Crooked Billet
Crooked Billet is located in Greater London
Crooked Billet
Crooked Billet
Location within Greater London
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLondon
Postcode districtSW19
Dialling code020
UK Parliament
  • Wimbledon
London Assembly
List of places
51°25′17″N 00°13′39″W / 51.42139°N 0.22750°W / 51.42139; -0.22750

Crooked Billet, also known as Shepherd's Hatch Gate,[a] is a hamlet which forms part of Wimbledon Common and incorporates its own commons. The district encompasses a small area in southwest London, England, in the London Borough of Merton. The area is regarded as a popular greenspot and an adjunct to events in Wimbledon.


Crooked Billet is a small corner of Wimbledon Common with a green, housing mainly in the form of houses, and two public houses.[2][3] Contrasting with adjoining developed environs, it has maintained its core "identity as a semi-rural enclave". Formerly, it encompassed grazing land, cottages and farm buildings; surviving parts hark back to at least the 17th century. Currently, the public houses host various events, and the Wimbledon Morrismen perform there. A 1617 survey calls it "Shepherd's Hatch Gate" which refers to gates for grazing livestock.[1] A cottage was occupied by Richard Atkins who cultivated one of the fields south of the Ridgway.[1][4]

It is a small, rather obscure area[1][5] on the southern edge of Wimbledon Common. One theory is that it is named after the Crooked Billet pub[6][b] which was first mentioned in 1509.[1] Both the pub and the area are well regarded.[10][11][12][13] Along with the Hand in Hand pub, it faces onto a small triangular green. Nearby can be found King's College School.[c] Eagle House and Wimbledon House are also in the vicinity.[15]

After his son died in the Great Plague of London, Robert Pennington, a friend of Charles II, built Southside House (on nearby Woodhayes Road) as a safe haven for his family.[6]

In the 1770s, the "Cinque Cottages" were built on the green, perhaps as an illegal encroachment.[6]

In the 1820s, Gothic House (later renamed Gothic Lodge) was home to novelist Captain Frederick Marryat. In 1874 it became the home of engineer Sir William Preece[d] who permitted use of his garden by Guglielmo Marconi to position a radio transmitter "used to send some of the earliest telegraph messages". It was the first house in London with a telephone and London's first house with electricity for illumination, boiling a kettle and ironing.[1]

In the 1860s Earl Spencer was Lord of the Manor, and owner of Wimbledon Common. His stated intent to enclose the common land before selling it for building development led to the passage of the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act of 1871.[16] Consequently, the land is preserved as a commons and saved "for the public in perpetuity". A Board of Conservators manages the property.[1]

In 1872, Sir Henry Peek of Wimbledon House, Parkside, constructed the "Cinque Cottages" which displaced the earlier cottages. The deed of trust provides for the beneficiaries to be "poor men of good character in needy circumstances" 54 years old or older who resided within one of 40 Surrey parishes. Peek played a signal role in passing the Commons Act.[e] He was a Member of Parliament for East Surrey from 1868[1] until 1884.[17]

In 1888 Young's Brewery leased the Crooked Billet pub, and bought the freehold in 1928. In 1974 Young's purchased the Hand in Hand. After the pubs were enlarged and refurbished, they were sold in 2006.[18][19] The pubs are separated from the green. In Wright's Alley, Shire horses historically pulled brewer's drays delivering ale to customers.[1]

See also


  1. ^ Occasionally and erroneously called "Cromwell's Half Acre."[1]
  2. ^ Quite apart from the location or the present pub, "Crooked Billet" was (and is) a very common pub and inn name. In its most generic form, it refers to a bent staff or branch that has fallen from a tree[7] or ready to be split.[8] There were at least five around London in the 18th century — which then arguably carried a connotation disparaging the presumed clientelle.[9]
  3. ^ The origin of the name is disputed.[1][14]
  4. ^ Sir William was the premier campaigner for electric street lighting in Wimbledon. His son, Arthur Preece, opened the town's first electricity power station in 1899.[1]
  5. ^ Sir Henry was a son of the founder of biscuit maker Peek Frean & Co.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Matthews, Tony (6 January 2009). "Crooked Billet". London Gardens On Line. London Parks and Gardens Trust. Archived from the original on 7 January 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2019. ...the first mention of a brewery and inn occurs in 1509 and the name was given to a small row of cottages, although 1776 is the first authenticated date of an alehouse here. The site has been referred to erroneously as Cromwell's Half Acre after local legend had it that the site was occupied in 1513 by Walter Cromwell, father of Thomas Cromwell the Chancellor of Henry VIII. Walter was a 'smith and armourer, a brewer and hostelry keeper' but his 'half acre' is now believed to have been elsewhere across Wimbledon Common.
  2. ^ Loobey & Every 1995, pp. 8, 50.
  3. ^ Milward 1989, pp. 81–83.
  4. ^ "The Treswell Survey". Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  5. ^ Jane, Fred T. (April 1894). "The Romance of a London Omnibus". The English Illustrated Magazine, London (127): 691–699 – via ProQuest.(subscription required)
  6. ^ a b c "Crooked Billet, Merton". Hidden London. Retrieved 4 September 2009.
  7. ^ "Crooked Billet". Best Pubs In London. Londonist. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  8. ^ Baden-Powell, Baden Henry (1 January 1893). Forest Law: A Course of Lectures on the Principles of Civil and Criminal Law and on the Law of the Forest, Chiefly Based on the Laws in Force in British India, Addressed to the Forest Students at the Royal College of Engineering, Coopers' Hill. Bradbury, Agnew, & Company. p. 329.
  9. ^ Hitchcock 2004.
  10. ^ "Food and Drink, London, 11 Best Pubs in London". The Resident. 1 July 2018. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  11. ^ Spranklen, Annabelle (30 June 2018). "Vogue's Insider Guide To Wimbledon". Vogue magazine. Retrieved 10 January 2019. There's more to Wimbledon than the two-week tennis tournament that takes over our screens every year. This leafy south west London district, with its famous SW19 postcode, is just 30 minutes outside of the city smog and a melting pot of hotspots worth a visit - including an idyllic stretch known as Wimbledon Village that borders the common. Here are seven little-known local secrets to make the most of while you're visiting.
  12. ^ Embley, Jochan (2 July 2018). "Wimbledon tennis: An SW19 area guide, from main attractions to nightlife". Evening Standard. Retrieved 10 January 2019. Wimbledon is known for one thing above all: tennis. Every July, SW19 is transformed into a hub of activity as fans from all over the world arrive to watch the annual Championships. ... the south-west London neighbourhood is a relaxed, family-friendly area characterised by upmarket, leafy suburbs and green spaces. Its centre is packed with pubs, restaurants and coffee shops.
  13. ^ Brennan, Ailis (2 July 2018). "Wimbledon Tennis in London: Where to Eat and drink". Evening Standard. Retrieved 10 January 2019. If you've been inspired to get to grips with the grass but don't feel quite like expending Grand Slam-level energy, then a recline on Wimbledon Common should do the trick. You'll find the Crooked Billet on the corner of the green spot, and with the tennis on the TV, it's the perfect spot for checking the scores over a Pimms.
  14. ^ "Crooked Billet (also known as Shepherd's Hatch Gate". London Parks and Gardens Trust, Retrieved 1 January 2019.
  15. ^ Surrey Archaeological Society (1891). Surrey Archaeological Collections: Relating to the History and Antiquities of the County. Vol. 10. Bofworth & Sons. p. 160.
  16. ^ "The Wimbledon and Putney Commons Act, 1871" (PDF). Wimbledon and Putney Commons. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  17. ^ Craig 1989, pp. 465, 467.
  18. ^ Osbourne 1991.
  19. ^ Whichelow 1998, pp. 2, 15.