Walk 11: St. Helier walk to Wimbledon

Walk 11 ST HELIER to WIMBLEDON

3 hours

 This train line has an interesting history. The original plans were set up by local landowners who hoped to sell their estates to speculative developpers if they could improve access for commuters through a new train line. They tried repeatedly to obtain Parliamentary approval in the 1880s and finally reached their objective in 1910.

They started negociations with a company who owned the present Underground line between Wimbledon and Earl’s Court, hoping to get direct connections with the West End. They also started negociations with the company who operated Sutton station as a backup. Unfortunately, both companies were reluctant to spend money on the new venture and negociations were still ongoing when World War I made infrastructure investment impossible.

The landowners finally managed to raise sufficient funds in 1927 and the train line opened in 1929 (Wimbledon to South Merton) and 1930 (South Merton to Sutton), a very late time for a suburban railway in the southern suburbs. The effort did attract developpers, but the train line itself had limited success because a competitor had opened a convenient Underground line to Morden in 1926. Actually, this competitor was willing to take over the train line and provide a service all the way to Sutton, but this was opposed successfully by the powerful Southern Railways who wanted to avoid their clients switching in Sutton to the Underground instead of paying the fare to Victoria or London Bridge.

Routing note

This route connects in St. Helier with Blackfriars/Thameslink walk 10. It connects in Wimbledon with Blackfriars/Thameslink walk 12, with Waterloo walk 10, with Croydon Tramlink walk 1 and with District Line walk 5.

The walking time does not include visiting the Wimbledon Borough Museum. You may need about 1 hour but be aware that the museum is only opened for a few hours on weekends as it depends on volunteers.

Finally, a practical warning. The turnstiles at Wimbledon station are prone to overcharging if you are switching to or from the Tram on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. When travelling by tram to or from Wimbledon, it is advisable to do so on a day or season ticket.

ST. HELIER

 

St. Helier station

St. Helier station

The station opened together with the train line in 1930.

The original station building was demolished at a later point in time and replaced by a vending machine in order to save on staffing costs at this less busy station. The platform awning is a peculiar steel roof like on some other stations of this unusual train line.

Exit the station

R Green Lane

L Middleton Road

L into Morden Recreation Ground

Morden Recreation Ground

Morden Recreation Ground

This is a rather large park with a number of sports facilities. It does have some trees spread out between the facilities, which makes it more pleasant than open grass fields.

The exit you need is due North from the entrance, but you can also walk L along the perimeter of the grounds until you reach the exit

R Central Road

L Abbotsbury Road

L Bordesley Road

L footbridge over train depot

 

Northern Line depot and Morden mosque

Northern Line depot and Morden mosque

The footbridge gives you a rather impressive view of the maintenance depot for the Northern Line of London Underground. The view is taken looking away from the station. Originally, the company planned to link the tracks with the train station that runs just behind the mosque, opening a direct connection between Sutton and the City of London. This plan was stopped by the train company who operated Sutton station as it feared that many customers would switch to the new underground line.

L London Road

 

Nice houses on London Road

Nice houses on London Road

Housing along this section of the road is less “garden suburb” than in St. Helier. This area was developped by commercial companies and the mock-Tudor style so popular in the 1930s is much in evidence.

The road passes

MORDEN SOUTH

 

Morden South station with mosque

Morden South station with mosque

The station opened together with the train line in 1930. It is very close to Morden Underground terminal.

Like other stations on the line, the station building has been demolished. The station has very little traffic (less than 400 people per working day) and a vending machine is therefore sufficient. The riveted iron awning over the platform is also typical of this train line.

 

Mosque seen from Morden Park

Mosque seen from Morden Park

From the station access path, you have an excellent view of the dome of Baitul Futuh Mosque, built in 2003 by an Islamic movement of Indian origin. It is considered horribly heretic by devout Muslims as it sees in Muhammad only one of the law-giving prophets and not the last prophet. The mosque was the largest Islamic centre in Europe at the time of construction. I give you a second picture taken from the nearby park as it emphasizes the size of the building.

R access road into Morden Park

Follow the access road past Morden Hall towards the park pool

 

Morden Hall

Morden Park House

The park corresponds to the grounds of Morden Park House, a property bought by the Council in 1945. The house still stands in the middle of the park and is now used by the borough for weddings. It is an early Georgian country house built in 1770. As it is not open to casual visitors, I was unable to look inside, but pictures on Internet show typical features inside like an elegant entrance hall with a marmor floor. All three wedding rooms (you can choose as there is only one wedding at a time in the building) have a rather typical “neo-classical country house” atmosphere.

 

Garden of Morden Park House

Garden of Morden Park House

 

There is a little enclosed garden on the west side of the house; if it is not being used for a wedding ceremony, it is a nice place to sit and enjoy a few flowers alhough the borough concentrates flower beds in other parks.

Walled garden in Morden Hall

Walled garden in Morden Hall

 

 Ancient mound in Morden Park

Ancient mound in Morden Park

R around the south lawn of Morden Hall towards an isolated wooded mound. This very distinctive site is “believed to be a Romano-British burial site” according to the borough website. I don’t know whether this implies that it has never been dug scientifically or that it has been too much disturbed when it was used as the site of a summer pavilion for definite conclusions. Anyway, it is rare to see a burial mound that is so easy to identify.

 

Morden Park

Morden Park

R on narrow paved path down towards tennis courts

Exit Morden Park

Cross Hillcross Avenue

Ahead Monkfish Road

R Leamington Avenue

L Ashridge Way

R Martin Way passing

SOUTH MERTON

 

Sourth Merton station platforms

Sourth Merton station platforms

The station opened in 1929 as a temporary terminal when the train line opened from Wimbledon to South Merton. Trains continued to Sutton in 1930.

The station is on an identical pattern to St. Helier. Note the combination of colours with red and yellow handrails.

 

Rose garden in Mostyn Gardens

Rose garden in Mostyn Gardens

At the corner of Martin Way with Mostyn Road, you can detour into Mostyn Gardens. The core is just grass with a few trees around it, but there is also has a so-called sunken garden with a few rose beds. My picture does not do justice to it because it was taken in early March.

L Mostyn Road

 

Garden suburb feeling in Merton Park

Garden suburb feeling in Merton Park

The road crosses the suburb of Merton Park, built as a garden suburb. Towards the end of the road, there are some very nice gardens with large villas. The land belonged in the 19th century to a businessman who had enlightened ideas, John Innes: he got out of his family interests in sugar plantations because of slavery, dabbled into wine imports and specialised then into real estate development when train lines serving Wimbledon encouraged commuters in the 1870s. He was influenced by existing garden suburbs like Bedford Park in Chiswick. Mr Innes devoted his later life to horticulture and never married. The local park is named after him.

L footpath into John Innes Park

 

Entering John Innes Park

Entering John Innes Park

The park was the present of John Innes to the borough in his will and encompasses to a large extent the garden of his manor house. The dominant tree is holly because it was his favourite plant. The park contains all the elements a large private garden would have in the 19th century: secluded sections with tall hedges, a pond with a fountain, a bandstand, a pergola and a few flower beds. I am sorry my pictures do not reflect how nice the park probably is in spring when flowers are out.

Pergola in John Innes Park

Pergola in John Innes Park

Pond in John Innes Park

Pond in John Innes Park

Bandstand in John Innes Park

Bandstand in John Innes Park

Alley in John Innes Park

Alley in John Innes Park

Ahead across the park and a recreation ground

R Cannon Hill Lane

L Kingston Road passing

WIMBLEDON CHASE

 

Wimbledon Chase station

Wimbledon Chase station

The station opened together with the train line in 1929.

The station building is integrated into the embankment but architects have opted for a striking entrance. The dazzling, curving white wall is actually a very simple design but is also a shape Art Déco architects would feel very comfortable with. In addition, the curving design enabled a sort of station forecourt set away from the main road. The station seems to be the single one on this train line without a steel awning on the platform.

R Chaseside Avenue

R The Chase (footpath)

 

The Chase Wimbledon

The Chase Wimbledon

This is a delightful and convenient alley that fits perfectly in a garden suburb.

L Merton Hall Road

R Avebury Road

L into Dundonald Recreation Ground, cross ahead

 

Formal garden in Dundonald Recreation Grounds

Formal garden in Dundonald Recreation Grounds

This is a classical sports ground, but there is a more secluded section with banks and a few rose beds.

R Dundonald Road

L footpath along the tramway line

Ahead across the main train line

L St. Georges Road

R Tabor Grove

Ahead Malcolm Road

Ahead Sunnyside Passage

Ahead Sunnyside

 

House with views in Sunnyside

House with views in Sunnyside

This road has a number of affluent villas because of the beautiful views east and south. Wimbledon was considered inconvenient in Georgian times because the only way into London was through the Heath where mud and bandits lurked. This changed with the arrival of the railways as Wimbledon was close enough for convenience while escaping the foul air of the city thanks to its location on a south-facing hill.

R Ridgway

At number 22, you can find the entrance to the small museum of the Wimbledon Society of Local History, opened only for a few hours on weekends. The museum shows very few artefacts, mostly prehistoric tools discovered on Putney Heath. But there are about 50 detailed and interesting panels with a wealth of information on the development of the town and on its main buildings, so that it works a bit like a library with enthusiastic staff. I noticed one unusual exhibit, a number of models of important local landmarks made by a local architect.

 

Bank building in Wimbledon

Bank building in Wimbledon

At the main crossroads, there is an impressive bank building with an extremely ornate turret. The overall style reminds me a bit of German Renaissance and the proportions are less overwhelming than in many Edwardian shopping parades. Looking in detail, you can easily see the mix of styles with late Gothic window surroundings on the first floor, Romanic arcades on the second floor and 16th century columns on the third floor.

R Wimbledon Hill Road

 

Apparently old building

Apparently old building

At the start of the road, I noticed a slightly medieval-looking building. The borough website does not mention it as especially interesting, but it looks nice and reminds of what suburbs probably looked like in the 1850s. I wonder whether it might have been used as a pub considering the many chimneys.

 

Neoclassical building in Hill Road

Neoclassical building in Hill Road

A little further on, you pass an elegant white house with a typically Palladian arch between the two aisles. This was built in the 1860s and is the only Victorian building that survived World War II bombs in this road. British people being very fond of ghosts, you will be pleased to hear that this property is supposedly haunted by its last private owner, a distinguished Edwardian gentleman.

 

Parade in Wimbledon Hill Road

Parade in Wimbledon Hill Road

Further down, you pass a shopping parade with the inscription “bank buildings”. I find it interesting that the owner did not think it sensible to mention which bank was inside, but I am aware that banks were frequently involved in mergers and acquisitions after each of the frequent bank crises in the 19th century, so that putting a name in stone may have been calling for trouble. The most interesting part of the 1886 building is at the end with two façades in the German Renaissance style.

 

Wimbledon Library

Wimbledon Library

The neighbouring building is the free-standing Wimbledon Library, an 1887 construction inspired by Jacobean manor houses. The roundels with heads are frequent in the Italian Renaissance but are completely out of fashion nowadays, probably because they are just too tempting for roosting pigeons.

At the corner with Worple Road, I can give you an amusing detail found on http://www.thewimbledonway.org/the-way-map. The local department store had bribed some of the tram conductors to announce “Elys Corner” instead of the correct station name, paying them in woolens and gloves. Nowadays, corporations pay football clubs to call their stadiums “Emirates” or “Allianz”, don’t they ?

But this money goes to the shareholders of the clubs and indirectly to spoiled professional footballers, not to normal people like tram conductors. Shouldn’t we get money for wearing clothes with brand names ? There is something perverse about convincing people that they should pay a price surcharge for the privilege of doing advertising for brands.

WIMBLEDON

 

Wimbledon station

Wimbledon station

This is a venerable train station as it opened as early as 1838 on a train line linking Battersea (extended to Waterloo 10 years later) with Woking. An other train company opened a line towards Croydon in 1855; this line was later converted in what is now the Croydon Tramlink. A third train line opened in 1868, linking Wimbledon with Streatham. The present Underground line towards Putney and the West End opened in 1889. Finally, the train line to South Merton opened in 1929 and was extended to Sutton in 1930.

The station building was rebuilt in the 1920s in preparation for an expected extension of the Underground towards Sutton. This did not happen due to opposition from the train company serving Sutton, but the building proved quite convenient. Although I thought it looks like concrete, the building is actually clad in much posher Portland stone. It is strikingly Art Déco with very straight lines and no ornaments, and it does not have a first floor as it was not necessary any more to house the station master in the building as was usual in the 19th century.

The inside hall is somewhat confusing because it serves no less than 10 platforms with staircases not in a straight line. Train enthusiasts will certainly enjoy this station where the Tramlink, the Underground and two train companies provide a large variety of colours and shapes within a relatively small space.

In case you wonder how I managed to take a picture of a nearly empty forecourt for this very busy station, this was at sunset on a Sunday in March.

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