The redevelopment of Wellington Row has got all eyes on Wimbledon Hill Park. From excellent restaurants to fabulous home interior stores, Wimbledon has a wealth of amenities that make this buzzy, leafy part of southwest London hugely attractive
Words: Hannah Lawrence
Lead image: Berkeley’s Wellington Row development
The commanding Victorian mansion of Wellington Row in Wimbledon Hill Park has a fair bit of history behind it. Originally the ancestral home of the second Duke of Wellington, the man the development was named after, the site was most recently a hospital until 2003, recognised as one of the most advanced brain surgery centres in the world.
Now it has been redeveloped by Berkeley with the aim of retaining its natural heritage while still putting their own stamp on the 27-acre site. For Berkeley, Wimbledon was a massive draw, not only because of its international reputation as the centre of British tennis, but because of a few unique local features.
Wimbledon’s popularity comes down to ‘the fact that it has incredibly good schools, most of them are rated outstanding be it public or state schools, combined with really good outdoor lifestyle and sports facilities, with everything from golf and riding, to tennis and rugby,’ says Nino Boehm, Senior Sales Manager at Berkeley. It’s always been a very popular suburb to live in within the greater London southwestern areas.’
The development has also come with a local community perk: ‘We’ve contributed to the community by fixing the sports facilities and the sports centre, which the council is to lease to the Ursuline School,’ says Boehm. ‘For the first time in over 100 years, they’re going to have their own sports facilities, something they’ve never had, so these things really do help the community,’ states Boehm.
And while Boehm admits Wimbledon is not immune to the post Brexit vote downturn in the housing market, he believes these aspects are a key part of its recovery: ‘I think it has proved to be resilient as well,’ he says.
People tend to move here and stay. It’s not one of those transient areas of London, there is a genuine feeling of community and neighbourliness. It really does feel like home
‘This is despite the numbers of transactions having dropped and there having been some adjustments at the upper end with people taking some discounts, it is still active and it’ll remain popular because of all the qualities that people buy into the area for.’
Another thing Wimbledon has been resilient to is high street decline. Home interior store Neptune, which opened in a former fisherman’s tackle shop on The Broadway in February 2017, is one of the new businesses drawn to the area because of Wimbledon’s unique demographic. As Store Manager, Nicola Sampson-Cousins, explains: ‘It felt very much like the right marketplace for us, based on the style of furniture, cabinetry and kitchens.’
‘In terms of retailing and shops they’ve kept refreshing themselves,’ she says. ‘Ely’s has revamped itself and looks great and as a business, it’s more relevant to people. That’s been really nice.
’Smash Wimbledon is another new business to move to the area in 2017. As their Sales and Marketing Manager, Brad Fredrick, explains part of the reason the high street is thriving is because of initiatives that prompt people to shop local, keeping business in the area.
‘We have a privilege card so all the businesses give each other discounted rates,’ he explains. This kind of initiative helps create a sense of community, as Fredrick can attest to. ‘I’ve lived all over London and it’s very much like a village mentality here, everybody does know everybody. I’ve only lived here a few months, but I know familiar faces when I go around the town and people kind of know who I am.’
Paul Merrett, Chef Patron of the Fox and Grapes, agrees that Wimbledon’s draw is its strong community feel. ‘A thing I love about Wimbledon is that people tend to move here and stay,’ he says. ‘It’s not one of those transient areas of London, there is a genuine feeling of community and neighbourliness. It really does feel like home.
I don’t really leave. I have friends in Clapham, but generally speaking, I go for dinner here, go to the gym here, go drinking here
’Helen Clark Bell, CEO of Love Wimbledon, a non-profit organisation supporting local businesses, puts the ‘very vibrant business and town centre economy’ down to Wimbledon’s unique location. Wimbledon has the 21st busiest train station in the country with 13.5 million people coming through its doors each year.
‘As a result, we have very strong footfall, which is also throughout the week,’ says Bell. ‘We have many multi-national headquarters located here so we have very strong local employment opportunities for employees of all levels, so it is an attractive place for businesses to set up.’
So how does Wimbledon retain its identity as things, naturally, begin to change? For Bell, the area’s success is down to a good balance between residents and businesses. ‘You need your residents to be loyal to the town centre and shop local, but you also need a strong business community to make the footfall 9-5 Monday to Friday.’
Thankfully a strong local community and good footfall are two things Wimbledon has, both of which help the area stay so self-sustained. As Fredrick concludes: ‘I don’t really leave. I have friends in Clapham, but generally speaking, I go for dinner here, go to the gym here, go drinking here.’