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Croydon, Surrey

Historical Description

Croydon, an ancient town and parish, and a municipal and parliamentary borough in Surrey. The parish contains no less than 9901 acres, but has long since been divided into 16 convenient districts. The borough includes, besides Croydon proper, Thornton Heath, Upper Norwood, South Norwood, Addiscombe, Woodside, and Shirley. Its name (formerly Craydene) is usually derived from Croiedune (Norman-French), " chalk hill," but is undoubtedly from the Anglo-Saxon Crogdoene, " crooked valley." The town stands amid beautiful environs on the line of the ancient Ermine Street, and on the modern road from London to Brighton, a few miles to the N of the North Downs, which separate it from Merstham and Reigate. Croydon town is 10 miles S of London. The river Wandle rises in the parish, somewhat towards Waddon, and flows under the lower lying parts of the town. There are several railway stations on the L.B. & S.C.R., and the S.E.R., in the town itself, and several more in other parts of the borough. Croydon used to be on the main Dover line of the S.E.R., but this now passes via Chiselhurst. There is, however, a large traffic from the Reading branch, the old S.E.R. main line through Redhill, and the Caterham Valley branch. The whole of the traffic of the L.B. & S.C.R. passes through Croydon, both from London Bridge and Victoria; the main line to Brighton with its important branches, especially that via Oxted to East Grinstead and Tunbridge" Wells, and the main line to Hastings and Eastbourne, all pass through East Croydon station, while the secondary Brighton line and the main Portsmouth line pass through West Croydon. The latter station is also the junction of the Brighton Company's lines from Wimbledon and Epsom. Besides these through lines there are three termini of local lines from Croydon to London, viz.: -Addiscombe (S.E.R.), and South and West Croydon (L.B. & S.C.R.) Probably there is not so rich a train service in the environs of London, to say which is to place this town practically in the first rank for railway accommodation.

The original town stood farther west than the present one,. was long thought to have been the Noviomagus of the Romans, and has entirely disappeared. Originally a great forest covered all this region, as the names of Nor-wood, Woodside, Selhurst and other "hursts," Forest Hill, &c., indicate. Later on there grew up a pagan sanctuary here, as-shown by the districts of Haling (holy), Waddon (formerly Woddens, i.e., sacred to the god Woden), &c. And, as is so often the case, the Christian faith adopted the site already hallowed in the minds of the earlier people, so that hi this same district we find " Elfsies" named in a document of 960 as " the priest of Crog doene," and this church is one of the 64 named in Domesday Book as then existing in Surrey. Lanfranc was then Archbishop of Canterbury, and was lord of the manor of Croydon, as have been his successors the archbishops ever since, though the best of the manor has now been given over to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the general good of the Church of England. The palace, situated in the Wandle Valley in the old town, was an occasional residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury from 1272 to 1757, and gave entertainment for seven days in 1573 to Queen Elizabeth and her retinue. It was sold in 1780 to be converted into a factory, and Addington Park was purchased with the proceeds. The buildings were irregularly quadrangular, and measured interiorly 156 feet by 126. The hall still stands, is 56 feet long, 37 wide, and 37½ high, and shows the Perpendicular character of the time of Henry VI. This building was purchased in 1887 by the Duke of Newcastle and presented to a sisterhood. St John's Church stands adjacent, was also originally of Perpendicular date, and very noble. It contained the tombs of Whitgift (which still exists, a very handsome monument), and five other archbishops. It was, with the exception of the lower walls and the tower, destroyed by fire in January 1867; it was at once rebuilt of stone and flint, and was further restored and improved, in 1886 and 1893, at a total cost of £45,000. Both palace and church were originally surrounded by flowing streams from the Wandle, but these, with the fish-ponds, mill-dam,. &c., have long since disappeared. The rectory of Croydon was given to the great Abbey of Bermondsey in 1390, the living since then having been a vicarage only. Of the earlier rectors Richard of Bury, the famous author of " Philobiblion " and Lord High Chancellor, was presented in 1327. The best known vicar is Rowland Phillips (1497), celebrated in Holin-shed. Miles Coverdale, translator of the Bible, was consecrated Bishop of Exeter here by Cranmer in 1551. A great trade was long carried on in charcoal here, occasioning our earlier poets to speak of "Croydon clothed in black" and the colliers of Croydon, but became extinct towards the end of the 18th century. A defeat of the insurgents against Henry III. took place here after Lewes in 1264. Lord Mayor Sir William Walworth, who slew Wat Tyier (1381), was Keeper of the Park at Croydon under Archbishop Courtenay; and Charles the First's friend, Lord Mayor Gnrney, was 1 n native. Lord Howard of Effingham, and Barclay the author of the t( Ship of Fools," were residents. Copley, the artist, lies in the parish church. Of more modern celebrities Sir Francis Bond Head, Sir Arthur Helps, Riley the great archaeologist, Bumaud the editor of " Punch," and Hablot K. Browne (" Phiz ") the artist, were Croydon men. Purley, to the south of the town, is famous through Home Tooke's " Diversions of Purley,'' and also as the residence of Bradshaw the arch-regicide. Whitgift's Hospital was erected and endowed in 1593 by Archbishop Whitgift. It is a quadrangular edifice in plain Tudor, supports 39 poor persons, and has an endowed income. Each male inmate receives £40 a year in money, and each female £30. It stands in the very centre of the busy town, and its quaint, old-world, peaceful quadrangle forms a striking contrast, under the hush of ages, to the noise and bustle without the gate. Oldham the poet was for three years an usher in its school, and wrote there his satire on the Jesuits. The total income of the Whitgift endowment, including a few other local charities added to it in the scheme of 1869, in order to support the two great schools mentioned below, as well as the hospital, is over £4:000 a year. The other charities in Croydon, of which there are several, were collected under a second scheme in 1893, which administers them partly by extending the already existing almshouses, and partly by establishing pensions to deserving poor. Their amount is over £1200 a year.

Croydon, in its ardent pursuit of health, and while retaining its beautiful environs, has lost almost all its picturesque town features. Up to quite recently its narrow High Street, with the quaint old swinging inn signs crossing the roadway, the antique Hospital of the Trinity of Archbishop Whitgift, the side views down steep hilly streets of the fine old parish church and half ruinous old palace, &c., made it an interesting town, and the approaches both from north and south were rural and pretty. In the heart of the town was a very ancient block of mediaeval houses in narrow lanes, the resort of the worst characters, and a standing danger in sanitary respects, but overflowing with taking subjects for artists, with whom it was in great favour, and who loudly lamented its loss in 1894. A quarter of the town, now the East Ward, preserves, in its usual name of Addiscombe, the memory of the once-famous Addiscombe College of the East India Company, which, up to 1857, here trained the officers for its army. The fine trees of the college park still ornament the roads of Addiscombe, but only a few of the smaller buildings, such as professors' houses, the lodge, drill-hall, &c., now remain. The once well-known Croydon races were removed to Gatwick, near Hoi-ley, in 1890, the racecourse (at Woodside) being converted into golfing links. Races were run publicly at Croydon even under James I.

The borough of Croydon was incorporated by royal charter in 1883. The corporate body consists of a mayor, 12 aldermen, and 36 councillors. The borough is divided into six wards. Under the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, Croydon was made a parliamentary borough returning one member, and by the Local Government Act, 1888, it was declared a county borough. It is within the district of the metropolitan police. A separate court of borough quarter sessions was granted to the town in 1889, when a recorder was appointed. The area of the borough of Croydon is 9014 acres. Its population was, in 1893,109,700, dwelling in 19,500 houses, The number of voters on the parliamentary register in 1893 was 15,875, and on the municipal register 16,659. There are 140 miles of public roads. The number of houses is now increasing at the rate of over 500 a year, and the population at the rate of over 3000 a year, upon the average of the last ten years. The irredeemable 3¼ per cent. corporation stock amounted in 1893 to close upon £500,000, and commands very high market prices. Sinking funds are provided to extinguish this debt by 1933. A new 3 per cent. stock, redeemable at par in 1940, was issued in 1894 to the amount of £300,000, to clear off the floating debt of £100,000, and the cost of the large improvement schemes mentioned below; advantage being taken of the favour enjoyed by Croydon securities to lower the rate of interest. The yearly interest on the debt is over £25,000. The rateable value of Croydon is considerable. In 1893 the borough was rated to the poor at £600,000, and to the general district rate about £40,000 less, A penny in the pound on the general district rate 1 yields about. £2300, and on the poor rate £2500. The rates actually levied are 2s. 6d. in the pound general rate, and 2s. 8d. in the pound poor rate, on an average of ten years

The Surrey county assizes until recent years were held alternately at Croydon and Guildford, but Kingston now replaces Croydon in this arrangement. The old town-hall was erected in 1807 at a cost of £10,000. In 1893-95 handsome new municipal buildings were erected at a cost of £82,000. The principal front is 285 feet long, and the side frontage 170 feet. They contain offices for all the borough officials, a council chamber, and rooms for the sessions court and county court. The style is modern Renaissance freely treated. The public library forms a continuation of the municipal offices towards the High Street. A fund of £2000, raised in memory of a much-loved vicar of Croydon, was expended upon the groined roof and galleries, and decorations of the chief room of the library, called therefore the Braithwaite Memorial Hall. One of the mayors of the town (Alderman F. T. Edridge) presented a clock and bells for the town-hall at a cost of £1000. These amounts raised the cost of the buildings to £85,000. A corn market completes the group on that portion of the site nearest the High Street, and the junction with the High Street is made by the handsome premises of the Croydon branch of the Union Bank, opened in 1894. The High Street was widened and improved, at the same time the new town-hall was built, at a cost of £150,000. A public hall, with two spacious apartments for meetings, and with rooms for a literary institution, school of art, &c., was built in 1860 at a cost of £3500 by private enterprise. A theatre existed in 1800; the present one was built in 1868.

The Whitgift Grammar School is a handsome edifioe, with a central tower, a fine hall, cloisters, and extensive playing fields, in the centre of the town. It is well appointed in every way, has a good library, and an excellent detached chemical laboratory and lecture-room. The number of scholars is over 300. It ranks high amongst the smaller public schools of the country, supports its cadet volunteer corps, shoots at Bisley, competes for university and other scholarships with good success, and is a great source of attraction to the town. It was built and endowed out of the Whitgift property in 1869. The middle-class school, also founded at the same time by the governors of the Whitgift charities, numbers over 300 boys. There is a Girls' High School (Public Day School Company) of like size, housed in a handsome modern building close to the Grammar School, and there are numerous and very efficient private schools, some (as, for instance, the Roman Catholic College and the Girls' School of the same community) scarcely inferior to those already named. The Royal Normal College for the Blind at Upper Norwood, founded in 1877, is the leading institution of its kind in the country. These educational advantages are one reason of the rapid growth of the place. Still more important are the unequalled railway facilities spoken of above. But most important of all is the position held by Croydon as the healthiest town in England.

In 1893 the death rate per 1000 in Croydon was only 16*3, and in the town second in the list 17'3, a full 1 per cent. above, whilst Brighton had 18'4, and Manchester and Liverpool, the last on the list, had 24'9 and 27'3 respectively. In 1892, when the average death rate for all England was 19, and for London 20-64, Croydon led the list with 16-28. Taking the 10 years from 1883, the date of its incorporation, Croydon was at the head of the list every year save one, 1890, when by a solitary exception a town usually standing fifth or sixth for once came first, Croydon being second. This is certainly a most remarkable achievement. There are many things to account for it. Much of the subsoil of the borough is river gravel, another large part is chalk, and there are considerable tracks of the Woolwich and Reading sands and pebbles; only a small part of the borough is on clay. The town lies high; even its lowest part, where the Wandle flows, is within a few feet as high as the top of Wimbledon Hill. But the courage of the corporation in thinking no expenditure too great to ensure the salubrity of the borough, is of course the chief reason of the unrivalled health of the district, and hence of its great popularity.

First, there are 204 acres of recreation grounds in the borough, purchased at a cost of about £50,000 (averaging 2 acres of public recreation grounds to every 1000 of population), as well as large open spaces crossed by bridle roads, such as the lovely Croham Hurst, and numerous private parks and grounds. The 11 recreation grounds, the property of the Corporation, range in size from the little garden of 1½ acre in the crowded district, down by the old church, to the 87 acres of the pine-clad Shirley Hills (or Addington Hills), the most beautiful spot within the same distance of London. In many of them bands perform at the cost of the town, in several cricket is allowed, and in one or two special horse rides are made.

Further, Croydon was the first town practically to solve the all-important sewage question. It still remains easily at the head of the few towns which utilise the whole of their sewage. This is the second main element in the success of the Corporation in lowering the death-rate. The whole of the sewage of Croydon is collected in two systems, one much larger than the other, and distributed over considerable tracts of farm iland. The original farm at Beddington now amounts to over 540 acres,and the capital expenditure upon it is over £180,000; and the newer farm at South Norwood is growing rapidly as need presses, and its capital expenditure is already over £50,000. The method adopted in utilising the sewage on these farms is very simple. The sewage is taken through a iarge chamber in which a revolving wheel, turned by the flow of the sewage itself, picks up all paper and other waste (which is at once burnt), and at the same time breaks up all solids. The prepared sewage is now taken by carriers to the top of the fields, and from the main carrier it is allowed to overflow, gullies collect it and guide it to the second carrier, ½parallel to the first, and in tins way it descends the field, from carrier to carrier, and is then conveyed to the field at the next lower level. Of course the track of the sewage is frequently changed, according to the previous saturation of the fields or the needs of the farming. The water in the effluent is quite pure after passing over the fields, and enthusiastic councillors conducting visitors over the farm are said to be always willing to drink a glass to astonish their guests. On the Beddington sewage farm rye-grass, meadow, mangolds, wheat, oats, potatoes, cabbages, and swedes are grown. The rye-grass and mangolds are the most successful crops, and are of remarkable quality: in each case small differences from the usual growth occur, adopted by the plants in order to take the full advantage of their unfamiliar nutriment, Cows are fed successfully, and milk supplied to some of the public institutions. The loans on the farms are now to a large extent running off; but, disregarding the capital sunk in them and its interest, they pay their way, and in favourable years realise a profit over expenses. For instance, in 1893, on the produce and dairy account, a profit of £220 was earned, and on cattle £125. The value of the stock on the farm was about £6250 in this year. This must certainly be considered a most economical and successful treatment of sewage. Other towns have preferred subsoil irrigation, but it is found that the Croydon plan of surface irrigation is superior, since the water beneath the earth soon forms little channels which it quickly runs through, leaving unfertilised tracks on each side. Next the sewage farms in importance of health comes the almost unrivalled water supply, which will be presently described.

And finally, in 1893, the Croydon Corporation determined upon a bold attempt to isolate infectious epidemic diseases upon their first outbreak, by means of an Isolation Hospital. This scheme, which is believed to be destined to great success in "the future, is apparently costly, but like the other ventures already described is in reality of the greatest economy. The hospital was built in 1894. It cost nearly £25,000, and the yearly expenditure upon its staff and maintenance is nearly £5000. The " Borough Hospital," as it is called, stands upon 8 acres of land, and is situated at Waddon in the south-western portion of the borough. It is of course independent of the large and complete infirmary hospital at the workhouse, and of the Croydon General Hospital. The last named hospital is a very large establishment in the London Road in the north-western part of the borough, supported 'by voluntary contributions, opened in 1867, rebuilt in 1873, greatly enlarged in 1884, and still further enlarged in 1894 by a fine new wing costing about £8000. This hospital now treats 10,000 cases yearly, of which over 500 are in- patients. In 1867 it treated 600 cases, of which 70 were In-patients, and at that time the population of the borough was under 50,000, considerably below half its present size. The Charitable Society, Creche, Provident Clothing Society, and dispensaries are actively worked. An admirable convalescent home is situated in the Brighton Road, and an orphan home for girls in the Sydenham Road. The Croydon Union Workhouse is in Queen's Road, near the old cemetery, was built in 1886 at a cost of nearly £40,000, and stands on 10 acres of ground. An infirmary is attached, built in 1885.

The water system of Croydon is in the hands of the corporation, and is most complete. The old station was near the source of the Wan die, not far from the parish church, where are four wells in the gravel, 50 feet deep, connected by syphon pipes, so that all are kept at the same level whichever well is at the moment being pumped from. The water is 10 feet from the surface, and sinks to 22 feet during pumping. It is raised 160 feet to the low-level reservoir, Park Hill. The engine (1876) is of 150 horse-power, and can raise 178,000 gallons an hour, but actually raises about 100,000 gallons an hour, working continuously, exclusive of Sundays. The reservoir contains 950,000 gallons, and is 293 feet above sea-level. A handsome tower rises 80 feet from the reservoir hill, and supports the high-level tank, but this high-level tank and its lifting engines are now thrown out of use by the new Addington Waterworks, and the summit of the tower, 380 feet above sea-level, has become part of the adjoining recreation grounds, affording extensive views over much of the county of Surrey. The new works are three-quarters of a mile south of Addington village. The well is 10 in diameter and 205 feet deep, all in chalk. The well is not bored, but headings or tunnels 6 feet high and 4¼ feet wide have been made chiefly about 150 feet from the top, the total length of these headings being 813 yards. After a wet season, when the springs are at their highest, the yield of this magnificent well is no less than 3,000,000 gallons a day. A mutual arrangement with the West Kent Waterworks limits the Croydon Corporation at present to about half this quantity; but as the borough consumes at present over 3,000,000 gallons .daily, and as the old supply is drawn from the lowest. portions of the town, it. is manifest that the increasing desire of using the purest water-sources puts pressure on the Addington supply, and that the town really needs its full use. But to avoid disturbing the existing arrangement, the corporation w 1894 appointed some eminent geologists to look for a suitable site for a third well. The pumping engines at Addington are together of 250 horse-power, and lift 150,000 gallons an hour 250 feet to the high reservoir on the Shirley or Addington Hills previously referred to. This reservoir holds 5,000,000 gallons, and is 465 feet above sea-level, 87 feet above the highest houses in Upper Norwood, the highest part of the borough. The supply is continuous in Croydon, and the quality of the water is almost unrivalled. The total expenditure on waterworks at Croydon is about £160,000 to the present time. The expenditure on sewers, exclusive of the quarter of a million spent on the two sewage farms, is over £150,000. Public baths have cost £16,500; public slaughter-houses, £4,500. There is a highly efficient Fire Brigade supported by the corporation, with eight stations. The corporation owns two cemeteries; the older one, of 24 acres, in Queen's Road (cost £16,000), the newer one (towards Mitcham Common), of 27 acres, opened in 1894 at a cost of about £4500. The amount laid out in purchase of land for allotments in various parts of the borough was about £10,000 up to the end of 1893. Croydon adopted the Libraries Acts in 1888, and the Central Library was opened in 1890 at temporary premises in North End, to be moved in 1895 to the new town-hall. There are branch libraries at South Norwood, Thornton Heath, and Shirley. The yearly cost of maintenance of the libraries is a little over £2000. The number of volumes in 1894 was-Central, 13,000; branches, 6000 each; but as regards the main collection this number was being kept as low as possible until the removal to the permanent premises. The corporation erected an excellent Polytechnic Institution near the old waterworks, at a cost of about £3500, fitted with dynamo for electric lighting and power, gas engine, workshops with every appliance for metal and wood working, and excellent laboratories and lecture rooms. This building was opened by the Archbishop of Canterbury 22 Dec., 1891, and has since been enlarged. Instruction was being given in 24 subjects to about 1000 students in 1893 Classes of the Surrey County Council are also held liere. There are also excellent branch polytechnics under the control of the same corporation committee, aided by committees at Thornton Heath and South Norwood, both of which were opened in 1893. The gas supply has more than once seemed on the point of being taken over by the corporation, but the existing interests demanded such excessive compensation that it still remains in the hands of a private company. On the other hand, in 1891, the corporation obtained a provisional order for electric lighting, and in 1893 a special committee reported that an outlay of £25,000 should be made to provide a central supply. In view of the large expenditure then proceeding on the town, the question was deferred for a year.

Croydon is one of the most advanced centres of the University Extension Movement, the London University Extension Society having continuously taught here since 1881. The centre furnished an important educational exhibit to the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. The Croydon School Board dates from 1871, and has handsome central offices in Katharine Street. The number of schools is 11, and the annual expenditure £28,000, of which £17,000 is contributed by a 7d. rate, and the remainder is from Government grants. There are 9361 children on the register, and the cost per head is £3. The staff comprises 36 head teachers (maximum salary, £200 men, £140 women) and 140 assistant teachers (maximum salary, certificated, £120 men, £85 women).

The manor belongs to the See of Canterbury, and the Archbishops of Canterbury have had since 1807 their country residence at Addington Park, adjoining the borough, and continuing the range of the beautiful Shirley or Addington Hills already referred to. The parish church (St John's) has already been mentioned. The churches of the 15 other districts were built at the following dates:-St Peter's church, in St Peter's Road, was built in 1851; St James' church, and All Saints, Upper Norwood, in 1829; St Andrew's church in 1857, and enlarged in 1870 and 1891; Christ Church, Broad Green, and St Marks, South Norwood, in 1852; St Matthew's church, Addiscombe Road, in 1866, and enlarged in 1877; St Saviour's,inl867; St Mary Magdalene's, Addiscombe, in 1878; St Michael's, in 1881; St Paul's, Thornton Heath, in 1872; Holy Trinity, Selhurst, in 1867; St Luke's, Woodside, in 1872; St John's, Shirley (with its pretty churchyard, much in favour as a final resting-place), one of Sir Gilbert Scott's churches, in 1856; and St John's, Norwood, in 1876. The Croydon livings are all vicarages in the diocese of Canterbury; value of St John's, £193, in the gift of the Archbishop of Canterbury; of Christ Church, £400; of St Andrew's, £299; of St James', £390; of St John the Evangelist, £200; of St Mary Magdalene, £680; of St Matthew's, about £470; of St Michael's, £650; of St Paul's, £300; of St Saviour's, £650; of St Augustine's, £277. Besides these there is a large Roman Catholic church, with St George's College and a girls' convent school attached, at West Croydon. There are several Congregational churches, as Trinity, Christ Church, Addiscombe, George Street, and others, at West Croydon, Thornton Heath, and South Croydon; and also important Baptist chapels at West Croydon (built for the brother and colleague of the celebrated C. H. Spurgeon), and at Tarn-worth Road; and Wesleyan chapels at Addiscombe and at Tamworth Road. The chief Presbyterian church is in Oak-field Road, West Croydon. The Primitive Methodists and United Methodists have several chapels. The Society of Friends is rather strong in Croydon; its meeting-house and burial-ground are in Park Lane. The Free Christian church is a handsome building in the style of a college chapel, close to West Croydon station; and there is also a mission chapel in Dennett Road belonging to this community Nearly all the smaller religious bodies are represented in the borough, and even the Theosophists have a flourishing " centre " here. The London City Mission has several stations, the Salvation Army has an important barracks, and the Gospel Messengers have a vigorous centre. The Plymouth Brethren have a fairly large chapel at West Croydon, and are unusually strong in the town; and the chapel of the Particular Baptists in West Street will seat 650 persons.

Croydon has practically no manufactures beyond a large wholesale boot factory and a well-known clock factory, renowned for its skill in constructing carillons, chimes, &c. The storm-bells of the Eddystone lighthouse were cast here; There is a flourishing Chamber of Commerce in the town, founded in 1891. It has a head post office, and is a seat £ petty sessions. Six newspapers are published in the town, and three at Norwood, the greater part of which is included iu this borough. Markets are held on Thursdays and Saturdays-that on Thursday being for cattle and horses. The large market to the south of the town, which holds 600 cattle and 2400 sheep or pigs, is often well filled. The East Surrey Agricultural Association holds its cattle show in this space annually in July. The corn market, on Saturdays, is held in the town itself. A large annual horse and cattle fair is held on the 2 Oct., in a field along the Brighton Road.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountySurrey 
Ecclesiastical parishCroydon St. John the Baptist 
Poor Law unionCroydon 

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CountyGreater London
Postal districtCR9