As I stare out of my window at the rooftops surrounding me, I wonder how quickly the day, again, will pass me by. Going through the motions, I wait until 5 o'clock and savour the familiar tones of Bradley Walsh on “The Chase”, the only regular occurrence in my life, as I try to hold on to the little knowledge I have gained over the summer. My government-mandated exercise has, however, become somewhat of a saving grace this year, giving me a chance to explore areas around me that I would have otherwise never thought of visiting. I have begun to make Wimbledon Common my regular haunt, and discovered the multitude of delights on offer at the Windmill Café, escaping the never-ending bread-making videos at home and around the world. 

For me, the houses on Parkside, a road on Wimbledon Common, have always had a certain charm about them. They hark back to the time of Dickensian England, and the horse-and-carts plodding along the cobbled streets of Victorian London. One, namely number fifty-four, is quite different, however. It was designed by C.W Stephens (the architect of Claridge’s hotel, Harrod’s Department Store etc.) and is a little larger and more extravagant than its neighbours. The golden keys and mitre (fancy hat) on the gates and above the doorway may be a giveaway but to the unsuspecting eye, this does not look like the pope’s residence in London. 

Shrouded in pious secrecy, Wimbledon seems like the perfect extension to the Vatican citadel, surrounded by Rome on all sides and holding the prestigious title of the smallest country in the world. The house itself has had its fair share of drama over the past 120 years. Built-in circa 1897, it was owned by the Sutton family for many years until leased to Captain Edward Kendrick Bunbury-Tighe in 1917. The house was the site of the captain's death as he was brutally beaten in his sleep in November of that year. He was found by his wife and died a few days later in hospital. After this ordeal, Joseph Hood, MP (1918 to 1924) and Mayor (1930 to 1931) for Wimbledon owned the house until his death, with the next obvious step for the site becoming a papal residency. 

Sounding like a brand of indigestion tablets, today it is officially known as the “Apostolic Nunciature” and was established on 21 November 1928 by Pope Pious XI. Usually, in London, the pope can only be found at "Madame Tassaud's", however, there have been two official papal visits to the UK, John Paul II in 1982 and Benedict XVI in 2010, both visiting Wimbledon, with both leading privates mass in the house. The home has acted as the base for the pope in the UK for over 80 years now, and I think we should be proud of that. I believe it shows the beauty and architecture of the community and the attractiveness of the area on the world’s stage and to the estimated 1.2 billion Catholics around the world. Or, maybe, the pope is just partial to a ham baguette at the Windmill Café.