The time-travelling tram comes to Croydon Town Centre

By - Wednesday 17th June, 2015

Put £1.50 on your Oyster and it’s off to the Middle Ages. How Croydon gave H. G. Wells something to think about

Tim Pollard’s prize-winning photo, used with permission of the Croydon Heritage Festival.

What’s not to like about trams? That also sums up how I feel about the Croydon Heritage Festival, back for its third (already!) year in just three days’ time, and launching with Heritage Day on Saturday 20th June in the town centre. They’re definitely two of the coolest things in Croydon – and I’ve recently had the opportunity to bring them together.

Tramlink’s been involved in the Croydon Heritage Festival from the get-go, offering tours of its depot at Therapia Lane, fascinating talks about tram history, exhibitions and great competition prizes since 2013. I’ve watched the festival flourish over those three years with delight, particularly at the way it’s involved the whole community. This year it focuses on famous Croydonians and turns the spotlight on our young people with events such as ‘If I Ruled The World’ – a chance to hear about what they’d do if they were in charge. So when I was asked by Tramlink to work on another new initiative for 2015 – a podcast for tram travellers entitled ‘The time-travelling tram’ which lets them discover the history around Croydon’s tramlines as they ride – I was delighted.

Photo by Nick Baker, used with permission.

The podcast covers just the Heritage Festival area so far – that’s the town centre – but it’s hoped to extend it to the end of all the tramlines later on. From Sandilands in the east to Therapia Lane in the west – travelling in either direction – it’s a glimpse into the past that’s all around us. Criticised as modern, soul-less and filled with concrete we may be, but Croydonians see old and beautiful buildings every day: the sixteenth century Almshouses, Old Palace, the minster, the Adult School Hall, Surrey Street, the Flower Fairies’ Garden in Park Hill Park. I hope our heritage festival makes us prouder and more confident about what we are seeing.

But Croydon’s history begins long before even our oldest buildings. As I worked on the podcast script, I found myself back 55 million years ago, alongside a waterhole somewhere in Addiscombe, stomping ground of a dinosaur called coryphodon croydonensis. (Save this retort for the next time someone says something rude about Croydon: so – do you have a dinosaur?). Kings and queens, punk rockers, twentieth century murderers, typhoid epidemics, game-changing scientific breakthroughs and the world’s first iron railway – and it all went on right here.

The problem was always too much history, never too little

A podcast gives you words and sounds, then your brain supplies the pictures. So I’ve tried to offer listeners a really great image for each section of the journey – a dramatic event, a famous person or just a landscape that’s amazingly different from what we see today. Our history is rich and fascinating, and the problem was always too much information to pack in – never too little.

I’d like to thank Tramlink for the opportunity to work on this exciting project – which was also ever such fun – and for all its support for the Heritage Festival. The depot tours at Therapia Lane are brilliant and although spaces are sadly limited, it’s something I’d recommend doing it if you get the chance.

The Tramlink Heritage Podcast, in association with the Citizen, will be available for download very soon – watch out on Twitter and the Citizen, Heritage Festival and Tramlink websites. Enjoy!

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Writer and editor. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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  • Reena

    Any updates?