Hidden London

Crooked Billet

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Merton

The southernmost tip of Wimbledon Common has a distinct, if little known, identity, taking its name from a popular Young’s pub that faces onto a small triangular green. Despite claims of a Cromwellian connection the house probably dates from the early 18th century and became the Crooked Billet in the 1750s. However, the building has been so greatly altered that it is not deemed worthy of statutory listing. Around 1770 Cinque Cottages were built on the green, possibly as an illegal encroachment. The cottages were later divided into eight dwellings. Piecemeal redevelopment of the locality over more than two centuries has periodically altered the arrangement of the buildings, but several other properties survive from the 18th and early 19th centuries. The Hand in Hand public house had become the Crooked Billet’s neighbour by 1890. Southside House, on nearby Woodhayes Road, was built by Robert Pennington, a friend of the future Charles II, as a safe haven for his family after his son died in the Great Plague. Pennington’s descendants still live here to this day. Its neighbour is King’s College school, which took over a Georgian house in 1897 and had progressively expanded its premises since then.

Both pubs on the green are said to be haunted. The Crooked Billet’s ghost is an Irishwoman who confines her wanderings to the cellars.
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Postal district: SW19

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

 
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