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Lady Prudence Cradock-Hartopp interview: Changes to Wimbledon

How have you seen Wimbledon itself change since you moved here in 1955?

Well when we came the Village was full of useful shops. There were three butchers, I think. A fishmonger, an ironmonger in Church Road. Three greengrocers, three chemists, I think. Pooley’s. They had those great big coloured things in the window [glass jars]. And gradually they all disappeared. We had somebody from Essex the grocer who used to call every Monday afternoon. He would take an order and it was delivered on Friday. I never went near the shop. I remember saying to him one day, with all these supermarkets springing up I hope it’s not going to affect you. “Oh no Madam,” he said, “we don’t have to worry about them.” Sadly they all disappeared.

What do you remember about Wimbledon town?

The town down the hill? There were three or four cinemas there. One at Raynes Park and two or three down the hill in Wimbledon. Some quite useful shops there too, on the hill. But I didn’t go down there much. I mainly shopped in the Village, you could in those days.  

There has been a lot of infilling. Rokeby Field was a field for the school and there were also three hospitals here. [Wimbledon Cottage Hospital, Atkinson Morley and the Wolfson Rehabilitation Unit]  And St Theresa’s maternity hospital at the convent. It’s all built over now.

Two of your daughters were born after you moved to Wimbledon. Did you give birth to them here?

Yes, the second one was born at the Nelson Hospital and the youngest one was born at home.

How influential do you think the Wimbledon Society has been since you belonged to it?

Where planning is concerned I think it is quite influential.

People always enjoy the Newsletters.  Keeps them up to date with what’s going on.

Looking back, what else do you remember of Wimbledon?

It’s always been a very pleasant place to live. Wool Road was particularly nice because it was a sort of community down there. We all held each other’s keys and if the burglar alarm went off we went in to put it right. We fed each other’s cats and things like that which one doesn’t get in many places, I don’t think. The bottom end of Wool Road – it was very friendly.

What of Copse Hill now?

I think the new development is the best we could hope for. I went to see the plans which are pretty good really for the amount of space that is there. We could have had something much worse.