Keen as mustard: South Croydon’s heritage, part 3

By - Friday 7th March, 2014

In part three 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 by Bob Walker and used under Creative Commons licence

Croydon’s urban expansion southwards enabled people to travel into London for work, and to run their businesses. One such business was the Mazawattee Tea Company set up by John Boon Densham (1814–1886). He lived in various properties and died at what is now 17 Birdhurst Road. His sons who took on running the company also lived at various addresses in South Croydon. The extended family shared a home in South Park Hill Road. Then around 1896 John Lane Densham moved to ‘Waldronhyrst’, 24 The Waldrons.

There were important employers providing local jobs, including printers. John Cooper’s shoemaking shop in Lower Coombe Street developed in 1860 into John Cooper’s Steam Boot Factory in South End. The firm provided houses and three shops in Bynes Road for some of its workers, known as Snobs Island. When the firm moved to Northampton in 1894 it took around 140 families with it. Cooper’s premises later became the home of Ebbutt’s Depositories.

South Croydon has some interesting aspects of cultural history

There is a rich history of pubs which were more than just places to drink, but places to socialise, celebrate events, hold parties, and run collective self-help organisation meetings like friendly societies and trade unions. There’s the Bull’s Head in Laud Street, Surrey Cricketers Pub in West Street, The View pub built as The Rail View in 1851 at 138 Selsdon Road, The Crown and Sceptre pub in Junction Road, The Woodman in Upland Road, Blacksmith’s Arms and the Duke’s Head in South End. The current Swan and Sugarloaf building in Selsdon Road was built in 1896. It had stables for tram horses at the back. In the early 1900s the South Croydon Co-operative Loan and Investment Society met there. In 1911 it had 310 members. Brighton Road has the Earl of Eldon and the Red Deer behind which was the site of a gibbet in the 18th century.

With the remembrance of the First World War due to commence in August it is worth noting that the following young men whose parents lived in South Croydon were killed in action.

  • Victor Louis Sydney Balding, Lt 5th Bedfordshire Regiment machine gun corps died 30th March 1917 aged 22. He was the son of Rev J. W. Balding of 41 Chatsworth Road.
  • Ernest John Leech, 1st/5th Bn. London Rifle Brigade was killed on 20th January 1917 aged 25 and is buried in Laventie Military Cemetery in France. His parents John and Louisa Leech, lived at 44 Tanfield Road.
  • G/40078 Trooper Albert Joseph Wheatland, 11th Bn. Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) and Surrey Yeomanry was killed on 7th June 1917 aged 24. He is commemorated at the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing in Belgium. His mother Mary Ann Wheatland lived at 11 Rolleston Road.
  • John Densham’s youngest son, Stephen Hugh, died in December 1917 at Étaples.

Croydon had many hospitals for wounded servicemen. The South Croydon Convalescent Home for Children which had moved from Chelsham Road in 1890, became a convalescent home for soldiers during the war.

South Croydon has some interesting aspects of cultural history. Cicely Mary Barker (28th June 1895 – 16th February 1973), the English illustrator best known for a series of fantasy illustrations depicting fairies and flowers, was born at 66 Waldron Road. Her father Walter Barker was a partner in a seed supply company and an amateur artist. She studied at Croydon School of Art. She lived in Bafton Road. From 1924 she lived at 17 and then 23 The Waldrons and from 1961 at 6 Duppas Avenue. There is a blue plaque commemorating her on the wall of number 23.

There are going to be many interesting stories which may be unearthed through research or talking to people

Rolleston Road is the birth street of Harry Davidson, musician and orchestra leader (1892-1967). The film director David Lean was born in 1908 at 38 Blenheim Crescent. The Olive Tree Coffee Bar was an important folk music venue in the 1960s, including for Peter Sarsted, as was the Folk Club at The Swan and Sugarloaf run by Steve Benbow. Sarsted still lives in the borough. The recording studios in Spencer Road were used by The Damned. 

There are going to be many interesting stories which may be unearthed through research or talking to people who have lived in the area a long time. Why did JG Snow, of Dean Cottage in Dean Road, the guardian of Frederick George, commit him to the care of the Church of England’s Waifs & Strays Society? To be brought up in the Anglican faith and receive training to enable him to be employable? Had he fallen on bad times and could no longer afford to look after the boy?

Seventeen year old Charles F Standen at 5 Hedler Street was one of many Croydonians who emigrated to Ontario Canada; he in 1912. What were the attractions to do so? Back in 1872 ‘Black’ Jimmy worked as a stable lad for CH Davis, a timber merchant, at Haling Cottage on the current Whitgift School site. It would be interesting to know more about his story. Was he born in Britain, had he come from the West Indies, or had he come from the United States perhaps as a runaway slave? Could Davis have been a supporter of the abolition of slavery? In December 1893 the 92 year old former governess Eliza Grant Shaw of 42 South End died. She had been born in Jamaica, later owning one slave for whom she received £19 10d 10d compensation in 1836 by then living in England. Her effects at death were valued at 328 19s 2d.

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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  • Anne Giles

    What an interesting article. I used to sing and play guitar at the Swan & Sugar Loaf folk club.