PutneyThis south-west London Thames-side district (and the bridge named after it), traces the origin of its name back to Saxon times.

Putney2Recorded in the Domesday Book as Putelei and known in the Middle Ages as Puttenhuthe, it apparently goes back to a Saxon named Puttan who lived in the area and the Old English word ‘hyp’, which means ‘landing place’. Hence, “Puttan’s landing place” (or Puttan’s wharf).

Putney has something of a storied history – it was the birthplace of Tudor heavyweight Thomas Cromwell, Georgian-era author Edward Gibbon and it was here, in the still-standing parish church of St Mary the Virgin (pictured), that the Putney Debates were held in 1647 among members of the New Model Army.

The first bridge was apparently built here in the first half of the 18th century and the present stone bridge in the 1880s.

Today a sought-after riverside residential district, Putney boasts a sizeable high street, great riverside pubs and eateries and is particularly popular every April when The Boat Race is held between Oxford and Cambridge universities thanks to the starting point being just upstream of Putney Bridge.

The area also is home to the 400 acre Putney Heath (which adjoins Wimbledon Common), a popular site for duels in the 18th century, and also home to a stone and brick obelisk, erected in 1770 to mark the 110th anniversary of the Great Fire of London (more on that in an upcoming post).

Wimbledon-CommonA vast expanse of forested parkland in south-west London, Wimbledon Common is also home to the burrow of those pointy-nosed furry (and extremely environmentally-friendly) creatures known as The Wombles.

Created by the late author Elisabeth Beresford, the Wombles apparently have their origin in a walk Ms Beresford took with her children on the Common during which one of them referred to their location as Wombledon Common.

The Wombles of Wimbledon Common – who include Bungo, Orinoco, Tobermory, Miss Adelaide, Madame Cholet, and Great Uncle Bulgaria – appeared in more than 20 books written by Beresford with the first, The Wombles, published in 1968. They’ve also starred in a couple of TV series, made a number of other TV appearances, released some albums and even had their own stage show and a movie, Wombling Free, released in 1977.

Much of the action in the books takes place on Wimbledon Common (which along with the adjoining Putney Common covers some 460 hectares) where they all live in a burrow, recycling rubbish they find discarded by humans.

Features of Wimbledon Common include the Wimbledon Windmill Museum (see our earlier post on it here) and a number of ponds including Rushmere Pond which lies close to Wimbledon Village and probably has a medieval origin.

For more on Wimbledon Common, check out www.wpcc.org.uk.

For more on London’s parks and gardens, see David Hampshire’s London’s Secrets: Parks & Gardens.

The Olympics might be over but there are still plenty of reminders of the Games around town. Not the least of which are the gold postboxes, painted that color in celebration of London’s gold medallists (the postboxes are located in the home towns of the gold medallists where possible). Pictured is the gold postbox in Heathfield Terrace, Chiswick, west London, painted gold in honor of the victory of Pete Reed in the men’s four rowing. It’s one of a number of gold postboxes in London – others include one in with others in Carshalton Road, Sutton, for Joanna Rowsell’s gold medal win in the women’s team pursuit; one in Church Road in Wimbledon for Andy Murray’s gold medal in the men’s tennis singles, and one in Broad Street, Teddington for Mo Farah’s gold medal in the men’s 5000 metres. Royal Mail has a website where you can see the location of all the gold postboxes in London and elsewhere around the nation – www.goldpostboxes.com. Not sure how long the gold is going to last – Royal Mail has said they will repaint them red – the color they have been, with a few exceptions, since 1874 –  in “due course” but there is a push for them to remain gold as a reminder of the Games.

PICTURE: Courtesy of Royal Mail.

While the history of the All England Tennis and Croquet Club goes back as far as 1868 (it was initially just known as the All England Croquet Club), the first Wimbledon Championships, officially known as The Championships, Wimbledon, were held some nine years later in 1877.

The only event held at the first championship was the “gentlemen’s singles” and the winner was cricketer (and, of course tennis player) Spencer Gore who emerged victorious over William Marshall in straight sets – 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 – before a crowd of about 200 (the “ladies’ singles” wasn’t introduced until 1884 with Maud Watson the first female champion after she defeated her sister Lilian).

Each of the 22 male amateur entrants had paid an entrance fee of £1, 1 shilling, and had to bring their own racquets and shoes “without heels” but were supplied with tennis balls.

Gore apparently won 12 guineas in prize money as well as a trophy, the Field Cup (the Gentleman’s Singles Trophy was introduced in 1887).

The club was then located at a site on Worple Road in Wimbledon (see our earlier entry about a plaque unveiled there earlier this year); it wasn’t until 1922 that it moved to it current location in Church Road. The layout of the courts at Worple Road – which saw the principal court named Centre Court thanks its position in the middle of the others – was carried over to the new location.

For more on the history of Wimbledon – which was the site of the tennis competition during this Olympics – including important milestones, see our earlier entry.

There is a museum based at Wimbledon (pictured above) which details more of the history of the place with exhibits including the Championship trophies, tennis memorabilia dating back to 1555 and a ‘ghostlike’ John McEnroe talking about the games and his opponents in his old dressing room. The museum is currently hosting a special exhibition, Tennis at the Olympics.

WHERE: All England Lawn Tennis Club, Church Road, Wimbledon – between gates 3 and 4 (nearest tube Southfields); WHEN: 10am to 5pm (last admission 4.30pm) daily (not during the Olympics – reopens on 15th August); COST: Museum only £11 an adult/£9.50 concessions/£6.75 child, or Museum plus tour £20 an adult/£17 concessions/£12.50 child; WEBSITE: www.wimbledon.com.

We take a break from our regular series this week to bring you some images from the second half of the Olympic Torch Relay as it made it’s way around London toward tonight’s Opening Ceremony…


Day 67 (24th July): Tennis player Oliver Golding holds the Olympic Flame in between the Olympic Rings at Kew Gardens, London.

London Underground employee John Light carries the Olympic Flame onto an underground train at Wimbledon Station.

Day 68 (25th July): Former World Cup winning footballer Gordon Banks carries the Olympic Flame down Wembley Way, at Wembley Stadium.


Prince Charles, Duke of Cornwall, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, pose with  young entrepreneur Jay Kamiraz and Paralympian Scott Moorhouse as they kiss together Olympic torches in Tottenham.

Day 69 (26th July): Disaster mapping charity volunteer Wai-Ming Lee passes the Olympic Flame to mountain rescue team leader John Hulse in front of Buckingham Palace in the presence of Prince William, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Wheelchair basketballer Ade Adepitan carries the Olympic Flame on Millennium Bridge.

Student Ifeyinwa Egesi holds the Olympic Flame inside the Globe Theatre.

For more on the Torch Relay, see www.london2012.com/torch-relay/

ALL PICTURES: LOCOG.

The Olympic Torch Relay arrived in London last Friday night and has been moving around the capital ever since. Here are some of the highlights so far (all images are courtesy of LOCOG)…

Day 63 (20th July): A Royal Marine, believed to be Martin Williams, is carrying the Olympic Flame as he abseils from a helicopter into the grounds of the Tower of London.

Day 64 (21st July): Swimmer Natasha Sinha holds the Olympic Flame on the Meridian Time Line outside the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

Jaco-Albert Van Gass carries the Olympic Flame through Greenwich.

Day 65 (22nd July): Student explorer Amelia Hempleman-Adams poses with the Olympic Flame on top of a London Eye pod.

Sailor Aaron Reynolds carries the Olympic Flame on a London Fire Brigade Boat.

Day 66 (23rd July): Sprinter Marlon Devonish carries the Olympic Flame at Crystal Palace stadium in south London.

Tennis player Andy Murray carries the Olympic Flame at Wimbledon.

For more on the Torch Relay, see www.london2012.com/torch-relay/

ALL PICTURES: LOCOG.

Located at 20 Devereux Court, just off the Strand in the area of London known as Temple, The Devereux takes its name from Elizabethan Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, whose mansion, Essex House, once occupied the site on which it stands.

Devereux, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, inherited the mansion from his step-father, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester, in 1588 (the house was originally called Leicester House). A spectacular fall from favor which culminated in an abortive coup, however, led to Devereux’s beheading in 1601 (interestingly, he was the last person to be executed inside the Tower of London – the tower where he is held was named after him).

Used by other members of Devereux’s family following his death, a plaque outside the pub explains that the property was sold to property developer, Nicholas Barbon (also noted as the founder of fire insurance), in 1674, and that he had it demolished soon after.

The present building is said to date from 1676 and was originally two houses. Soon after its construction, it became the premises of the famous Grecian Coffee House which had moved from Wapping Old Stairs.

Noted as a meeting place for prominent Whigs, it was also frequented by members of the Royal Society such as Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Hans Sloane and Dr Edmund Halley as well as writer, poet and politician Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, editor of The Tatler (who gave the coffee house as the magazine’s postal address).

The early 1840s, the premises was into lawyers’ chambers and then later into the public house which now occupies it.

There’s a bust of Essex on the facade beneath which is written the inscription, “Devereux Court, 1676”. The pub is these days part of the Taylor-Walker group. For more, see www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub-food/devereux-temple/pid-C7177.

For a great book on London’s pubs, take a look at London’s Best Pubs: A Guide to London’s Most Interesting & Unusual Pubs.

The London Olympics are almost upon us and having completed our series on the Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee, we’re launching a new special looking at historic sporting events which took place in London and where they were carried out.

To kick it off, however, we thought we’d take a look at Olympics past. London has previously hosted the Games twice – 1908 and 1948. So this week we’re taking a look at the 1908 Games.

The 1908 Summer Olympics – officially recognised as the fourth “modern” Games – were initially to be held in Rome. But the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 1906 devastated the city of Naples and so the funds which were to be used for the Games had to be diverted to help the stricken community.

A number of candidates, including Milan and Berlin, were apparently considered before it was decided to hold the Games in White City in London’s west alongside the Franco-British Exhibition already being held in the area (the white marble clad buildings constructed for the exhibition buildings are what gave the area its name).

A new stadium – the White City Stadium – was constructed in just 10 months for the Games and was designed to accommodate 66,000 people. As well as the running track around the perimeter with which we are familiar today, there was also a cycle track located outside the running track while the infield hosted swimming and diving pools and a pitch where football, hockey, rugby and lacrosse could be played. Wrestling and gymnastics was also conducted in the middle of the stadium.

While many of the 110 events in 22 different sports – including athletics, archery, lacrosse, rugby union, swimming, water polo and  tug of war (the only time run at an Olympics, it was won by a City of London police team) – and were held at the stadium, a number were held elsewhere.

These included tennis (at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon – see yesterday’s post), rowing (at Henley), fencing (at the neighbouring British-Franco Exhibition) and jeu de paume or ‘real tennis’ (at the Queen’s Club in West Kensington).

The Games, which ran for six months from April to October, were noted for being the first in which Winter events were included (four figure skating events were held at the Prince’s Skating Club in Knightsbridge), for being the first at which the Olympic creed – “The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well” – was publicly proclaimed.

They were also the Olympics at which length of the marathon was set at 26 miles, 385 yards (the distance from a window outside the nursery at Windsor Castle, where the event was started to give the Royal Family a good view, to the stadium) and were the first Games in which spectators marching into the arena behind their country’s flag during the opening ceremony.

The marathon, incidentally, was particularly controversial with Italian Dorando Pietri finishing first after being assisted across the finish line by officials when he collapsed (he was disqualified but awarded a special cup for his efforts by Queen Alexandra). There was also controversy when the US team refused to dip their flag before King Edward VII in the opening ceremony. Judging disputes also led to the creation of standard rules and the introduction of neutral judges in subsequent Games.

White City Stadium initially fell into disuse but was subsequently used for greyhound racing and athletics. The site is now occupied by the BBC. There is a ‘Roll of Honour’, unveiled on the site in 2005, which commemorates the 1908 Games.

Oh, and the most medals were won by Great Britain who won 56 gold, 51 silver and 38 bronze while the US came next with 23 gold, 12 silver and 12 bronze.

You can check out the Olympic website for more including images – www.olympic.org/london-1908-summer-olympics.

Wimbledon kicked off this week, so it’s only fitting that we mention the recent unveiling of a plaque commemorating the first ever Wimbledon Championships, held in 1877.

The plaque was unveiled last Monday on the former site of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club just off Worple Road in Wimbledon. As well as the first championships, it also commemorates use of the site for the 1908 Olympics tennis event.

The location of the former club, which it occupied until 1922, is now used as playing field by Wimbledon High School. The club is now based in Church Road opposite Wimbledon Park.

For more on the history of Wimbledon, see our entry from last year’s event here. For more on this year’s event, see www.wimbledon.com.

PICTURES: Top – The Championships being played at the former location in Worple Road (© Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum); and, at the plaque’s unveiling featuring the chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Philip Brook, Wimbledon High School headmistress, Heather Hanbury, and the Mayor of Merton, Cr David Williams  (© AELTC/Thomas Lovelock).

A tiny museum located in an 1817 windmill standing in the middle of Wimbledon Common, the Wimbledon Windmill Museum provides an interesting insight into the work and lives of the millers who once occupied it and the thousands of other windmills around the UK.

Displays are located over three levels – the last reached by a steep climb up a ladder – and range from the tools and machinery used by the millers to a room packed with models of different types of windmills (all of which turn when you press a button) through to a room set up as the mill was in the 1870s when it was divided into homes for six families.

As well as the more static displays, there’s also a chance for the kids to make their own flour and a video playing on a loop which goes into considerable detail on the history and function of windmills in the UK.

There are tearooms located next door (and, if you happen to visit when it’s snowing, there’s a great toboggan run located nearby!).

The windmill itself has some interesting historic connections – it was in the miller’s cottage behind the windmill (now much enlarged) that Scouts founder Robert Baden-Powell was staying when he wrote Scouting for Boys in 1907.

While this mill dates from 1817, there is a record of millers being on the common as far back as the 17th century. As well as making flour, the miller also served as the common’s constable.

This job entailed keeping an eye out for robbers operating on the common as well as illegal duelists (Wimbledon Common and Putney Heath were apparently popular spots for this).

Indeed, history records that Thomas Dann – the first miller about whom there is a record – and his wife witnessed an infamous duel between Lord Cardigan and Captain Tuckett from the windmill’s roof. Tuckett was wounded during the second round of shots and subsequently taken into the windmill for treatment of his injuries while Dann took Lord Cardigan into custody (he was eventually acquitted after a trial in the House of Lords).

This is certainly a small museum but, with an entry price of only a couple of pounds, well worth spending a little time to look through.

WHERE: The Wimbledon Windmill Museum, Wimbeldon Common (nearest Tube stations are Wimbledon, Wimbledon Park and Southfields); WHEN: 2pm to 5pm Saturdays, 11am to 5pm Sundays (and Bank Holiday Mondays) until October 30th; COST: £2 adults/£1 concessions and children/£5 families (two adults and up to four children); WEBSITE: www.wimbledonwindmill.org.uk.

With Wimbledon now in its second week, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at the origins of what is the world’s most famous tennis championship.

This year’s Wimbledon marks the 125th time that the All England Lawn Tennis Club has hosted The Championships. The first championships (Gentlemen’s Singles only with a field of 22) were held in 1877, just nine years after the founding of what was then the All England Croquet Club (lawn tennis was added at the club in 1875 and the name changed to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club the same year the first tennis championships were held).

It’s important to note that the first championships were not held at the current site opposite Wimbledon Park but at the club’s former site off Worple Road (it’s from this site that the term Centre Court was adopted for the main arena – at the Worple Road site, Centre Court was indeed in the middle of the grounds). It moved to its present site in Church Road in 1922.

Such was the success of the game that in 1882, the name croquet was dropped from the club’s title but it was returned in 1899 for “sentimental reasons”.

In 1884, the first Ladies Singles tournament was held as was the first Gentlemen’s Doubles. Other milestone years include:

• 1905 – US citizen May Sutton become the first foreigner to win at the tournament when she won the Ladies’ Singles;

• 1907 – Australian Norman Brookes became the first foreign man to win;

• 1940 – 1,200 seats in Centre Court were destroyed when a bomb hit the arena;

• 1968 – Australia’s Rod Laver and America’s Bille Jean King become the first winners of the Open Championships era;

• 1985 – Boris Becker, at age 17, becomes the youngest Wimbledon champion (as well as the first German and the first unseeded player);

• 1987 – Martina Navratilova of the US becomes the first to win the Ladies’ Singles six times in succession;

• 2010 – John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played the longest tennis match in history with Isner eventually winning 70 games to 68 in the fifth set, having played a total of 138 games, and spent 11 hours and five minutes on court over three days.

There is a museum based at Wimbledon which details more of the history of the place (only open to ticket-holders during the Championships). Exhibits include the Championship trophies, tennis memorabilia dating back to 1555 and the ‘ghost’ of John McEnroe talking about the games and his opponents in his old dressing room.

There are also a range of events being held this year marking the 125th year of The Championships – these include a new museum exhibition called The Queue.

WHERE: All England Lawn Tennis Club, Church Road, Wimbledon – between gates 3 and 4 (nearest tube Southfields); WHEN: 10am to 5pm (last admission 4.30pm) daily (not during the championships); COST: Museum only £11 an adult/£9.50 concessions/£6.75 child, or Museum plus tour £20 an adult/£17 concessions/£12.50 child; WEBSITE: www.wimbledon.com