Keen as mustard: South Croydon’s heritage, part 2

By - Friday 28th February, 2014

In part two of his series, Sean Creighton continues to delve into the history of South Croydon to see what should be showcased in the Heritage Lottery Fund bid

Image taken by Nigel Chadwick and used under Creative Commons licence.

Within the area of the manor was the Haling Park estate. The Enclosure Act map of 1801 shows the division of the land into plots, some of which have names attached. William Parker Hammond not only had Haling Park estate, but other bits of land elsewhere as would be expected as holder of the manor.

The 2,000 acre estate later came into the ownership of the brewer James Watney. When he died in 1884 he divided it between his three unmarried daughters and left £1million to his three sons who continued to run the brewery. His widow Rebecca (née Spurrel) was a temperance supporter. It was not until 1920 that the Whitgift Foundation governors purchased parts of the estate and moved the Whitgift School there in 1931.

Other names on the enclosure map include Lady Blunt. She was born Elizabeth Peers c.1745. Her father Richard was a London Alderman with land in Croydon. She and her husband Charles William Blunt had nine children. She died in 1836 and was buried in Croydon.

Charles was the grandson of John Blunt, a director of the South Sea Company. This had been awarded the slave trading contract with the Spanish Crown under the Treaty of Utrecht. It was responsible for the South Sea Bubble financial crash. Charles worked for the East India Company rising to postmaster-general of Bengal. In India he lived near Calcutta, where he was buried when he died in 1802, leaving £100,000.

What influence did they exercise in Croydon? How many people did they employ on their estate?

Most of that money was inherited by Charles Richard Blunt (1775-1840) who also worked for the East India Company from 1793 rising to be a judge before coming back to Britain in 1811. In 1819 he purchased the Heathfield Park estate in Sussex, building it up to 3,000 acres. From 1818 he was a supporter of parliamentary reform. He was elected MP for Lewes from 1831 until his death. In his early 1830s campaigns he made it clear that he was anti-slavery and against the game laws. He left estates in Sussex, Surrey, Wiltshire and Bengal.

Lord and Lady Blunt lived at Blunt House. What influence did they exercise in Croydon? How many people did they employ on their estate? A later occupant of Blunt House is thought to have been Sir George Gilbert Scott, the designer of St. Pancras Station and St. Peter’s Church (1849-51), and was then occupied by his son John Oldred. The house where Aberdeen and Ledbury Roads now stand was demolished in 1889.

Another part of the former Haling Park Estate is Haling Grove. The last owner or occupant of the Grove property was Sydney Shorter, a London merchant and horse breeder with a stud farm at Cookham. After his death in 1930 his widow bequeathed the estate to the Playing Fields Association in 1933. It demolished the house in 1936 and transferred the estate to Croydon Corporation in 1938 which has since run it as Haling Park.

Church graveyards and memorials in churches provide the basis for researching the names of people in an area. However, burial in a particular church does not necessarily mean a local link, or the link is not always clear.

Among those buried in St Peter’s Churchyard are:

  • Budgen, a Croydon watchmaker
  • Cuthbert William Johnson (1799-1878) an agricultural writer and public health reformer who had lived at the house called ‘Waldronhyrst’
  • James Roffey, a stag huntsman who became inn keeper of the Stag and Hounds
  • Colonel Edward Kelly, who took an active part in the Battle of Waterloo, and died in India in 1828. Alfred Bate Richards, a journalist who became editor of the Morning Advertiser in 1870 who as Secretary of the National and Constitutional Defence Association from 1858 played a key role in persuading the government to approve the formation of volunteer rifle corps for defence against invasion.

There were many other interesting people who lived in the area, including:

  • James Glaisher (1809–1903), at 2 Heathfield Road, the meteorologist and aeronaut
  • Alfred Russel Wallace (1823–1913), at 44 St. Peter’s Road, the naturalist who independently proposed a theory of evolution by natural selection and prompted Charles Darwin to publish his theory of evolution. He was also a leading campaigner against vaccinating to prevent smallpox on the grounds of its lack of effectiveness and damage to health
  • Harriett Sturt, who ran a small children’s home in Chelsham Road from July 1880 in what is now 404 Brighton Road. She later raised money for a home where children who had been discharged from hospital could be sent to recover with proper care which opened in 1890
  • Charles Boule and his family lived at 8 Friends Road and then 47 Birdhurst Rise. One of his daughters, Rosemary, become a nun, and joined the ‘Sisters of the Church’ which ran the Old Palace School.
  • Mary Allen, who died at Birdhurst Nursing Home in December 1964. She had been a Women’s Social and Political Union activist who help to found women’s police force in the First World War and went on to become an admirer of Hitler, a British fascist and a supporter of General Francisco Franco in Spanish Civil War.

Streets are often named after people regarded as famous at the time or events. Blenheim Park Road, Churchill Avenue and Marlborough Road are named in respect of the victory at the battle of Blenheim in 1704. Napier and Magdala Roads are named after Lord Robert Napier who stormed Magdala the capital city of Abyssinia/Ethiopia in 1868. He blew up its fortress and burned the city. The treasures were looted and brought back in London many of which are in the British Museum and Windsor Castle. Bynes Road is named after the Byne family who were local landowners. Crunden Road is named after Henry Crunden who had a stables on the site of the bus garage.

If the Heritage Lottery Fund bid is successful then the South Croydon Community Association will publicise the opportunities to become involved. Meanwhile if you have any information to add to the growing framework please email me at .

Sean Creighton

Sean Creighton

A former employee of and freelance project worker with community and voluntary organisations, Sean is active with Croydon Assembly and with the Planning and Transport Committee of the Love Norbury group of residents associations. He is Chair of the Norbury Community Land Trust. He is a historian of Croydon and South-West London, British black society, social action and the labour movement. He coordinates the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History networks. He runs blog sites covering Croydon, Norbury and history events, issues and news. He runs a small scale publishing imprint called History & Social Action Publications. He gives talks on a range of history topics and leads history walks.

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