Wimbledon has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age when the hill fort on Wimbledon Common, the second-largest in London, is thought to have been constructed. The original nucleus of Wimbledon was at the top of the hill close to the common – the area now known locally as "the village".
Wimbledon is today an affluent and very pretty suburb in the south west of London and is famously home to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships which are held annually in the last 2 weeks of June. In a mild dig at the infamous British weather, Wimbledon historian Richard Milward recounts how King George V opened the new courts. "He gave three blows on a gong, the tarpaulins were removed, the first match started - and the rain came down...".
Every year on the Saturday before the Tennis starts, there's a Summer Fair on the Common. This is an important fund raising event for the Wimbledon Guild with hundreds of stalls, a dog show, displays, competitions and even a funfair. A fun part of the Fair is the Open Horse Show, held opposite the Cannizaro Hotel in which there is show jumping, showing classes, Sunshine Tour qualifying events as well as the spectacular Musical Ride which is not to be missed! Well, not if you're under 4 foot at any rate.
For shopping, eating and chilling out away from the hectic pace of central London, there are few better places than Wimbledon. The exception is during the Lawn Tennis Championships when the area welcomes enormous crowds of eager spectators. You don't have to book a ticket in advance, although if you can get them it'll definitely enhance the experience. If not then join the (in)famous Queue for this unique event in the London sporting calendar. You can of course also experience the magic any time of year at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and Tour.
If the sun's shining, there's nothing better than taking a picnic on Wimbledon Common. And as you're tucking into your lunch, keep an eye out for a rogue Womble - they've been known to frequent these parts! Alternatively, you could visit the UK's original Buddhist temple and wander around its ornamental lake, flower garden and orchard.
10 Interesting Wimbledon Tennis facts
- In 1995, Tim Henman became the first person ever to be disqualified from Wimbledon. The reason? He lost his temper and angrily smashed a ball away, straight into the face of an innocent young ball girl. Henman was mortified when he realised, and later gave the girl some flowers to apologise.
- Each year, 250 ball boys and ball girls are employed to work at Wimbledon. On average they are 15 years old and earn about £150 for the two weeks that they work.
- The last time anyone used a wooden racket at Wimbledon was in 1987.
- All players must wear white and dress ‘decently'. The umpire decides if players meet the strict dress code and can make them get changed. Andre Agassi refused to play between 1988 and 1990 because he didn't like the dress code and what he regarded as a ‘stuffy' atmosphere.
- During World War II, 5 bombs hit Centre Court, destroying 1,200 seats. It took 9 years for the court to be fully restored.
- It was only in 2007 that the prize money for male and female tennis players was equalised after campaigns from Venus Williams and others.
- Wimbledon always starts on the sixth Monday before the first Monday of August.
- In 1986, yellow tennis balls were introduced. Before that the balls were white and umpires had difficulty seeing them.
- The youngest ever player at Wimbledon was Mita Klima from Austria, who was 13 years old when she played in 1907.
- Each year at Wimbledon 28,000kg of strawberries are eaten along with 7,000 litres of cream.
The nearest airport is Heathrow Airport from which there are good transport links into the city by tube. The Heathrow Express is a fast and frequent service into London albeit slightly more expensive. Gatwick airport is also just a train ride away.
The nearest station is Wimbledon station from where you can get a train in to London. From Wimbledon you can also catch the tube from Wimbledon station or take the oveground service.
With Wimbledon being a bit further out from the buzz of London, parking is a bit easier to find and there are a couple of car parks near Wimbledon station.
With a bit more green in the Wimbledon area, it makes for a lovely bike ride. Have a look at Sustrans to check recommended cycling routes!
From Wimbledon Park you can take buses up to Clapham or Richmond to continue your journey.
What to do in Wimbledon
Listed below are some of the great places to visit in Wimbledon. Click one to find out more.
- Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
Highly recommended! This is a guided tour of the grounds and a visit to The Kenneth Ritchie Wimbledon Library which offers an outstanding collection with everything you would ever need to know about tennis. The Museum is open from 10 – 5:30 every day and is accessed from Gate 4 of the Club, situated on Church Road. Booking online is suggested to avoid disappointment.
For more information: http://www.wimbledon.com/en_GB/museum_and_tours/
- Explore Wimbledon Village
Full of beautiful buildings and independently owned shops, Wimbledon Village is a place where locals take time to say "hello" to each other and the clip-clop of horses' hooves echo in the streets. You could be forgiven for thinking you're in the countryside. But shopping is rarely this good when you're out in the sticks.
The Village has a blend of very trendy shops, cafes and bars set amongst handsome period buildings and open spaces giving this particular part of London its own utterly unique atmosphere.
For more information: http://www.wimbledon-village.com/
- Search for Wombles on Wimbledon Common
These hard to spot furry creatures have been living in the burrows of the common, collecting and recycling rubbish since 1968. Since the mid 1970`s they've become extremely popular and most children grew up watching their show and singing along to their songs.
If you look out for Uncle Bulgaria around the western corner of the common on the 5th Sunday of June you're bound to spot him!
- Buddhapadipa Temple
The Buddhapadipa Temple was the first Buddhist temple in the UK. The grounds of the Temple cover a monastic area of approximately four acres including an ornamental lake, a lovely flower garden and an orchard. The Uposatha or Shrine Hall of the temple is a holy place, which is the sacred house for all Buddhist activities and ceremonies such as ordination. On the four interior walls are some masterpieces of typical Thai mural painting depicting the Buddha's life. The window and door frames are made of gold leaf gilded carved teak timbers and are also inlaid with coloured glass.
Tuesday and Thursday nights offer meditation classes.
- Wimbledon Village Stables
Wimbledon Village Stables is a British Horse Society Approved Riding Centre which is over a century old. They are also a training centre for instructors working towards their BHSAI (British Horse Society Approved Instructor). They take people on hacks all over Wimbledon Common, and offer private and group lessons. Evening lessons are available in the summer, and there's also a member's club for regular visitors which organises riding and social events.
For more information: http://www.wvstables.com/
- Wimbledon Windmill Museum
A serving landmark since 1817, converted to residential accommodation in 1864 and now restored back to full working order as a windmill. Depicting the story of windmills it now offers exhibitions.They do charge a small admission fee however do check their website for free and upcoming events. Free parking is available on-site.
For more information: http://www.wimbledonwindmill.org.uk/