|All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club||Merton|
The first Lawn Tennis Championships were held in 1877 on the old grounds of the All England Club in Worple Road. The Club moved to the present grounds in 1922, which was formerly part of the C18th estate of Wimbledon House, landscaped by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown for Earl Spencer in 1765. The Club's grounds today consist of 19 grass courts, 6 American Clay courts and five indoor courts.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2012
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The All England Croquet Club was founded in 1868, its first ground located off Worple Road in Wimbledon. In 1875 the new game of lawn tennis was added to the Club's activities and in 1877 it was renamed The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club. The first Lawn Tennis Championship took place the same year. By 1882 lawn tennis had become the main focus of the club, which then dropped the word 'croquet' from its name, although this was later restored in 1899 and the Club continues to be officially known as The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. As tennis became increasingly popular, with women playing from 1884 and the tournaments attracting international players from the turn of the century, the facilities at Worple Road were expanded but eventually a larger ground was needed. In 1922 a new ground in Church Road was opened by King George V and a stadium designed to hold 14,000 people was built. It was financed partly from the accumulated reserves and partly by the issue of Debentures. In the first year, applications for tickets were so great that they had to be issued by a ballot, a system that continues today.
The new ground was on the former estate lands of Wimbledon House, which dated from the C16th. The first house was extensively enlarged for Sir Thomas Cecil in c.1588, at which time it was known as Wimbledon Palace. In 1639 Charles I bought it for Queen Henrietta Maria, for whom it was remodelled by Inigo Jones and Nicholas Stone. It had formal gardens designed by Andre Mollet, and John Evelyn is known to have given advice. In 1717 it was purchased by Sir Theodore Janssen who demolished the house, but the estate was sold in c.1723 before his new house was finished, and it was demolished by the new owner Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough who built a new house in 1733. The Royal Gardener Charles Bridgeman was consulted on the gardens in 1731-2. After the Duchess's death in 1744, the estate was inherited by her grandson, John Spencer, who died only 2 years later, leaving the estate to his 12 year old son, also John Spencer.
John Spencer came of age in 1755, by then the owner of extensive lands in Surrey, and was created a Viscount and then in 1765 became Earl Spencer. From 1761 Spencer had begun to improve his estate and in 1765 commissioned Lancelot 'Capability' Brown to design a landscape for the park to the north of the house. He also commissioned architect Henry Holland to rebuild Wimbledon House, which was undertaken between 1799-1802. By the early C19th the estate comprised some 480 hectares surrounding the 12-hectare lake created by Brown in c.1760. This had been formed by building a dam to hold water from two streams that emanated from Wimbledon Common (q.v.).
From the 1870s much of the estate was sold for housing and the mansion was demolished in 1949, by then separated from what was left of the park. The east side of the estate was cut off by the construction of the South Western Railway's Wimbledon to Wandsworth line in the late C19th. In 1914 the northern part of the park, including the lake, was purchased by the Borough of Wimbledon for public open space, now Wimbledon Park (q.v.) and a private golf course was laid out over part of the remaining parkland.
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999 p454; Championships History on All England Lawn Tennis Club website