Above: Looking north in Wandle Creek at the point where the River Wandle meets the Thames. It was the Wandle that gave us the modern name of Wandsworth. For flood-prevention reasons the stream is now embanked with concrete but there is a small park to the left (where the trees are to be seen). Today’s busy roads – where the quiet village lane once crossed Wandle Bridge – is just a quarter of a mile south of this rural scene.
The original village of Wandsworth came into being beside the Thames but also around the smaller River Wandle which enters the Thames at this point. Parts of the Wandle are still visible above ground and flow through parkland today. Over the centuries, the Wandle had more mills on it than any other tributary of the Thames.
The first mention of the name was as ‘Wendleswura’ in AD 693 and as ‘Wendelesorde’ in the Domesday Book (1086). The name is taken to mean ‘Wendel’s worth’– ‘worth’ being Old English for an open space, so a literal translation could be given as ‘Wendel’s Farm’. Of course, who ‘Wendel’ was we shall never know.
The list of vicars for the parish church of All Saints goes back to 1243. The church may have been founded earlier than that but there are just no other early records. The present tower of the church was built 1630, from an earlier church. The present church dates from 1780. In 1841 the old tower was raised in height with the addition of a belfry storey, with eight bells. The church has always stood near the bridge over the River Wandle which flowed through the original village. While the geography just described has not changed, the bridge over the Wandle is now part of a traffic-filled one-way system and the peace of the little village has gone for ever!
Above: Outline map (in red) of the London Borough of Wandsworth. The additional boundary (in yellow) shows the boundary between the pre-1965 Metropolitan Boroughs of Battersea (right) and Wandsworth (left). The ‘finger’ of land enclosed by the yellow dotted line was also part of the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth. On the map, GREEN dots show the ancient villages – known to be in existence from Saxon or Norman times. The YELLOW dots show villages which came into being after 1066.
On the map, the original centres of Wandsworth, Balham, Tooting and nearby Tooting Bec are shown in GREEN because they were all Domesday manors (1086) – some of them dating from long before the Norman conquest. Shown in YELLOW, indicating a place that developed later than Domesday times is Roehampton. Putney was also an ancient settlement that was part of the Manor of Mortlake by Domesday times, a manor that was to the west of the borough boundary but whose land then included part of the western side of the modern borough. Earlsfield is marked as a place name on the modern map. It came into being in Victorian times as a typical London suburb, developing around the railway station of the same name.
The name of the original village of Wandsworth was used for the newly formed Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth, which was one of 28 Metropolitan Boroughs which came into being in 1900. Notice that the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth also included the ‘finger’ of land on the western side of the red-shaded area. This Metropolitan Borough was the most westerly of boroughs that were on the south side of the Thames. Its boundary on the western side – with the County of Surrey – was a natural one formed by a tributary of the Thames called Beverley Brook.
The Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth continued until 1 April 1965 when Battersea and Wandsworth were combined to form the larger London Borough of Wandsworth. At that time the ‘finger’ of land (made up essentially of Clapham and Streatham) was taken away from the London Borough of Wandsworth and added to the London Borough of Lambeth. The London Borough is still the administrative unit at the time of writing. It should be noted that the name of Wandsworth applies to the original village; the Metropolitan Borough; and also the London Borough.