Curator's choice - portraits


Richardson Evans (1846-1928)

richardson evansAn enthusiastic conservationist, campaigning in the 1880s and 1890s to limit intrusive advertising in the fields alongside railway lines, to save the view of the Thames from Richmond Hill, and to promote similar causes.  

He was the driving force behind the formation in 1903 of the John Evelyn Club (the name reflecting his admiration of John Evelyn’s love of nature, taste in art and ‘genial familiarity with the ways of men’), now called the Wimbledon Society, and ran it as secretary until 1920.  During this time he was much involved in saving the remaining part of the village green, creating a belt of open spaces along the river Wandle, and extending the Commons to preserve the fields beyond Beverley Brook.

He was a journalist in London, after a period as a District Officer in India.  In Wimbledon, he eventually made his home at the Keir, and later at 1 Camp View.


Edith Arendrup (1836-1934)

edith arendrupA major supporter and benefactor of Catholics in Wimbledon, during a period in which their numbers grew strongly – as did those of the other denominations.

Born Courtauld, she married Adolph Arendrup, a Dane serving in the Egyptian army. She moved to Wimbledon in 1877, after her husband died fighting the Ethiopians.

In promoting her faith, she opened a chapel within her house, and later moved it to an addition built for the purpose. With continuing growth of the congregation, she next built an iron chapel and a school in South Wimbledon, and then bought a site in Edge Hill / Darlaston Road for a more permanent church, the Sacred Heart, and she contributed substantially to its construction costs. Initially she had persuaded priests from Roehampton to walk across the Common and hold services in Wimbledon. Eventually she obtained agreement for them to have a permanent presence.


The Rev Edward Huntingford D.C.L.(1820-1905)

rev edward huntingfordHeadmaster of Eagle House School in the High Street from 1860-1874

He had earlier run a school of the same name in Hammersmith, and when he came to Wimbledon to take over an existing school he brought with him both the name and a stone effigy of an eagle which he put on the central gable. In 1877 he published 26 of his sermons, mentioning that they might remind former pupils ‘of one who often pointed out to them the way to be contented if not happy in this life, and to be fitted for the joy and glory of another’.

The school was very successful and moved in 1886 to larger premises in Camberley. The building in the High Street (erected 1613) remains, and still carries the name and the eagle which he gave it. 

He was one of the first conservators of the Commons, following the passing of the 1871 Act.


Sir Henry Peek, Bart (1825-1898)

sir henry peekA leading member of a committee formed in Wimbledon ’for the preservation of Wimbledon Common and Putney Heath unenclosed, for the benefit of the neighbourhood and public’.

The committee successfully fought against potential enclosure, and against the private use of this land, and its objectives were eventually met by the passing of the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act, 1871.  He became the first chairman of the body of Conservators incorporated under the Act to hold and manage the Commons, and whose duty it was to ‘keep the Commons open, uninclosed, and unbuilt on’ and to ‘preserve, as far as maybe, the natural aspect and state of the Commons’.

He lived at Wimbledon House, Parkside – long since demolished and replaced by new roads and houses, one of the roads, Peek Crescent, bearing his name. He was a partner in a firm of colonial merchants and an MP for Mid Surrey 1865-1884.


David Thompson (1816-1905)

david thomsonA gardener in Wimbledon from 1838, he took the opportunity in 1846 to lease 14 acres just below Woodside at the bottom of Wimbledon Hill, and run a nursery there for fruit trees, flowers and vegetables.

His original lease ran out in 1884, and the owner sold part of the land for a public library.  He kept only his shop in Wimbledon Hill Road, and a reduced amount of land immediately below Woodside for his greenhouses; his main nursery was moved to the Merton Hall Road area.  The rest of the original nursery was sold by the owner for development in 1894.