An Upper Norwood Walk

Additional Information

london-footprints.co.uk

[Beaulieu Heights] [The Crystal Palace] [Gipsy Tower] [The Great North Wood] [High Level Railway] [The Lawns] [Stambourne Woodland Walk] [Upper Norwood Recreation Ground] [Westow Park]

THE GREAT NORTH WOOD
The district of Upper Norwood was for centuries part of the Great North Wood. These woods had provided timber for ships & building and the coppiced wood had been used for fuel & charcoal production. It had also provided land on which to keep animals, especially pigs and for hunting. The Enclosure Acts dispossessed many people by parcelling the woods and commons into owned properties. However at the beginning of the 19th century it was still a rural place peopled by gipsies and other, less desirable, characters.

THE CRYSTAL PALACE
This was designed by Joseph Paxton to house the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park during the summer of 1851. Such was its success that a company was formed to buy the building and re-erect it on a 300 acre site at Sydenham. Between 1852-4 it was rebuilt on a larger scale with 6 storeys and 3 transepts. With some 2 million visitors a year it was London's most visited attraction initially but interest waned and its high costs meant it never made a profit. It struggled on with highs and lows until it was finally destroyed in a spectacular fire in November 1936. However the siting of the palace had led to the development of Anerley, Penge and Sydenham during the Victorian period. The London Brighton & South Coast Railway (Low level) had opened at the same time as the palace and the London Chatham & Dover (High level) followed in 1865.

STAMBOURNE WOODLAND WALK
This was once gardens of large Victorian villas but as these fell into disrepair it became an area of dense scrub and trees. The project to develop it began in 1962 with the purchase of the land, some of which belonged to the Church Commissioners. Paths and seats were put in and additional planting was undertaken. It opened in 1984.

BEALIEU HEIGHTS
Originally part of the Great North Wood it later became the grounds of two large houses, Hazelwood and Beaulieu Lodge. The latter became a hotel and then an old people's home. The park was formed when the land was purchased from the Church Commissioners in 1938 although it was not opened until after the war. The park suffered a damaging fire in 1976 when a large area of the oak wood was destroyed.

THE LAWNS
This had a noted medicinal spa which in 1831 was developed as a place of entertainment with gardens laid out by Decimus Burton, who also designed the Spa House and the Lodge. Features in the grounds included rose gardens, a maze, lakes with waterfowl & a camera obscura and there were fine views. Entertainments included concerts, dancing, archery, fireworks and floral exhibitions. Visitors were encouraged to bring picnics and could hire cutlery & crockery. The spring was located under a thatched-roofed structure. Some water was frozen or bottled and sold at 2/- a gallon. Admission was by weekly or annual subscription. Non-subscribers were admitted on Mondays but servants in livery were not allowed. Horse drawn coaches brought visitors from Charing Cross three times a day until in 1839 the London & Brighton Railway opened. The Spa's popularity declined after the opening of the Crystal Palace in 1854 and in 1858 the estate was put up for auction. Some of the area was developed and a large mansion called 'The Lawns' was built although this was demolished after a fire in the 1960s. In 1939 the Lawns became a public open space and the former hotel & hydro was replaced by the Beulah Spa pub. The original lodge, known as Rustic Lodge, where uniformed gatekeepers collected the fees, remains as a private house now called Tivoli Lodge. The thatched roof has been replaced with slate and a conservatory and extra floor added.

UPPER NORWOOD RECREATION GROUND
This was purchased in 1890 and laid out by the Borough Surveyor. It included sports facilities and allotments (since lost to additional sports ground). It contains one of the head waters of the River Effra which has now been culverted.

WESTOW PARK
This small recreation ground was enlarged in 1970 when the grounds of two large houses, Windermere & Walmer, were added along with part of the pre-fab estate at College Green. Windermere House had been converted and enlarged in 1873-6 to serve the Royal Normal College and Academy of Music for the Blind. Walmer House was also used by this establishment until purchased by Croydon Council. The grounds included a large pond beside Bedwardine Road which has since been filled in and some large Horse Chestnut trees which remain.

GIPSY TOWER
When the nave of Christ Church burned down in 1982 the congregation opted to move to a purpose-built church next door. The remaining 120' foot tower was converted to a four-bedroomed house in 1996 when an extension with a roof garden was added. The tower room is 12' square but 40' high with views across to Hackney and some original stained glass.
HIGH LEVEL RAILWAY
Started in 1862 by the Crystal Palace and South London Railway (later the London Chatham & Dover)
Opened in August 1865
Line from Nunhead to terminus
Station building by EM Barry with refreshment rooms
Subway under Parade at north end with cream & terracotta brick vaulting by Italian craftsmen (air raid use in WWII)
45' turntable (south) 439 yard Paxton Tunnel (north)
Lordship Lane & Honor Oak Stations 1865, Nunhead 1871, Upper Sydenham 1884
Re-named Crystal Palace & Upper Norwood 1895
Closed WWI 1917-9
Became Southern Railway in 1923 (re-named High Level)
Electrified in 1925
Closed to traffic 1944-6 and used for storing rolling stock
Some war time damage
Last train and steam special September 1954
Lines taken up in 1956
Station demolished 1961 - houses built on site

Entrance to Paxton Tunnel
view from The Spinney

RESOURCES
Croydon Parks - An Illustrated History by Mrs M A Winterman
Crystal Palace - Norwood Heights by Audrey Hammond
The Croydon Society has produced 2 publications: Conservation Areas of Croydon and Croydon's Built Heritage which have information on the area.
There is a Crystal Palace Museum housed in the old engineering school on Anerley Hill. Admission is free and it is open Saturdays, Sundays & Bank Holiday Mondays 11-4:30 or by arrangement for groups. Tel 020 8676 0700.

london-footprints.co.uk 2009

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