The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






London Borough of Croydon

For other places called Croydon see Croydon (disambiguation)
London Borough of Croydon
Shown within Greater London
Status: London borough
- Total
Ranked 256th
86.52 km²
ONS code: 00AH
- Total (2002 est.)
- Density
Ranked 9th
3,890 / km²
Ethnicity: 70.2% White
11.3% S.Asian
13.3% Afro-Carib.
Arms of Croydon London Borough Council
Croydon London Borough Council
Leadership: Leader & Cabinet
Executive: Labour
MPs: Geraint Davies, Richard Ottaway, Malcolm Wicks
London Assembly:
- Member
Croydon and Sutton
- Andrew Pelling

Croydon is a large suburban town and commercial centre to the south of London and forms part of the Greater London conurbation. It was once a Surrey Urban District Council, but in 1889, through its growing economic importance, it was made into a County Borough exempt from county administration. In 1965 it became the London Borough of Croydon, annexing the former Coulsdon and Purley Urban District. It is now governed by a cabinet-style council created in 2001.

It is twinned with Arnhem in the Netherlands.

Its area is 34sq m (87km²). It is the largest London Borough by population. The box, right gives its ranks within England.

for Taberner House - Croydon town hall.


The name

The name of Croydon derives originally from the Anglo-Saxon croeas deanas, meaning "the valley of the crocuses", indicating that, like Saffron Walden in Essex, it was a centre for the collection of saffron.

Another opinion [1] holds that the name derives from the Old French croie dune, meaning chalk hill. This was because Croydon stands at the northern edge of the chalky hills called the North Downs.


The town of Croydon is situated 10 miles south of London at one of the heads of the River Wandle. Just to the south is a significant gap in the North Downs which acts as a route focus for transport from London to the south coast. The old London to Brighton road, the A23, passed through the town as does the main line from London to Brighton. Today the A23 follows a route to the west of the town known as the Purley Way. Croydon is the largest office and retail centre in south-east England outside central London.


There is evidence of Roman settlement in the area and a 5th to 6th century pagan Saxon cemetery.

Archbishops of Canterbury, Lords of the Manor

In the late Saxon period, it was the centre of a large estate belonging to the Archbishops of Canterbury. The church and the archbishops' manor house occupied the area still known as the Old Town. The archbishops used the manor house as an occasional place of residence and would continue to have important links as Lords of the manor then as local patrons into the 21st Century.

In 1276, the archbishop acquired a charter for a weekly market, and this probably marks the foundation of Croydon as an urban centre. Croydon developed into one of the main market towns of northeast Surrey. The market place was laid out on the higher ground to the east of the manor house in the triangle now bounded by High Street, Surrey Street and Crown Hill.

By the sixteenth century the manor house had become a substantial palace used as the main summer home of the archbishops, visited by monarchs and other dignataries. The original palace was sold in 1781, by then delapidated and surrounded by slums and stagnant ponds, and a new residence, nearby at Addington, purchased in its place. Many of the buildings of the original Croydon Palace survive, and are in use today as Old Palace School .

The industrial era

The development of Brighton as a fashionable resort in the 1780s increased Croydon's role as a significant halt for stage coaches on the road south of London. At the beginning of the 19th century, Croydon became the terminus of two pioneering commercial transport links with London. The first, opened in 1803, was the horse-drawn Surrey Iron Railway from Wandsworth which was later in 1805 extended to Merstham, as the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Railway . The second, opened in 1809, was the Croydon Canal, which came from the Grand Surrey Canal at Deptford. The London & Croydon Railway (a steam-powered railway), opened between London Bridge and West Croydon in 1839 and other connections to London and the south followed, using much of the route of the canal, which had closed in 1836.

The rapid expansion of the town brought about by the railways in the 19th century led to considerable health problems, especially in the damp and overcrowded working class district of the Old Town. In response to this in 1849, Croydon became one of the first towns in the country to acquire a Local Board of Health. The Board constructed public health infrastructure including a reservoir, several miles of pipes and sewers, a pumping station, and sewage disposal works.

A growing town

As the town continued to grow, it became especially popular as a pleasant leafy residential suburb for members of the Victorian middle classes, who could commute to the City of London by fast train in 20 minutes. In 1883, Croydon was incorporated as a Borough. In 1889, it became a County Borough, with a still greater degree of autonomy. The new Council implemented the Croydon Improvement scheme in the early 1890s, which resulted in the widening of the High Street, and the clearance of much of the 'Middle Row' slum area. The remaining slums were cleared shortly after World War II, with much of the population relocated to the isolated new community at New Addington. New stores opened and expanded in central Croydon, including Allders, Kennards and Grants, and one of the first Sainsbury's shops.

By the 1950s, with the growth of motor transport, the town was becoming congested, and the Council decided to introduce another major redevelopment scheme. The Croydon Corporation Act was passed in 1956. This coupled with government incentives for office relocation out of London led to the building of new offices and roads in the late 1950s onwards. The town boomed as an important business centre in the 1960s, with the building of a large number of multi-story office blocks, underpasses, flyovers, and multi-storey car parks.

Modern Croydon

Croydon also developed as an important centre for shopping with the construction of the Whitgift Centre which opened in 1969. In the same period, Fairfield Halls arts centre and event venue opened (1962). The Warehouse Theatre opened in 1977. The 1990s saw further changes intended to give the town a more attractive image. These include the closure of North End to motor traffic in 1989; and the opening of the Croydon Clocktower arts centre, in 1994. Tramlink began operation in May 2000. A new shopping centre, Centrale , was opened in 2004 and lies opposite the Whitgift Centre. There are now plans for a large new shopping centre, Park Place , the redevelopment of the Croydon Gateway site and extensions to Tramlink to Purley, Streatham and Crystal Palace.

Landmarks and Attractions

Addington Palace

Addington Palace is a Palladian-style mansion between Addington Village and Shirley, surrounded by park landscapes and golf courses, within the boundaries of Croydon. After an Act of Parliament enabled the mansion to be purchased for the Archbishops of Canterbury in 1807, it became the official residence of six Archbishops until it was sold again in 1898.

In 1953, it was leased to the Royal School of Church Music until 1996 when it was leased to a private company who have developed it as a conference and banqueting venue with plans for a health farm and country club.

The grounds were landscaped by Capability Brown and are mainly a golf course and public park now. A famous, very large cedar tree is still next to the Palace.

Croydon Parish Church, St John the Baptist

The earliest record of Christian leaders in Croydon is found in an Anglo-Saxon will made in about 960, witnessed by Elfsies, priest of Croydon. The Doomsday Book has the earliest written record of Croydon Church. The earliest date of the name of the church is December 6, 1347, when it was recorded in the will of John de Croydon, fishmonger, containing a bequest to "the church of S John de Croydon". The church still bears the arms of Archbishop Courtenay and Archbishop Chicheley, presumed to be its benefactors.

The Perpendicular style church was remodelled in 1849 but was destroyed in a great fire in 1867, following which only the tower, south porch and outer walls remained. A new church was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, one of the greatest architects of the Victorian age, and opened in 1870. His design loosely followed the previous layout, with knapped flint facing and many of the original features, including a fine alabaster reredos and several important tombs. Croydon Parish Church is the burial place of six Archbishops of Canterbury: John Whitgift, Edmund Grindal, Gilbert Sheldon, William Wake, John Potter and Thomas Herring .

Previously part of the Diocese of Canterbury , Croydon is now in the Diocese of Southwark. The Vicar of Croydon is an important post, in addition to the suffragan Bishop of Croydon.

The Whitgift Almshouses

The Elizabethan Whitgift Almshouses, the ‘Hospital of the Holy Trinity’ as it was named, has stood in the centre of Croydon (at the corner of North End and George Street) since it was erected by Archbishop John Whitgift. He had petitioned for and had received permission from Queen Elizabeth I to establish a hospital and school in Croydon for the “poor, needy and impotent people” from the parishes of Croydon and Lambeth. The foundation stone was laid in 1596, and the building was completed in 1599.
The premises included the actual Hospital or Almshouses, providing accommodation for between 28 and 40 men and women, and a nearby schoolhouse and schoolmaster’s house. There was also a Warden in charge for the well-being of the almoners.
The building is constructed with the chambers of the almoners and various offices surrounding an inner courtyard.

Threatened by various reconstruction plans and road-widening schemes in more recent times in the area, it wasn’t until 1923 that the Almshouses were saved by intervention of the House of Lords.
On June 21, 1983, Queen Elizabeth II visited the almshouses and unveiled a plaque celebrating the recently completed reconstruction of the building. To this day, on March 22, each year the laying of the foundation stone is commemorated as Founder’s Day.

Croydon's Early Transport Links

The horse drawn Surrey Iron Railway was probably Britain's first public railway. It was opened in 1803, had a double track, some 8 miles long and ran from Wandsworth to Croydon terminating at what is now Reeves Corner. The railway boom of the 1840s built superior and faster steam lines and it closed in 1846. The route is still followed in part by Croydon's new Tramlink system.

The Croydon Canal ran for 9 miles from what is now West Croydon railway station north along the course of the present railway line to New Cross, where it joined, the Surrey canal and went on into the Thames. It was opened in 1809 and had 28 locks. It had a strong competitor in the Surrey Iron Railway and was never a financial success. It sold out to the steam railways in 1836 and the present Croydon to New Cross Gate line follows much of its course. The lake at South Norwood is the former reservoir for the canal.

Croydon Airport

Croydon Airport on Purley Way used to be the main airport for London before it was superseded by London Heathrow Airport and London Gatwick Airport. Starting out during World War I as an airfield for protection against Zeppelins, and developing into one of the great airports of the world during the 1920s and 1930s, it welcomed the world's pioneer aviators in its heyday. As aviation technology progressed, however, and aircraft became larger and more numerous, it was recognized in 1952 that the airport would be too small to cope with the ever-increasing volume of air traffic. It was decided it would have to close, and the last scheduled flight departed on September 30, 1959.

The air terminal, now known as Airport House, has been restored and has a museum open one day a month.

The Arts

Croydon is often disparaged for its lack of culture and its archetypal suburban atmosphere. The town has born the brunt of many jokes aimed at its enthusiastic adoption of urban modernism. It has often been characterised as dull and inhuman. A calendar entitled Roundabouts of Croydon, with a picture of a different Croydon roundabout each month, has enjoyed some success. More recently the name was often the subject of parody by comedy duo Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins.

Nevertheless, there are several high-quality arts venues. Foremost amongst these is the Fairfield Halls, opened in 1962 with a large concert hall frequently used for BBC recordings, the Ashcroft Theatre and the Arnhem Gallery. The Halls are the home of the London Mozart Players , whose Principal Guest Conductor is flautist, Sir James Galway. Many famous faces have appeared at the Fairfield Halls, from the Beatles, through Bucks Fizz to Coolio.

The Warehouse Theatre is a studio theatre known for its work on new playwriting, as well as comedy and youth theatre. Croydon Clocktower, built by Croydon Council in the mid-1990s, houses a state-of-the-art library, the David Lean cinema, a perfomance venue in the old reference library and the town museum.

Naturally there are several local and small venues for live music, comedy and community events dotted around Croydon and its neighbourhoods.

Croydon, notable people

The following people have an association with Croydon:-

  • Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift,– (c. 1530-1604), is buried in the parish church of St. John the Baptist, Croydon. Several other Archbishops are buried in the Parish Church or St Mary's in Addington.
  • Art critic and social theorist, John Ruskin, – (1819 – 1900) spent much of childhood in Croydon at his mother's family home and visited often as an adult. His parents are buried in Shirley.
  • John Horniman , – (1803-1893), and Frederick John Horniman (1835-1906), tea merchants, collectors and public benefactors, lived at Coombe Cliff, Coombe Road, Croydon
  • Naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, – (1823-1913), lived at 44 St Peter's Road, Croydon. He independently proposed a theory of evolution by natural selection and prompted Charles Darwin to reveal his own unpublished, theory sooner than he had intended.
  • Actor and dramatist Miles Malleson, – (1888 - 1969), was born in Croydon.
  • French Novelist Emile Zola, – (1840-1902), lived at The Queen's Hotel, 122 Church Road, Upper Norwood between 1898-1899.
  • William Ford Robertson Stanley , – (1829-1909), inventor, collector, manufacturer scientific instruments and philanthropist, lived in Croydon, and founded and designed the halls and technical school known as Stanley Halls, 12 South Norwood Hill, South Norwood.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, – (1859-1930) author and creator of Sherlock Holmes, lived at 12 Tennison Road, South Norwood between 1891 and 1894.
  • Author D.H. Lawrence, – (1885-1930) lived at 12 Colworth Road, Addiscombe, 1908 to 1912, while teacher at Davidson Road School.
  • Composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor, – (1875-1912), lived at 30 Dagnall Park, Selhurst .
  • Comic actor Will Hay, – (1888-1949), lived at 45, The Chase, Norbury between 1927-1934.
  • Illustrator and artist Cicely Mary Barker (1895 - 1973) who created the famous Flower fairies books was born in Croydon and lived locally. She studied at the Croydon School of Art.
  • Film director Sir David Lean, – (1908-1991) was born in Croydon on 25 March in 1908.
  • Actress, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, – (1907-1991) was born in Croydon and lived in George Street as a child (she is honoured in the naming of the Ashcroft Theatre, part of the Fairfield Halls).
  • Comedian Roy Hudd was born in Croydon in 1936 .
  • Electrical engineer & inventor of the Teleprinter, Frederick George Creed , (1871-1957), lived and died at 20 Outram Road, Addiscombe.
  • Super model Kate Moss was born in Croydon on January 16, 1974.
  • Comedian Ronnie Corbett, lives in Shirley.
  • Wilfred Wood served as Bishop of Croydon from 1985 to 2002, the first black Church of England bishop.
  • Former Arsenal footballer Ian Wright MBE lives in Shirley.
  • Feroz Abbasi, arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 and detained at Guantanamo Bay lived in Shirley and attended school in Croydon.

Croydon Districts

The following London suburbs and villages form part of the London Borough of Croydon:

Croydon transport

Croydon is the hub of the new Tramlink service in South London and has mainline rail services to Central London, Gatwick Airport and the South Coast from East Croydon station. There is a large bus station at West Croydon. There are plans to link Croydon to the London Underground network with the terminus of the East London Line extension at West Croydon. The London to Brighton A23 is the major road through Croydon, bypassing central Croydon along Purley Way, home to many superstores, notably IKEA.

Railway stations

Stations in central Croydon:

There are several other railway stations across the borough.

Tramlink stops

Tramlink stops near the centre of Croydon:

See also

External Links

Last updated: 05-16-2005 15:03:40