From childhood to adulthood in Croydon

By - Tuesday 12th June, 2018

One man’s memories of growing up in Croydon

Photo by Brad Merrett, used with permission.

Apart from a few years away when at university, I’ve lived in south London for all of my life. During this time, I’ve seen Croydon change.

As a child, I remember my dad driving me and my sisters to Croydon on Saturdays to do the speciality food shop. This meant parking the car what seemed like a million miles away (side road for free parking), and then walking for ages to the best fruit and veg shops on London Road. They all had amazing displays on the pavements with that season’s fresh produce. Each shop’s display was always trying to out-do the next. My dad would be looking for things like fresh green beans, spinach, aubergines, chillies and fresh herbs, all things that back at home my mum would then whip up into a delicious Indian vegetarian dinner. After my dad had chosen the best that was on offer and haggled a bit to get a better price, we were all set and ready to trudge back to the car, laden down with bags.

As a teenager, I got into music and what I thought was fashion! I still came to Croydon, as it was easy getting here by bus or train once I was old enough to visit without my parents. When I was growing up, my parents had C&A clothe me (it was my generation’s Primark), but as a teen I tended to gravitate more towards River Island, Burton and Topman… but best not dwell too much on the fashion, as we all make mistakes.

I’d hang out at the Whitgift Centre, listening to the latest releases

Back to the music. So by now, I was into CDs; there were no digital downloads in those days. I was into all sorts of music, from Bon Jovi to the Cranberries, Michael Jackson to Madonna, it didn’t matter so long as I liked the beat. So, visiting Croydon meant hanging out at the Whitgift Centre (Centrale didn’t exist then) and checking out the latest releases in HMV, Virgin Megastore, WHSmiths and Woolworths, listening to them using the in-store headphones provided and then buying the best ones with what little money my paper round could afford me.

As a young adult, I moved to South Croydon. In the years that followed, for those of you who were here too, we’ve seen many many things: Nestlé moved out, Allders withered away, Turtles closed its doors for good, Taberner House was torn down… plus much, much more. When it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, they did. Yes, I’m talking about the unpleasantness in 2011. I think this is when the wheel of fortune turned in our Shakespearean-like play called ‘Croydon’.

Croydon is still here… and it’s evolving

After a few more years, plus a few grey hairs later, I’m still here and so is Croydon. In fact, not only is Croydon still here, once again it’s evolving. The aptly named Renaissance offices, to me at least, sum up how I see Croydon now. Today, Croydon is enjoying something of a renaissance. Now, we have Matthews Yard, TMRW, Boxpark, a buzzing coffee corner on High Street and an ever-expanding tech cluster. We even have our very own board game café, The Ludoquist, and somewhere to experience virtual-reality games. We have SpyMissions for the budding Bonds out there, trampolining for our Olympic stars of the future… Okay, so it sounds like I’m bragging now, well I am. It’s time to celebrate all that makes Croydon so great!

What else can we look forward to in Croydon’s next chapter? Well, I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to visit the revitalised Fairfield Halls, try out a wine tasting at Veeno and try escaping from one of those rooms, I forget what they are called… it’ll come to me later. Finally, maybe, just maybe, someone around here will realise that the castle-like pumping station in Exchange Square would make an excellent bouldering and climbing centre! Hint, hint, entrepreneurs… this great idea is on me!

Uday Shukla

Uday Shukla

Uday has lived in Croydon since 2004. He’s a senior digital product manager working in the financial services industry. In his spare time he enjoys going to the cinema and swimming and he’s passionate about architecture, travel and the National Trust.

More Posts

  • Andrew Dickinson

    Thanks for the memories Uday. I’m interested to know where in South London did you live as a child?

    • Uday Shukla

      Hi Andrew, there’s a little clue about that in my next article! Coming soon!