on two sides of a small green. 

Wander into the cluster of cottages and then right to reach to the Crooked Billet itself. There has been a pub on this site since 1509, though the present building only dates back to 1776. Almost next door is another pub - the Hand in Hand. This newcomer (first licensed in the 1870's) was once a bakery.
At Westside Common turn left. Some of the large houses along here have been so over-restored/rebuilt or are modern copies that they are now somewhat characterless. However, there are some that are of interest; for instance No.6 was the home of Spencer Gore, first Wimbledon Champion in 1877.The gardens of Cannizaro House, a hotel, are open to the public (Cannizaro Park). As you pass through iron gates to enter the park a – um – surprising – fountain comes into view, but soon there is an enchanting modern aviary. Once at the back of the hotel the view is breathtaking -  an undulating lawn leads down to mature trees that form a perfect backdrop. Returning from the park to West Side Common, walk to the corner of Camp Road past The Keir (eighteenth-century) Go left, following a very high, creeper-covered wall which marks the boundary of the Cannizaro estate. On the other side of the road is the Fox and Grapes. This pub was used as changing rooms for twenty years by members of the club that eventually became Wimbledon FC (1905) They played on the Common and other local pitches until 1912, when The Dons moved to Plough Lane. The team was originally called Wimbledon Old Centrals since the players had been pupils at the school just down the road, our next port of call. The 1960’s almshouses next door to the pub don’t have the charm of more ancient buildings – but no doubt they are a lot more comfortable. The slightly creepy estate wall continues all along the road and has several wooden doors set into it. An integral house at the end seems to have somehow grown there.
Opposite is another oddity - an octagonal school. This was the Central School referred to above. Founded in 1758 it began life as a charity school for 50 boys and 50 girls, and for a short time William Wilberforce was one of the trustees. Closed in 1960, it is now open as a private preparatory school for girls. Continuing round the block will take you into Camp View and past the Royal Wimbledon Golf Club. Camp view is so called because of the remains of an Iron Age hill fort in the grounds of the golf club. (In spite of the name, there is no evidence that Caesar actually stayed there.) 

 


Proceed round the corner into North View where the scene changes yet again to an expanse of woodland and rough grass. At the end of North View turn right to get to West Place and back to the main Common. In West Place there is a haphazard collection of simple cottages and a larger house  - The Tall House - that has a two-storey oriel window looking out over the grassland.




At this point, cut across the Common towards the War Memorial. (Alternatively use The Causeway.) Whichever path you choose, make sure you keep a shallow pond, Rushmere Lake, on your right. In case you don't feel like trogging all the way back to the Tube, once back at the main road you will be near a bus stop for the No. 93  This will take you past the main entrance to the Underground station – but don’t worry, there's a way in via the Tesco’ed Town Hall and Centre Court shopping centre - an enterprising conversion! 

The Windmill It is probably a good idea to print out a map of the area, as there is a choice of routes you might take to get to the windmill once you have arrived at the Common. From the War Memorial the windmill is about fifteen minutes. If you don't want to risk getting lost on one of the informal paths, turn left onto a metalled path to the west of the memorial (The Causeway) then right at West Place (passing The Tall House). At the end take a sandy path through woodland which leads to Windmill Road. Another option is to follow the Common route above and pick up Sunset Road/Windmill Road from Camp View. The mill, built in 1817 is a hollow post windmill (for technical details and history see Mill Museum website) and was used until 1864 to grind the wheat of local residents who preferred to have their flour produced by a miller they knew and trusted rather than go to the larger concerns along the River Wandle. You may be pleased to discover there is a café nearby . This is run independently from the museum and is open every day - the windmill museum itself is usually only open at weekends from March to October.  You can pick up the Common route if you return the same way.

Tennis fans may be wondering where the Lawn Tennis Association fits into all this. The designated station for Wimbledon Fortnight etc. is Southfields, but from there it is more than 15 minutes not particularly interesting walk, so I have included a short detour to the Tennis Museum in my Wimbledon Park route where there is lots to discover.


Photos (click to enlarge)
The Windmill
Old Fire Station, High Street/Eagle House, High Street
View of the Common
Southside House, Southside
Gothic Lodge, Woodhayes Road
Crooked Billet pub
Cottages at Crooked Billet
No. 6 West Side/Aviary, Cannizaro Park, West Side
Cannizaro House, West Side/Wilberforce School, Camp Road
The Tall House, West Place

This is just one route from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings to be found even in the most unpromising areas covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to go to www.londontuberambles.co.uk to see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!
© DR