Our lovely Museum has a long and distinguished history. It first opened its doors to the public in 1916, at 22 Ridgway, where it remains to this day.
The origins of the museum lie even earlier: in 1863, when a distinguished local resident, Joseph Toynbee, published a small book called ‘Hints on the Formation of Local Museums’. He hoped to establish a local museum as one of the facilities offered by the Wimbledon Village Club, of which he was a founding member.
Toynbee’s untimely death meant he never made his dream museum a reality, but his book inspired Richardson Evans, one of the founders of the John Evelyn Club (as the Wimbledon Society used to be known). He began to collect objects and artworks, and the Wimbledon Village Club offered a home to the museum he created, thus fulfilling Toynbee’s dream.
So the museum has been a feature of Wimbledon life for more than a century, and over that period its fortunes have waxed and waned. It has always had a loyal core of volunteers and visitors, but it was last refurbished in 1993, and the displays no longer met expectations of how a museum should look and feel in the 21st Century.
And so we embarked on a project to recreate the museum, with entirely new displays. We took inspiration from the wonderful collections which we have inherited, and we have used them to tell new stories which we hope will appeal to young and old alike, and all the communities of Wimbledon and Merton. At the same time we have created a beautiful new space for activities and local events.
The new museum has been designed by Philip Simpson of Philip Simpson Design, the designers on the Whitehall Historic House project, and at All Saints Church in Kingston. He also works regularly for the British Museum.
Our Project Lead was Jane Allen who was in charge of heritage at Sutton Council. She was responsible for the stunning Whitehall Historic House project in Cheam, and the creation of the Honeywood Museum in Carshalton. Having very recently retired, she took on this role as a volunteer.
Our Project Manager was Jason Lowe of Conservation Plus, a firm of specialist heritage project managers, whose recent work includes the visitor centres at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum, and The Jewish Cemetery in Willesden, as well as new exhibition and display spaces in the crypt at Rochester Cathedral
Thanks to the generosity of the Wimbledon Village Hall Trust, the base build works have been carried out to a very high standard. We have a gorgeous new oak floor, and a magnificently replastered ceiling. The brickwork and timber frames around our lovely bow window have been restored. Our beautiful interior can be seen in all its glory.
And we hope you will think the new displays are worthy of their setting. Come and see, and tell us what you think!
We are so grateful for all the generous grants and donations we have received. Fundraising will continue to meet all the running costs of the museum once it reopens, and to fund special features of the new displays, including, we hope, a film about the history of the museum. We will be maintaining our long and honourable tradition of free entry, and of course the museum continues to be run entirely by volunteers.
If you would like to make a donation, please visit our Donate page.