South Wimbledon is a suburb - also known as Merton - and tube station in South London.
The New Wimbledon
Theatre is a Grade II listed Edwardian theatre built by the theatre lover and entrepreneur, J B Mulholland.
Built on the site of a large house with spacious grounds, the theatre was designed by Cecil Aubrey Massey and Roy Young (possibly following a 1908 design by Frank H Jones). It seems to have been the only British theatre to have included a Victorian-style Turkish bath in the basement. The theatre opened on 26 December 1910 with the pantomime Jack and Jill.
The theatre was very popular between the wars, with Gracie Fields, Sybil Thorndike, Ivor Novello, Markova and Noël Coward all performing there. Lionel Bart’s Oliver! received its world premiere at the theatre in 1960 before transferring to the West End’s New Theatre. The theatre also hosted the world premiere of Half A Sixpence starring Tommy Steele in 1963 prior to the West End.
With several refurbishments, most notably in 1991 and 1998, the theatre retains its baroque and Adamesque internal features. The golden statue atop the dome is Laetitia, the Roman Goddess of Gaiety (although many refer to her as the theatre’s "angel") and was an original fixture back in 1910. Laetitia is holding a laurel crown as a symbol of celebration. The statue was removed in World War II as it was thought to be a direction finding device for German bombers, and replaced in 1991.
The theatre is close to Wimbledon
rail, tube and tramlink station, and a short walk from South Wimbledon
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Merton is ten minutes walk from Wimbledon
centre, and is most obviously recognised by the busy crossroads at which South Wimbledon
tube station is situated on one corner.
Admiral Nelson once had property in this part of London called Merton Place, and therefore a number of roads and pubs in the region (immediately to the east, and much further to the west, in Wimbledon
Chase) are named after historically relevant battles and ships. The Nelson's Arms pub is on the road to Colliers Wood.
station was designed by Charles Holden and was opened on 13 September 1926 as part of the Morden extension of the City & South London Railway (now part of the Northern Line).
station - not being actually in Wimbledon
- was given this name as it was thought that Wimbledon
had a higher social standing than its actual location of Merton. On the original plan it had the name Merton Grove
. For geographical accuracy, the station was originally named South Wimbledon (Merton)
and it appeared as such on early tube maps and on the original station platform signage.