Elizabethan Manor House


Sir William Cecil, Edward VI's Secretary of State, attracted by the advantages of Wimbledon, leased the house near St. Mary's Church, now known as the Old Rectory, in 1550. His eldest son Thomas, who had been brought up there, returned to Wimbledon in 1875. A year later he bought the Manor House at Mortlake but in the 1580's decided to build a brand new house in Wimbledon. After he was grated the Lordship of the Manor in 1590, this became the new Manor House.

The site Sir Thomas Cecil chose for his house was to the east of the parish church, where the present Arthur Road and Home Park Road meet. It was set on the slope of the hill, looking north towards Putney and overlooking what is now Wimbledon Park. The house may have been designed by John Thorpe and intriguingly was built in a truncated H plan, rather than the E plan popular in Elizabethan times, and its two wings to the north partly enclosed the upper of two large terraces by which the house was approached from the park. A later survey by Smithson in 1609 shows that a large extension had been built alongside the west wing. The drawing also shows the layout of the Tudor gardens to the south of the house, rising up the hill in terraces. The gardens included an orchard, particularly featuring cherries, a lime walk and a vineyard.

Charles I bought the house in 1639 and gave it to his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria, who employed a French designer, Andre Mollet, to remodel the gardens, making a balance arrangement of parterres to the south and an orange garden to the east. Inigo Jones, Surveyor of the King's Works, further extended and modernised the house. With the outbreak of civil war in 1642 the Queen took refuge in The Netherlands but the house was not seized by Parliament until 1649. In the interim the house was well looked after by her Treasurer, Sir Richard Wynne, who is buried in the nave of St. Mary's Church.

The house was then bought by one of Cromwell's generals, John Lambert, a flower lover who retained the house until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. It was then returned to Henrietta Maria who no longer wanted to live there so it was again sold, first in 1661 to George Digby, second Earl of Bristol, and then in 1677 to another leading politician Thomas Osborne, Duke of Leeds, who entertained both William of Orange and Czar Peter the Great there amongst others. When he died in 1712 the house fell into disrepair and was gradually pulled down, last appearing on a map in 1720.