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William Cecil

Although a few outsiders had already invested in parcels of land in Wimbledon, it was the coming of the Cecils which ignited an interest in the town. It emphasised the attractions of the area and boosted the local economy. Such a country retreat near London attracted both the Cecil family's friends and their successors, so providing work and opportunities for many more.

William Cecil, aged only 30, took out a lease on the parsonage in Wimbledon in 1550. Given his responsibilities locally and at court, plus his estates elsewhere, he became far and away the most important figure in Wimbledon. This was particularly true between 1553 and 1558 when, with the Catholic Mary Tudor on the throne, he lived quietly in Wimbledon and played an active role in local life. For example in 1556 he and his family were among 146 villagers who received communion in St. Mary's.  On the accession of Queen Elizabeth, however, he again became Secretary of State and could spare little time for his house here. He had two sons who survived to adulthood - Thomas first Earl of Exeter to whom he passed the lease of the rectory in 1575, and Robert who became the first Earl of Salisbury.

The "very fair and large" rectory was built around 1550 and is now the oldest house in Wimbledon and at the time was certainly the largest. It was built of brick on two stories with a large dining hall, panelled parlour, ten chambers opening off the first floor gallery with garrets and cellars. Among the outhouses were a brewhouse, a bakehouse, a wash house, granary and a stable for 14 horses - plus a garden and orchard in which Cecil took a special interest.