Wimbledon Common

Wimbledon Common, Merton

A plateau of bogs and heathland stretching from Richmond Park to Wimbledon town

Rushmere Pond

This is London’s largest com­mon, cov­er­ing 1,200 acres includ­ing Put­ney Heath in the north. Its most ancient fea­ture is Bens­bury Camp, pop­u­lar­ly though mis­lead­ing­ly known as Caesar’s Camp, a hill-fort that prob­a­bly dates from around the sev­enth cen­tu­ry BC.

The com­mon was for cen­turies part of the manor of Mort­lake, owned by the arch­bish­ops of Can­ter­bury, with rights of hunt­ing and graz­ing grant­ed to local ten­ants. It acquired a rep­u­ta­tion as a duelling ground: the politi­cians Pitt the Younger, Castlereagh and Can­ning were among those who fought here. Earl Spencer gained legal author­i­ty to enclose the com­mon in 1803, but backed down in the face of local protests.

The best-known land­mark on Wim­ble­don Com­mon is the wind­mill, built in 1817 to grind corn and now a muse­um devot­ed to wind­mills and wood­work­ing. In a cot­tage beside the wind­mill, Robert Baden-Pow­ell began to write Scout­ing for Boys in 1907.

The com­mon has been in pub­lic own­er­ship since 1871, but only when the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion left for Bis­ley in 1889 did full free­dom of move­ment become pos­si­ble. The first golf course was laid out in 1908.

In 1948 the coun­cil opened Can­nizaro Park at the common’s south-east­ern cor­ner. This had been the gar­dens of War­ren House, once owned by the Duke of Can­nizaro, whose exot­ic name stuck to the estate even after the house burned down in 1900. The gar­dens are par­tic­u­lar­ly admired for their rhodo­den­drons and aza­leas.

Elizabeth Beresford created the Wombles of Wimbledon Common in 1968 and the environmentally conscious creatures gained their own television series five years later.

Postal districts: SW19 and SW20
Website: Wimbledon and Putney Commons