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Dr Elspeth Veale interview: Creation of Merton Borough and the effect on Wimbledon town centre

The most important change in Wimbledon at this time followed legislation in 1965 which changed the way that London was governed. Wimbledon lost its long, proudly held borough status and was combined with two neighbouring areas to form the London Borough of Merton working from offices in a new multi-storey building in Morden. On a tour of these one year we saw a glass case full of silver including a shield which reported Wimbledon's football team championship of 1966.

As a result, Wimbledon's fine town hall from the mid-1930s, I think, with its elegant mahogany furniture and associated buildings, became redundant and the whole site was bought for development by Speyhawk Ltd. Their first plan to build a 13-storey tower block on the site aroused such opposition that controversies over development of the town centre lasted for years. Finally a modified plan brought a new approach to the station, the construction of a shopping centre of what was to be two storeys only set out along Queens Road. All this was associated with vast improvement of the car parking facilities that were in the station area. I find it hard now to think of the centre of the town without the now familiar flight of steps and its upward slope, so successfully does it slot into the site. Many of the shops in smaller sites which I well remember moved there eg from Wimbledon Hill Road, Dolland & Aitchison and Halifax Building Society based there, and Boots which was originally squashed in a corner site took up a large base in the new building.