Saturday, 22 March 2008

Croydon - Surrey Street area

Theses photos came from a quick trip to the centre of Croydon and mainly come from the site of the open market in Surrey Street and the old (and now spruced up and pedestrianised) High Street (Map link)

It looks to me as though the main redevelopment of Croydon has taken place just north of the historic centre of the town which now provides a long pedestrianised walk to the rear of the Whitgift Shopping Centre. The landscaping has retained many of the old shopfronts though and it looks as though Croydon must have had a mini-boom period in the late nineteenth century if the number of fine facades from that period are anything to judge by. Surrey Street in contrast has a slightly more satisfyingly shabby and disreputable air about it!

Surrey Street - A nice example of metal sheet advertising that looks in pretty good condition
Bell Hill (off Surrey Street) this proud was perched way up on top of an otherwise nondescript building in a side street which suggests it might have had a slightly grander role in its early days. Dance Hall? Picture Palace? Billiard Hall? Not sure...

High Street - I've no doubt that this magnificent building must have some sort of historical significance or protection on it. It's double -fronted and far too big for my little camera to fit into a single shot and has a real presence to it. I assume it was a retail unit but what a superb place to visit to stock up on your dwindling supplies of ribbons!

High Street - Just along from the ribbon shop there are a whole series of impressive 'corporate' style buildings. This one caught my eye for its elaborate and attractive 'GB' monogram. Of course I've no idea who GB was...
High Street - Opposite side of the road if I recall correctly and this motif of blindfold child with scales suggests a justice theme, law-courts or the like. However I suppose it could also refer to 'fair and equitable' trading (is that a wheatsheaf in the background?). Whatever the meaning it's undoubtedly unusual and eye-catching.
Church Street - I noticed this tiny emblem stuck high up on the wall of a building. If you have a closer look at it you can make out the date '1710' which seems a little early to be the date of the building. I have a feeling that this might be an insurance plaque showing that the premises were fully insured with the 'Sun Alliance' or some such organization which was itself founded in 1710 but would be interested to hear if I'm totally wrong on that.
High Street (pedestrianised section) - Although there is a very nice 'ghost sign' in Surrey Street (see a previous posting for a look) this old shop number was the closest I came on this trip
High Street (pedestrianised section) - This eastern dome is very intriguing, sanwiched between retail units. It doesn't look to expand to the back and doesn't really have the air of a mosque about it. Could it be more secular in origin I wonder - part of an old film palace (no doubt called 'The Alhambra' or 'The Mecca' or something similar. Very curious...
High Street (pedestrianised section) - Opposite the modern Woolworths, I wonder if this slightly smaller building was where the company was originally situated?
High Street (pedestrianised section) - Not only is this an attractive shopfront, but Burton's themselves are still in residence
High Street (pedestrianised section) - Since I've started really taking an interest in street furniture I've begun to notice occasional repetitions where builders seem to have picked items from a catalogue. Two examples on this stretch firstly these attractive Tudor-esque chimney pots are very similar to those I spotted in Raynes Park
High Street (pedestrianised section) - The second example was on this over-decorated shopfront. She's new to me but the man on the left looks suspiciously like the head spotted on a capital in Putney High Street!

Church Street - And finally ... spotted on my way to the tram stop is this tantalising glimpse of what might well have been a ghost sign at one point, now partially concealed by what has to be one of the smallest (and to be honest one of the shabbiest) examples of 'infill development' I've seen!


Gaye Murray said...

You're right. The High Street building was a large department store called Grants. I have very fond memories of the store, as a child visiting Santa etc. It is a listed building, but the interior collapsed & became dangerous, so I think they kept the facade only.

Gaye Murray said...

GB may stand for Grant Brothers, just a guess.

I was born at 85 Church Street in the flat above the Beaumont Bed shop, which used to be Philips Menswear. I think your picture of the tiny window must be very near to where I lived?

John Welbeck said...

This is an interesting piece and I have enjoyed the photographs. There are few things that don't chime however; the first is that Croydonians still have problems regarding themselves as 'in London', but that is changing with time. What is still absolutely true though is that much of what you have described as 'High Street' is in fact 'North End'. The road that runs along the top of the terrace through the centre of Croydon is North End from the junction of Tamworth Road/Station Road in the north (from which northwards it becomes London Road). North End meets High Street at the junction with Chruch Street (Crown Hill) and George Street. The road running southwardds changes its name to 'South End' at the junction with Lower Coombe Street and Coombe Road.

Grant Brothers, the department store, was based at London House, High Street, and this was the frontage that you have in your 3rd and 4th photographs. There was an arcade through which you could gain access to Surrey Street on the lower terrace to the west via a green painted iron fretworked bridge and steps (these became the subject of a local furore after the demise of Grants when developers wnated to build extra accesss bridges to span Surrey Street to link the then new multi-storey car park off Syurrey Street to High Street).

Surrey Street and High street share much of their modern history with each other since the area down the terrace linking Surrey Street and the Church Street areas was changed significantly at the time of the widenuing of the High Street around 1895. The area around Surrey and Church Street was a myriad of lanes and alleyways and housed many of the less desirable housing stock of the town as well as a large population. This was the centre of the meat industry locally - the Shambles was demolished in the development described above - but the butchery trade still flourished in such a way that in a national strike of butchers in the 1920s Croydon seized up because Church Street and neighbouring roads were clogged up with unmoving butchers vans.

The last of your photographs is an infill that occupies one of the former alleyways - there are others such as Robert's Yard, Priddy's Yard and Overton's Yard, all of which have a life today.

In North End you have photographed the original Woolworth's store - this changed around 1967 following the completion of the then new WHitgift Centre. The main entrance to this new centre was through what had been the gates of first the Whitgift Grammar School (which moved to SOuth Croydon in the 1930s), then the Whitgift Middle School (which moved to Shirley Park and became the Trinity School of John Whitgift when the site was developed as the Whitgift Centre (The Whitgift foundation continued to own much of this land from which they derived a healthy rental income)). You have photographed the Burton store which was built toconform with the entranceway to the old school entrance, thus it has a rounded facade that seems to lead neatly into the more modern centre.

My memory of these things is fading and I have forgotten what the dome was from, but I suspect that you are correct that it was probably one of the theatres/cinemas that came and went in Croydon's history.

The Sun Fire Plaque is just that as you describe. In the days before the fire brigade the insurers owned the fire pumps and maintained them for the benefit of their own customers - if you were burning down they would respnd, but if you were displaying the wrong mark they'd let you burn! The number indicated the policy number.

I do remember the relief above the bank door - this was near the top of Crown Hill, I think that it was over the entrance to the old High Street branch of the National Westminster bank.

The Red Lion near Crown Hill and Bell Hill was proudly displayed over the pub of that name - I think that this was the store that later was taken over by David Lashmar and traded for a number of years as 'Beanos' which was a superb record store.

Tullett's is no longer owned by that family but it has been an institution in Surrey Street for generations; they are perhaps not as well known as Turtle's (who moved to Park Street), or Hewitt's in Church Street, or Reeves furniture store at what became known as Reeves' corner at the junction of Church Street, Church Road, Tamworth Road and (before the modern dual-carriageway was pushed through)St John's Road.

Yelfy said...

Thanks to both John and Gayle for their comments and interesting insights. It's one of the pleasures of just wandering around somewhere like Croydon with a camera and making wild surmises about its history and development that I then have people who know the area coming on and sharing their knowledge!

Anonymous said...

Apparently, the 'Domed' building was called 'The Grand' theatre - found it on Francis Frith.

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