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Bill Rowland interview: Cottages by the Common

Wimbledon Common used to be much more open than it is now so the view from the top of the Windmill would have been right across.

Yes. They often say you could look from the Windmill to the Village and there wasn’t a tree in sight. It was completely open. It was a military training ground as well so there wouldn’t have been much on there at all. 

Do you live nearby now?

From the Windmill I moved to a cottage called White Cottage which is down off Sunset Road at the other end of the Common. This is where I had two sons and now I live on Putney Heath up at Telegraph Road so I am the main man on Putney Heath. I’m like the outpost there and people would normally come to me. My son, Jack Rowland, the manager of the maintenance team on the Common, now lives at White Cottage where he was born.

I’ve heard a rooster crowing there.

That’s the cottage next to it – Thatched Cottage which used to be the old Ladies’ Golf Club. There’s a chap living there who always has a flag flying. He has chickens. It’s a very interesting cottage, Thatched Cottage. It’s back to front and you can see the verandah at the back of it. I had some chaps up from the Imperial War Museum researching the First World War and the London regiments on the Common. They tracked down that Thatched Cottage was the old Officers’ Mess. The guys used to sit outside and there is apparently an old photograph of a tiled floor which is still there on the outskirts.

The cottages are all owned by the Conservators but what about other buildings like the golf clubs?

Wimbledon Common Golf Club own their building but the London Scottish Golf Club’s building is owned by the Commons Conservators. The only building they have sold off over the years is Mill House, the house behind the Windmill which sold off a few years ago. Apart from that there are probably about eight accommodations on the Common, cottages dotted about.

All the keepers, all the security guys, have to live on the Common but now there are maintenance staff who work here and the idea is that we are always on call 24/7. Often it happens, especially if a child goes missing, you can arouse  everyone to get out.