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26 Lingfield Road, Wimbledon, London, SW19 4QD
On 22 July 1857 at a General Meeting of Subscribers under the chairmanship of the Perpetual Curate of Wimbledon, the Rev. R. L. Adams, a resolution was passed to proceed with the building of the Village Club. The funds were “provided for by distinct contributions” and around 100 local people donated sums ranging from £1 to £200. The architect Mr. S. Teulon was also the architect of Christ Church. On 2 December 1858 G. Siggers was appointed resident Housekeeper at £20 per annum; however the Club did not in fact open until 9 February 1859.
Although Wimbledon in 1859 remained substantially as it had been for 200 years (with only around 800 houses), it was rapidly changing. Nevertheless it still had amongst its residents men whose names recur through English history; for instance, Spencer, Cottenham, Rockingham and Melville.
So what was the purpose of the Club? In those Victorian times of restless Christian conscience the more fortunate were awakened to the idea of duty to their less fortunate fellows. Thus, in the Trust Deed, the intention was “to afford to the inhabitants, and more especially the working and middle classes of Wimbledon and its vicinity, opportunities of intellectual and moral improvement, and rational and social enjoyment, through the medium of a reading room and library, lectures and classes”.
Those who wanted to join the Club had to be proposed and seconded by Members and elected by the Committee. Honorary Members paid an annual subscription of ten shillings or a donation of no less than £5; Ordinary Members, described as “artisans or labourers, or of such limited pecuniary means as entitles them to the benefit of the Institution at the lower rate of payment” paid 1s 6d a quarter or 8d a month. They all had the use of the Reading Room and the Refreshment Room.
The Lecture Hall was used for a variety of things, amongst which were lectures, fencing classes, boxing, Penny Readings and scripture classes for servants; the Rifle Corps held their annual dinner there. In the first 40 years the whole building was extended in various ways, the funds being raised by bazaars, loans and subscriptions. It was always intended to include a museum in the building and Joseph Toynbee, one of the original members of both the Building and Management Committees, seems to have been the driving force behind this ideal. Sadly, the museum was not to come into being until 1916, well after his death.
Records of the Club’s recorded history include the following; the ventilation was inadequate and a sub-