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The village

The departure of the Cecil family from the manor house in 1639, followed immediately by the civil war checked the development of Wimbledon as a suburban village. Since the Norman Conquest the area had been administered as a single estate but now it was divided into a number of separate estates whose owners frequently changed and so took little interest in the village. For nearly a hundred years after 1660 Wimbledon did not prosper with a growing number of poor families having to be supported by their neighbours. In the 1740's, for the first time since the Black Death of 1349, the population actually shrank with twice as many funerals as christenings at the parish church.

The big change in Wimbledon's fortunes began in 1756 when the first Earl Spencer took over the new manor house. His frequent stays there and general interest in the area encouraged enterprising landlords to build a line of new mansions along Southside which were leased to "eminent merchants and gentlemen of the law". Their arrival was a great stimulus to business in the village and very few inhabitants were now "out of employ". As a result, in 25 years the population doubled from around 500 to over 1,000. By 1827 when the Spencer family left the manor house for good, Wimbledon could be described as "a small and highly respectable village, delightfully situated, which appears to have some great attraction as it is the preferred residence of many of our representatives and nobility".