Heritage: Wimbledon's Danish link and where our pub names come from
Exactly 150 years ago this week an event took place that would leave a permanent mark on Wimbledon.
On 10 March 1863 Edward, Prince of Wales, married Princess Alexandra of Denmark at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Usually known as Bertie, he had been something of a playboy prince and his mother, Queen Victoria, was no doubt relieved when he got married at the age of 21.
It has been said that the shock of his affair with actress Nellie Clifden had been a contributory factor in the death of his father, Prince Albert, two years earlier.
Princess Alexandra became popular with the public and her styles were copied by fashion-conscious women of her day, much as those of another Princess of Wales – Diana - over a century later.
In November 1863 her father, Prince Christian, became King of Denmark and so it was that Wimbledon began to take on several place names connected with all of the above.
The earliest mention of the King of Denmark pub in the Ridgway was in 1866, just three years after both the marriage of Edward and Alexandra and the crowning of King Christian, so it is fairly certain that this is what inspired the pub owner.
The pub, in turn, gave its name to Denmark Road and Denmark Avenue nearby. Now that the pub has gone, people in future may wonder why two roads in Wimbledon Village are named after a Scandinavian country.
In 1876 the Alexandra pub, named after the Danish Princess, opened at the bottom of Wimbledon Hill and it was from this that the nearby Alexandra Road was named.
Just a few hundred yards away is the Prince of Wales pub at the top of Hartfield Road.
Although an information board on the pub’s outside wall claims antiquity and connections with Dick Turpin, it did not actually appear until 1867 and was named after Bertie, who later succeeded his mother to become King Edward VII.
There is a cellar bar at the Prince of Wales named Bertie’s. The Alexandra too has a side bar that, until a couple of years ago, was called Smart Alex. It is now known as the more prosaic ‘Lounge Bar’.
Mention should also be made of the Prince of Wales pub in Morden Road SW19. This dates back to 1870, again within a few years of the Prince’s marriage to Princess Alexandra.
In 1997 it was renamed the Princess of Wales in honour of Princess Diana who had tragically died that year. The suggestion had been made by some of the regulars and was implemented by Young’s brewery. A couple of years ago the name reverted to Prince of Wales.
So, from this single royal marriage we have three road names and four pub names, even though one has now gone.
Incidentally, the King of Denmark pub was visited in the 1960s by the King of Denmark himself, Frederick IX. He was accompanied by his daughter Princess Margrethe who, in 1972, became Margrethe II, the first reigning Queen of Denmark for 560 years.
Information on the King of Denmark from Pubs of Wimbledon Village by Clive Whichelow (Enigma Publishing) and information on The Prince of Wales in Morden Road from Pubs of Merton by Clive Whichelow (Enigma Publishing).
The Wimbledon Society is working with the Wimbledon Guardian to ensure that you, the readers, can share the fascinating discoveries that continue to emerge about our local heritage.