Monday, 19 October 2009

Southside House, Wimbledon

Southside House by Wimbledon Common is a rare jewel of a house. Dating back to Tudor times and enlarged during William and Mary’s reign, it has the unique charm of a family home, not bound by the demands of rigorous academic conservation. Instead, the bomb damaged mansion, was restored by family members with what they felt looked aesthetically pleasing rather than historically correct.

I have noticed that over the years, the stories about the house have changed after the local history society took them to task for being unable to authenticate certain claims. Thus, the raised platform upon which Emma Hamilton was once said to have performed her daring yet artistic semi-nude classical attitudes, in the happier times before her lover, Admiral Nelson, sailed off for Trafalgar and immortality, is now prosaically described as having been installed several centuries later. I was not amused when a guide, talking about a former resident who had been sent by the SOE on a secret mission to Finland during World War II, described the Finnish ”capitulation” to the Russians.

"Capitulation"! I stormed. "During the Winter War, the Finns were heavily outnumbered by the Soviet forces, yet successfully held them off for months unlike what happened at a certain Dunkirk. I should know. My grandfather was there.”
Despite their valiant efforts, the Finns eventually had to cede nearly 9% of the country to Russia. Thus the birthplace of my grandmother, who was born in Finland, is now part of Russia. I was told that all my family left Karelia except for one man. He stayed in touch for a number of years until the Stalinist purge of the 1930s made it too dangerous to correspond with people living in the West and he begged the family to cut off all further contact.
Southside House

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