Print

Services

The rapid increase in population brought many problems with it. For example the alleys adjoining the Dog and Fox had been more of a slum until late on in the nineteenth century. The Local Board of Health gradually sorted out basic public hygiene, assisted by several notable local doctors. Hospitals also sprang up – Wimbledon Cottage Hospital off Copse Hill, supported by voluntary donations, had opened in 1870 with 7 beds and then operated from larger premises from 1912 until 1982. Similarly, the Nelson Hospital was the result of strong public pressure for facilities in South Wimbledon. It started off in a private house until enough funds had been raised to purchase the existing site in 1912. The death rate in Wimbledon in 1883 was 14.12 per thousand and this had shrunk to 9.2 in 1903. By 1909 the death rate was half the national average so estate agents lost no time in promoting Wimbledon as the healthy place to live!

Until late into the nineteenth century most people still got their water from wells such as Caesar’s Well or deep artesian shafts. Two companies had started piping water directly from the Thames but it was unfiltered so disease was ever threatening. Things improved considerably in the first half of the 20th century but the water still flowed through the old Victorian caste-iron water pipes, leading to frequent bursts until the new London ring main was established in the 1990’s, passing Wimbledon 45m underground with pumping out stations in Colliers Wood and Raynes Park.

Although some houses had gas lights it was considered too expensive for public lighting which still used oil lamps until 1897. The great inventor Sir William Preece lived at Gothic Lodge which he had successfully lit with electricity in 1894. Since many of the oil lamps in Wimbledon High Street were over 100 feet away from the nearest gas main he convinced investors to build an electricity generating station to power both the street lighting and supply private households. When the Wimbledon Theatre was built in 1910 it had its own generator except for emergencies.

From 1869 the village had been protected by a volunteer fire brigade operating with hand pumps from a shed next to the Dog and Fox until it moved to a new station on the High Street in 1890. However, after a disastrous fire at Cannizaro House in 1900 where it was obvious that the hoses did not have sufficient pumping power from Rushmere, a modern station was opened in Queens Road in 1904 – manned by professionals from 1907.