Croydon (St. John the Baptist)

CROYDON (St. John the Baptist), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the First division of the hundred of Wallington, E. division of Surrey, 9½ miles (S.) from London; containing, with part of Norwood, 16,712 inhabitants. This place, called by Camden Cradeden, and in ancient records Croindene and Croiden, derives its present name from Croie, chalk, and Dune, a hill, denoting its situation on the summit of an extensive basin of chalk. By some antiquaries it has been identified with the Noviomagus of Antonine; and the Roman road, from Arundel to London, which passed through that station, may still be traced on Broad Green, near the town. At the time of the Conquest it was given to Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, whose successors had for several centuries a residence here, which is said to have been originally a royal palace. During the war between Henry III. and the barons, in 1264, the citizens of London, who had taken up arms against their sovereign, after being driven from the field at Lewes, retreated to this town, where they endeavoured to make a stand; but part of the royal army, then stationed at Tonbridge, marched hither, and attacked and defeated them with great slaughter. The archiepiscopal palace, which in 1278 was in its original state, built chiefly of timber, was enlarged by Archbishop Stafford, and improved by his successors in the see, of whom Archbishop Parker, in 1573, had the honour of entertaining Queen Elizabeth and her court for several days here. The palace having afterwards fallen into a state of dilapidation, was alienated from the see by act of parliament, and sold in 1780: the gardens have been converted into bleaching-grounds, the proprietor of which occupies the remains of the palace. With the produce of the sale, and other funds, was purchased in 1807 Addington Park, three miles and a half from Croydon.

The parish is pleasantly situated on the border of Banstead Downs, and within its limits are two of the three sources of the river Wandle, a stream abounding with excellent trout. The town consists principally of one long street, and is paved, lighted with gas, and watched, under the direction of commissioners appointed by an act passed in the 10th of George IV. 1829 for its general improvement: the inhabitants are plentifully supplied with water. The houses are mostly substantial and well built, and many of them are handsome and of modern erection. In the vicinity are several mansions, with parks and pleasure-grounds, numerous detached residences, and ranges of neat dwellings inhabited by highly respectable families; the salubrity of the air, and the convenient distance from the metropolis, rendering this place a chosen retreat for merchants and retired tradesmen. A literary and scientific institution was established in 1838. The barracks, erected in 1794, contain accommodation for three troops of cavalry, with an hospital, infirmary, and all the requisite stables, shops, &c. Within a mile east of the town is Addiscombe House, formerly the residence of the first lord Liverpool, which, in 1809, was purchased by the East India Company, for the establishment of their military college, previously formed at Woolwich Common, for the education of cadets for the engineers and artillery, but since 1825 open to the reception of cadets for the whole military service of the company, with the exception of the cavalry. There are generally from 120 to 150 students, and under the auspices of the court of directors, the establishment has obtained a rank equal to that of any military institution in the kingdom. The buildings which have been at various times added to the original mansion, for the completion of the college, have cost more than £40,000.

The trade is principally in corn: the calico-printing and bleaching businesses, which were formerly carried on extensively, have materially declined. A large brewery has been established more than a century; and there are others of more recent date. The London and Croydon railway, which was opened on June 5th, 1839, has its first station contiguous to that of the Greenwich railway, near London Bridge, and pursues the line of that railway for nearly a mile and a half: it then diverges from it by a viaduct, and pursues its course to New Cross, Sydenham, Penge, and Norwood, and thence to this town. The Croydon station and depôt, formerly the premises of the canal company, whose property was purchased for the formation of the railway along the bed of the canal, is a spacious establishment, covering nearly five acres of ground. The whole course of the line amounted, in 1840, to £615, 160, averaging, for the expense of its construction, about £70,000 per mile. The Brighton line turns off from the terminus at Croydon, and passes on the east side of the town, in a southerly direction towards Sussex. The Croydon Company and the Brighton Company were amalgamated in 1846. A railway was opened from near Croydon to Epsom in May, 1847; it is eight miles in length. An act was passed in 1846 for a railway to Wandsworth. The market is on Saturday: fairs are held on July 6th for cattle, and Oct. 2nd for horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs; at the latter, which is also a large pleasure-fair, a great quantity of walnuts is sold. The town is within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, of whom those acting for the division hold a petty-session every Saturday; and a head constable, two petty constables, and two headboroughs, are appointed at the court leet of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is lord of the manor. The powers of the county debt-court of Croydon, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Croydon. The summer assizes for the county are held here and at Guildford, alternately; and Croydon is the principal place of election for the eastern division of the county. The town-hall, a neat stone edifice surmounted by a cupola, was erected in 1807, at an expense of £10,000, defrayed by the sale of waste lands belonging to the parish. The prison was erected by subscription among the inhabitants, on the site of the old townhall, and is a large and substantial building, of which the lower part, containing several rooms, is used as the town gaol, and for the confinement of prisoners during the assizes, and the upper part let for warehouses. Near the town-hall is a convenient market-house for butter and poultry.

The parish comprises about 2000 acres, the larger portion of which is arable land. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £21. 18. 9., and in the patronage of the Archbishop; net income, £587; impropriator, A. Caldcleugh, Esq. The church, begun by Archbishop Courteney, and completed by Archbishop Chichely, is a spacious and elegant structure of freestone and flint, in the later English style, having a lofty embattled tower with crocketed pinnacles. In it are deposited the remains of Archbishops Grindall, Sheldon, Potter, and Herring, and there are some very fine monuments, of which that of Archbishop Sheldon, bearing his effigy in episcopal robes, exceeds all in beauty of workmanship; there are likewise some ancient brasses. Its finely-painted windows were wantonly destroyed during the Commonwealth. Two new churches were, in 1827-9, erected partly by a grant of £300 from Queen Anne's Bounty, and partly by aid from the Parliamentary Commissioners: one, on Croydon common, dedicated to St. James, is a handsome edifice in the later English style, with a small campanile tower, and contains 1200 sittings, of which 400 are free; the other is at Beulah Hill, Norwood. The livings are perpetual curacies, in the patronage of the Vicar; net income of St. James', £300. A district chapel, dedicated to St. John, was erected at Shirley, in 1836, at a cost of £1300: the living is in the gift of the Archbishop. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, and Wesleyans. The free school was founded and endowed in 1714, by Archbishop Tenison, and has an income of £130 per annum; schoolrooms were erected in 1792, at an expense of nearly £1000, on a piece of land adjoining the old school-house, which, having become unfit for the purpose, was let. The Society of Friends have a large establishment, removed to this place, in 1825, from Clerkenwell, where it had existed for more than a century, for the maintenance and education of 150 boys and girls. A free school originally founded and endowed by Archbishop Whitgift, in conjunction with the hospital of the Holy Trinity, is now a national school; and a school of industry for girls is kept in the chapel belonging to the old archiepiscopal palace.

The hospital of the Holy Trinity was founded and endowed by Archbishop Whitgift, in 1596, for a warden, schoolmaster, chaplain, and any number above 30, and not exceeding 40, of poor brothers and sisters, not less than 60 years of age, of the parishes of Croydon and Lambeth, who were to be a body corporate and have a common seal. It is under the inspection of the Archbishop of Canterbury; the income, originally not more than £200, has increased to £2000 per annum, and there are 34 brothers and sisters now in the hospital. The building, occupying three sides of a quadrangle, in which is a small chapel, is a handsome specimen of the domestic style prevailing at the time of its erection. Davy's almshouses, for seven aged men and women, were founded in 1447, by Elias Davy, citizen of London, who endowed them with land, now producing about £180 per annum: the premises were rebuilt about 80 years since. The Little Almshouses, containing originally nine rooms, were erected principally with money given by the Earl of Bristol, in consideration of land inclosed on Norwood common; they have been enlarged by the addition of fifteen apartments, at the expense of the parish, for the poor. In 1656, Archbishop Laud gave £300, which sum, having been invested in the purchase of a farm and in the funds, produces £62 per annum, applied to the apprenticing of children. Henry Smith, of London, in 1627 left lands and houses yielding an income of £213, of which about £150 are distributed among the inmates of the Little Almshouses; and there are various other charitable bequests for the relief of the poor. The union of Croydon contains 11 parishes or places, and contains a population of 27,721.

On a hill towards Addington is a cluster of 25 tumuli, one of which is 40 feet in diameter; they appear to have been opened, and, according to Salmon, to have contained urns. On Thunderfield common is a circular encampment, including an area of two acres, surrounded by a double moat. At Duppas Hill, it is said, a tournament took place in 1186, when William, only son of John, the 7th earl Warren, lost his life. In 1719, a gold coin of the Emperor Domitian was found at Whitehorse farm, in the parish, where also, some years ago, a gold coin of Lælius Cæsar, in good preservation, and several others, were discovered; and in digging for a foundation in the town, in 1791, two gold coins of Valentinian, and a brass coin of Trajan, were found.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.