Wimbledon, a busy London suburb inevitably evokes thoughts of the Tennis Championship but first and foremost it is a charming, centuries old Surrey village. Wimbledon is a district of South London and it has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The oldest remnants in the area are of the Iron Age Hill fort, but only in the 16th century, Wimbledon grew in size and importance. The arrival of railways to this rural area made it a desirable location for businesses and residents. The charming village of Wimbledon is characterised by elegant buildings, exquisite boutiques, top class restaurants and old pubs. Wimbledon town, unlike the village, is a busy place with a huge shopping centre called appropriately, “Centre Court”, cinemas, and the New Wimbledon theatre built in 1910. Wimbledon Common, a vast woodland and heathland area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and an Area of Conservation. This unfenced area is abundant in wildlife, plants and trees. It is used for recreation by walkers, golfers and horse riders. On the edge of the Common there are two broad ponds, Kingsmere and Rushmere and in the centre, a well known symbol of Wimbledon – a Windmill constructed in 1817, now housing a museum. Wimbledon however is most famous for its Tennis Tournament. All England Lawn Tennis Championships take place every June. Originally an amateur event, this oldest and most prestigious tournament in the world is played on grass. Wimbledon Tennis Club was the venue for the tennis competition at 2012 Summer Olympics. Wimbledon is a home to many attractions and most importantly for me is that it is truly a paradise for a photographer – the Southside House, build in William and Mary’s style, the Sacred Heart gothic style Church famous for its monumental size, St. Mary’s Church with the medieval chancel remains, exotic Buddhapadipa Buddhist Temple and many parks kept me happy for days when I was photographing here old and new, street life and nature.
Wimbledon’s High Street is packed with traditional English pubs, elegant boutiques, shops, riding stables and handsome period villas and mansions, and even today it has not lost its rural feel. As I am quite interested in architecture, stroll alongside the High Street was a treat – all the intricate architectural details kept me busy for a while. Photographing them was not always easy as the street is not very wide but a couple of roundabouts allowed me to get some perspective into my pictures.
An important part in the lives of ordinary Wimbledonians was played out on Wimbledon Common. The Common is a vast area of woodland and heathland on the edge of the village; today it is a great open space for walkers, golfers or horse riders. Within the Commons there are nine “meres” or lakes, some of them dating back to the Medieval Ages. The symbol and the most prominent building on the Common is the Wimbledon Windmill, which is preserved as a museum. It was built in 1817 and over time underwent a few restorations. The area is easy accessible with the large car park and a lovely tea room serving so much needed refreshments after a long walk in the vast woodlands around.
Several well known pubs, restaurants, stylish wine bars and cafes offer a wide and diverse choice of food and goods. In the summer, people spill out into the open and enjoy the impromptu picnics on the greens. The charming Crooked Billet Road with a group of seventeenth century cottages and two quintessentially English pubs is my favourite place. The pubs here have a real sense of history and are very welcoming.
Buddhapadipa Temple on Collone Road is the first Buddhist temple in the United Kingdom and one of only two in Europe. This stunning temple is surrounded by lush gardens and was built in a traditional Thai style in 1976. The building is very ornamental. Red and gold decorations of the windows and roof are in striking contrast to the white walls; not easy to photograph as the massive white area can fool the camera easily but a small compensation in exposure settings solves the problem.
The Eagle House situated on the High Street is one of the finest examples of a Jacobean manor house. It was built in 1617 as a country retreat for Robert Bell, a wealthy City merchant and a co-funder of the British East India Company, which at the time of establishment was colourfully called “The Society of Adventurers for the discovery of the trade for the East India”. The times have changed, but the highly characteristic double-gabled roof and imposing stone eagle statue is still the same; lit beautifully at night is a building worth visiting.
Beata Moore is a professional photographer and writer. She has written a number of books including “The Channel Islands”, “Portrait of Wimbledon”, “The Square Mile – photographic portrait of the City”, “Cracow: City of Treasures”, “A Year in the life of the New Forest” and “A Year in the Life of the Cotswolds”.