The outside world

Medieval Wimbledon was relatively isolated, cut off by uncultivated commons and woods. Small tracks led to the river at Putney with its ferry to London and to the nearest market in Kingston. The area was sparsely populated, with only 31 heads of households paying the royal tax in 1332 indicating a population of around 200 living in a small community near the Common or church. The Black Death of 1348-9 and the plague of subsequent years further ravaged the population, though those who survived gained more prosperity paying rents rather than providing services. After a slow recovery by the 15th century tenants were again competing for available land which had fallen out of cultivation and fighting to protect their rights on the Common. The proximity to London also encouraged growth - just like today Londoners were looking for land as investments or to build country houses.

The Reformation saw Henry VIII take control of the church. Apart from a change in religious practice, the dissolution of the monasteries had a major effect on land ownership. For example, the King took over the Manor of Mortlake and in 1544 they were granted to Queen Catherine Parr. Similarly in 1539 the Prior of Merton and 14 canons had been forced to give up their buildings and estates - 37 Wimbledon tenants carting 3,000 tons of stone at 8 old pence a load from Merton to build the King's new palace of Nonsuch at Cheam.