Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Transformation of Wimbledon

Image: freedigitalphotos
In the year 1894, Wimbledon transformed to a small town from being a small village. The Wimbledon Urban District was moulded and an elected council was created. All this was made possible due to the Local Government Act 1894.

During the initial years of the twentieth century, the population of Wimbledon still began to grow. This condition came into notice in 1905 after the urban district was formed and named the Municipal Borough of Wimbledon and acquired the authority to choose a Mayor.

After about ten years of this century, Wimbledon already laid the foundation for the Wimbledon School of Art. This was done at the Gladstone Road Technical Institute. The very first theatre and cinema of this town was also constructed. A queer fact is that at the beginning, Turkish baths were included as one of the facilities of the theatre

The council constructed a new Town hall beside the station on Queen's Road corner and Wimbledon Bridge in 1931. Bradshaw Gass and Hope, the architects of this structure, used Portland stone and red brick for this project.

The decade starting from 1930 witnessed the peak of residential expansion in Wimbledon. Emphasis for local growth was laid upon Morden, located beside Wimbledon. Morden changed its rural nature in 1926 with the appearance of the Underground at its station. The Southern Railway rebuilt the Wimbledon station using a modest Portland stone facade. This was done in 1930 for the opening of the new Wimbledon to Sutton railway line.

During the Second World War, a lot of damage was done to the housing stock in Wimbledon town as well as other parts of London. As a result, the concluding major building phase occurred wherein the Victorian houses on enormous grounds in Wimbledon Park built a long time ago were categorized into apartments or substituted with apartment blocks after demolishment. Other bare portions belonging to the Wimbledon Park, i.e. portions with nothing constructed on them, were used for housing local authority estates. These were built by the borough council and people who lost their homes resided here.

The London Borough of Merton was created in 1965 under the London Government Act 1963 after abolishing the Municipal Borough of Mitcham, the Merton and Morden Urban District and the Municipal Borough of Wimbledon. The Wimbledon Town Hall was the administrative centre of the new borough but in the early nineties the Crown House (consisting of 14 storeys) located in Morden took its place.

In between 1970-80 the Wimbledon Town Centre had a hard time competing with Kingston and Sutton commercially as these were more developed. The lack of locations for huge anchor stores to draw custom was one of the factors contributing to the problem. The council failed to discover a viable solution for years on end and ultimately the Centre Court shopping centre was constructed beside the station, thereby allowing the focus to shift back to retail expansion. The old town hall building was incorporated by the Centre Court and Sir George Grenfell-Baines designed a new portico while keeping with the originals created by him five decades ago.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the primary attractions of Wimbledon were its bountiful recreational facilities and easy access to Central London. There were huge demands for massive properties in the park and village areas of Wimbledon, thus causing the price to shoot up in the outer London portion.

For more on Wimbledon, feel free to get in touch with Robert Holmes.