Some great sporting events and venues tend to become synonymous with the nearest local town – none more so, of course, than Wimbledon. The most famous tennis tournament in the world takes place each year in SW19 and the funny thing is, it is not really even ‘in Wimbledon’!
The nearest station to the tournament is Southfields and the courts are very much on the edge of Wimbledon village and a couple of miles away from Wimbledon town.
In the 1870s, the first championships were held by the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club in Worple Road, close to the centre of the actual town, and from then onwards the tournament simply became ‘Wimbledon’ and has never changed.
There were just 22 men in that first tournament, but, by the 1880s, women were playing too and crowds of around 3,000 people came to watch. By the 1900s, overseas players were competing – and winning. Norman Brookes of Australia became the first male champion in 1907.
In 1922, the Championships moved from Worple Road to Church Road where they have stayed ever since, expanding the site dramatically over the years. Rapid expansion continues with new plans for courts across the road from the existing ones now that the All England Club has bought a local golf course.
The pandemic years caused some significant disruption, but the Club famously insured against such an event and made a huge claim for lost revenue in 2020.
Now the event is bigger than ever and 2023 has seen massive queues for any available tickets. Literally thousands of people stand in long lines for ‘Ground Passes’ in the evening to glimpse some action on the outer courts or simply just to soak up the incredible atmosphere.
Once again, the weather has been challenging. The tournament takes place at the end of June and beginning of July each year and notoriously calm, settled warm weather in London seems to turn thundery with frequent showers almost every year, with 2023 being no exception.
Fifty-five thousand tennis balls are used at each tournament and the maximum number of people in the grounds at any one time is 42,000. Centre Court has a seating capacity of 14,979 and for several years now has had a retractable roof to combat the weather. More recently, the same was installed on the other show arena, ‘Number One Court’, which has a slightly lower seating capacity.
Wimbledon is the largest single annual sporting catering operation in Europe. There are some 3,000 catering staff serving in total around 200,000 portions of strawberries and cream and over a quarter of a million glasses of Pimm’s. Proudly, Wimbledon has pegged the price of Strawberries and Cream at £12.50 (€14.60) since 2010.
Sponsored cars from local top-end car dealerships cruise around the streets of Wimbledon picking up players and officials and the ‘queue’ almost reaches Glastonbury proportions, with a ‘festival atmosphere’ pervading the whole locality. Tube, train and bus travel become something of a nightmare for locals and with surprisingly few hotels and good restaurants near the grounds themselves, peak travelling times can be particularly painful.
Can’t get no satisfaction?
Perhaps the most famous London group, certainly of its generation, is the Rolling Stones. On August 24, 2021, the Stones’ drummer Charlie Watts died at the age of 80.
An upcoming sale at London auction house Christie’s shows that the man who was as famous for drink and drug issues and hellraising also found satisfaction in a more prosaic pastime – collecting rare books and music!
He was an avid collector of modern literature and the sale in September is expected to fetch millions of pounds as buyers from all over the world compete for some truly amazing titles.
The ‘auction leader’ is a signed copy of The Great Gatsby, by F Scott Fitzgerald. The book carries a personal dedication to the Screenwriter Harold Goldman as follows “For Harold Goldman, the original ‘Gatsby’ of this story, with thanks for letting me reveal these secrets of his past”. This book alone is expected to sell for £200,000-£300,000 (€233,000-€350,000).
There is also a proof original copy of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. Waugh actually made several changes from the original, including rewriting the ending, which makes this book particularly interesting and rare.
There is a first edition of Hound of the Baskervilles with a personal message from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and rare first editions of books by Agatha Christie, PG Wodehouse and James Joyce.
Reflecting his musical past and talent, there will also be items coming to auction from Watts’ extensive collection of Jazz music and related subjects.
There are inscribed piano scores from Jazz stars including Leon ‘Bix’ Beiderbeck and George Gershwin as well as music scores from Top Hat and Follow the Fleet – this latter one inscribed to Ginger Rogers.
Before the sale, items will be on display in Los Angeles, then New York and finally London, just before the sale.
Mar I Terra, 14 Gambia Street SE1 0XH Tel 0207 928 7628
New for 2023, we will be reviewing a London restaurant from time-to-time, with a view to providing readers with some more unusual and interesting places to eat in the UK capital. There are an estimated 20,000 restaurants, so our work is cut out – but we are up for the challenge!
Mar I Terra is perhaps the best Spanish tapas restaurant in London. This family-run business is nestled in the atmospheric Gambia Street, not far from Blackfriars Bridge. Flanked by railway arches and with a small garden, this restaurant offers a true taste of Spain in SE1.
The restaurant was created by Rafael and his family in 2000 when they converted a pub, The Hop Pole, which previously occupied the building. The tapas dishes are spectacular, the chorizo is simply the best and the home-recipe tortilla will have you closing your eyes and believing you under crystal-blue Spanish skies.
There is a great selection of good Spanish wine and beer of course too, and prices are reasonable.
Literally a stone’s throw from the Tate Modern and other South Bank attractions, Mar I Terra, is very well worth a visit.
Richard leads parallel lives with homes and business interests in London and Portugal. He provides consultancy services to leading businesses in insurance and financial services, property and media sectors. He has four sons, two dogs and enjoys a busy family life. He likes swimming, keeping fit and an outdoor life.