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Description: 31 and 33, Wimbledon Park Road Sw18
Date Listed: 7 April 1983
English Heritage Building ID: 207192
OS Grid Reference: TQ2508874072
OS Grid Coordinates: 525088, 174072
Latitude/Longitude: 51.4518, -0.2012
WIMBLEDON PARK ROAD SW18
Nos 31 and 33
Semi-detached houses, mid-C19, with later alterations.
EXTERIOR: Each of yellow stock brick houses has three storeys plus basement, the whole four windows wide beneath a hipped, slated roof with brick chimney stacks. A coupled, stuccoed Doric porch in the centre of the principal elevation surrounds both front doors, each reached by a short flight of steps. The doors are timber with glazed upper panels. The windows have gauged flat arches and are all timber sashes (those on the ground and first floors have four-panes, those in the attic six-panes; the latter are the originals, the former late-Victorian). No 31 has a 2-storey single bay wing to the east, a later extension. To the rear, both houses have been extended, but at different dates. The raised ground floor bay window to No 31, supported on timber posts, is shown on photographs of the building of c1900 but its precise date of construction is not known. The conservatory-like extension to the left of the bay window is probably mid-C19, albeit quite altered (it appears on the Ordnance Survey map of 1869 and on a photograph of c1900). The rear of No 33, according to the evidence of historic maps and the building fabric, has been remodelled several times; the raised ground floor and basement extension to the west are modern. The windows to the rear of the house are either four- or six-pane sashes, sashes with marginal glazing, or modern timber windows.
INTERIOR: each house retains its staircase, each with a polished timber handrail, carved string, and turned balusters. The entrance hall in both houses has a modillion cornice, dado rail and skirting board. The ground floor north-west facing reception rooms retain the original picture rails, cornices and shutters, as does the south-east facing reception room in No 31. In the upstairs rooms, there are surviving cornices, picture rails, architraves and doors, although all of the fireplaces (bar one in the attic of No 33) have been replaced.
HISTORY: 31-33 Wimbledon Park Road comprises two mid-C19 houses, with that to the east originally named Holly Lodge. From February 1859 to September 1860 Holly Lodge was the home of the novelist George Eliot (1819-1880, born Mary Anne Evans) and George Henry Lewes. From 1854 until Lewes' death in 1878, the couple lived as man and wife, although they were never officially married.
Eliot wrote of her new house in a letter to her friend Sarah Hennell, dated February 19th 1859. She described it thus: 'our home is very comfortable, with far more of vulgar indulgences in it than I ever expected to have again; but you must not imagine it a snug place, just peeping above the holly bushes. Imagine it rather as a tall cake, with a low garnish of holly and laurel. As it is, we are very well off, with glorious breezy walks, and wide horizons, well-ventilated rooms, and abundant water'. By June of the same year, she was less enamoured, and wrote to her friend Mrs Richard Congreve: 'I want to get rid of this house, cut cables and drift about. I dislike Wandsworth, and should think with unmitigated regret of our coming here were it not for you'. She disliked the 'houses full of eyes' which overlooked her residence and found its situation 'inconvenient'.
When Eliot moved to Holly Lodge, she was already an author of some celebrity. Amos Barton, her first novel, had been published in 1857 and Adam Bede, a second success, arrived in 1859. While resident at Holly Lodge, she wrote The Mill on the Floss, which features the dedication: 'To my beloved husband, George Henry Lewes, I give this MS. of my third book, written in the 6th year of our life together, at Holly Lodge, South Fields, Wandsworth, and finished 21st March, 1860'. Visitors to the house during George Eliot's time included Charles Dickens, Herbert Spencer and Wilkie Collins. A full account of the life of George Eliot may be found in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Eliot's connection with 31 Wimbledon Park Road was recognised on 3rd August 1905, when a London County Council blue plaque was erected, the first instance of the Council awarding a plaque to a woman. The address was also the first in South London to receive a blue plaque. It was the Wandsworth Traders' Association that first suggested Eliot's house for a blue plaque, and the idea was welcomed with enthusiasm by the then tenant of Holly Lodge, Arnold Wright, editor of the London Argus, and the house's owner, the Revd Elphinstoen Rivers, Vicar of Eltham. The Clerk of London Council recommended that Holly Lodge was the London house with the strongest connection to the author, In 1949 the LCC erected a second plaque to Eliot at 4 Cheyne Walk, where she died in 1880.
SOURCES: Blue Plaque file on George Eliot
Rosemary Ashton, 'Evans, Marian [George Eliot] (1819-1880)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2008
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: 31-33 Wimbledon Park Road is listed at Grade II for the following principal reason:
* Historic Associations: the home of the famous author George Eliot, who wrote 'The Mill on the Floss' here in 1860.
This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.