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The Treswell Survey

In 1617 the Lord of the Manor, Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter asked Ralph Treswell, the son of a famous London surveyor, to survey his whole manor including, along with Mortlake, Putney, Roehampton and Barnes, the estate at "Wimble tonn Towne". He toured the area and provided an exact description of the area, its tenants, buildings and farmland. His notes, made with the aid of four villagers, were written up and bound in a leather covered volume which, until recently, was kept by the Earls Spencer at Althorp House.

Ralph Treswell found Wimbledon to be a town of only 45 houses for 230 inhabitants. All of them, from the Lord of the Manor to the poorest labourer who worked for one of his tenant farmers, depended on the land. Until 1610 most of the land, certainly the open fields south of the Ridgway, were farmed in common. A cropping plan was laid out by the Manor Steward and each man ploughed one or more half acre strips which were separated by worples (paths - hence Worple Road). Treswell found that most of these had now become enclosed by hedges into 4-10 acre fields in which the farmer could grow what he wanted. Although good for the farmers, enclosure made the poor labourers poorer and many were forced to look for work in London in order to feed their families, whilst others became outside servants at one of the new big houses being built in Wimbledon. Every farm household kept a cow, some hens and many had a pig. Some of the produce was sold at Kingston market to pay the rent. Additionally, on what was called the Common Waste, each farmer was allowed to graze five cows, a horse, 25 sheep and three pigs which had to be ringed. The amount and type of wool he was allowed to cut was closely regulated and enforced.

Treswell noted only six householders who categorised themselves as "Gent". One such owned a 12 roomed house on the north side of Church Way (Church Road) with a library, servants and 200 acres in the parish. A typical farmer might own 80 acres and 5 or 6 cottages, plus a substantial house on Towne Street (High Street). Next in line were the parson and skilled tradesmen like the blacksmith or Wandle mill mealmen who had three bedroomed cottages. Lastly there were the labourers' one or two-roomed single story cottages, made with wood from the Common, wattle and daub, thatched with straw or rushes.