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The Church

There was a church in Wimbledon before 1086, probably a small wooden structure later rebuilt in stone, on the high point overlooking the Wandle valley where St Mary's stands today. It served the whole Manor though chapels were built at Putney (1291) and Mortlake (1348) in advance of them being made separate parishes in 1658. As usual, the right to appoint the parson lay with the Lord of the Manor. Some rectors lived and worked in Wimbledon but most sought this lucrative appointment to enjoy income from the tithes, fees, rents and produce from the glebe (land allocated solely for the rector's use) - deputing a vicar to do the hard work in the parish. All villagers gathered to celebrate births, marriages and festivals such as harvest and to mourn deaths. They contributed a tenth of their income to support the rector with issues such as marriage and inheritance being settled by church courts.

The most impressive buildings in the area were those belonging to the Prior of Merton. As well as their home farm they had another in the Beverley Valley, the West Barns. Not only was their own church large but the Chapter House (the foundations of which can still be seen near the Colliers Wood Savacentre) was one of the largest to the south west of London. It was a favourite royal meeting place, particularly for Henry III who had his own rooms and wine cellar there. The Council held there in 1236 agreed what is considered the first Statute of the Realm. Thomas Becket was educated at Merton Priory, wearing the canon's black cap and white surplice when Archbishop.