Early Beginnings

Engraving of the Medieval Church, published in 1796

The first record of a church building on the site of St Mary's can be found in the Domesday book in 1086 where the survey simply says 'there is a church'. There is nothing remaining of this church today but as the population of Wimbledon at the time was less than 100, it is likely to have been a simple wooden building, the size of the present chancel.

The church was rebuilt at the end of the 13th century for a population of about 125. Prints and contemporary drawings of the medieval church indicate that it was about 44 feet long by 36 feet wide. There was a south porch with a typical Surrey wooden belfry surmounted by a spire.

During the time of the Reformation, Wimbledon grew in popularity as a country retreat particularly among court officials. The most notable of these was Sir William Cecil, later Lord Burghley. His family remained strongly connected to the church for the next 100 years, and his son Thomas built the Elizabethan manor house standing to the north of the church on the hill overlooking the present golf-course. It was at this time that the Cecil Chapel was built and indeed those foundations still stand as the map indicates. Despite Wimbledon's increasing popularity the church remained adequate in size as the high death rate meant only a slow increase in population to about 450 by 1700.