Croydon Tech City – Long-term Croydon resident Terry Coleman shares his thoughts


By - Wednesday 23rd January, 2013

On the eve of Croydon Tech City’s 2013 Launch Event, Terry Coleman uncovers Croydon’s sixty-year secret history


It pleases me no end to hear about the young people who are committed to forming a Croydon Tech City community - this is a very positive and worthwhile enterprise for the town.

I am grateful that my final school, founded by the scientific instrument maker and town benefactor William Ford Stanley, gave me good grounding in the basic subjects for engineering. I have spent all of my working life in the fields of engineering and science and can recall that Croydon has for years been the home of many rich and varied technical companies, large, medium, and small. Over the years I have dealt with some of these companies and used many of their fine products and expertise in the course of my work. Some of these firms have been going for generations and are with us still today:

Tinsley Precision Instruments - galvanometers and other high tech instrumentation designed, manufactured and exported all over the world.

Croydon Precision Instruments (Cropico Ltd) - renowned for its expertise in electrical resistance measurement.

(I believe that there are not many well found laboratories anywhere that haven’t had a ‘box of tricks’ from these two companies on the bench at some time or another in use for critical measurements)

Centronics - electro-optic and radiation detection company based in Croydon since the early 1950s, is another example.

I can easily recall those three firms but I am sure there are many more similar long standing and high tech units still in Croydon today.

For yesteryear The Creed Company that made teleprinters, mulitiplex systems and other telegraphic machines were produced at Croydon for many years and were known all over the world.  In Purley Way were Decca Navigation, Philips Electric, Elliot Automation, and various firms that specialised in data logging/chart recording equipment, radio component manufacture, etc.

In Thornton Road was International Computers Ltd, formerly Powers-Samas, formerly – wait for it! – the Accounting and Tabulating Machine Company, known throughout Croydon as the Ack & Tab, a very large employer in the area at the time. At Hackbridge there stood the Mullard works and laboratories – you couldn’t get much higher tech than that in its day.

There were many manufacturing companies in Croydon that turned out the everyday domestic products, from motor cars to fountain pens, and they all required skilled technical expertise, designers, draughtsmen, toolmakers, fitters, turners, etc. Some specialist work would be sub-contracted out to other firms – electroplaters, case hardeners, pattern makers – all with a wealth of knowledge and experience to their various trades and crafts.

Times change and some skills may become redundant, new skills will take their place. That is progress and progress is good. And so I wholeheartedly support the High Tech City Community  that, standing on the shoulders of giants, may raise Croydon to newer heights that we should all welcome.

It is worth saying, however, that our rich industrial history could easily be overlooked without the proper maintenance of a robust local studies archive. At the same time as we welcome the future we are now crafting, we cannot afford to lose the rich local history that makes it possible. Lest we forget.

Terry Coleman

Terry Coleman

Retired bloke having a lot of fun doing what he wants after 51 years doing what the bosses wanted. Croydon born & bred. Politics-Blairite, Faith-Agnostic, Interests-Music (mostly Ellington), Reading, Pilates, Gym.

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  • http://twitter.com/LordBensham Terry Coleman

    I was born and grew up close by to Union Road West Croydon. Memories of the bell foundry of Gillett & Johnstone were an enduring feature of my childhood, the sound of the carillon ringing across the town on a warm Sunday afternoon are still with me. A famous example of industrial Croydon indeed: http://www.gillettjohnston.co.uk/about/history/ .