New Addington: The edge of London


By - Friday 14th June, 2013

Rajdeep Sandhu explores the history and reputation of New Addington, a much maligned part of the borough


Where I live has recently been on the news. Words such as ‘dismal’ were used to describe it. I watched news reports and saw my home town through the eyes of a shocked nation. Often it was just looked down upon as a place with social problems, where the awful murder of a young girl was committed. And that is exactly what many people around the UK will think of New Addington. A soul-less, evil place where crime is rife.

Occasionally the media decides to descend on us, pass their judgement, and leave

That reputation is completely at odds with the experience I’ve had living here since I was born. From the day my parents proudly brought me home from Mayday Hospital, now known as Croydon University Hospital. The place where I have grown up is one where my local chippy knows me and my family, where I still pass some of my primary school teachers as I head off to work, and where I still swim in the same pool I learned in. It is surrounded by leafy green parks, with children able to play freely, as I see so many do with the hours of sunshine stretching into the evening until they begrudgingly have to go in for dinner.

Sometimes, living in New Addington, it can feel as though we have been forgotten, teetering on the edge. We are tucked in between Surrey and Kent and are the very farthest outpost of Greater London – something which many people have disputed with me. Occasionally the media decides to descend on us, pass their judgement, and leave.

I may perhaps be a little biased, but I feel that New Addington is completely underrated. I have often discussed with my sister how it feels as though we get the both of best worlds. And by that I mean the countryside and the city. Within 40 minutes you can be staring at the bright lights of Victoria or standing in the shadow of The Shard at London Bridge. But just as easily you could be discovering a tea room after taking one of the walks along the many farms that surround us. From my house I can see the vast view of the iconic buildings that make up the London skyline glittering not too far away. But I can escape the intensity of the capital and breathe in the smell of cut grass that isn’t underlined with petrol.

New Addington was created in the 1930s, built on farmland near Addington village. It was born out of a need to accommodate overcrowding in Croydon, amongst other needs. The National Housing Trust wanted to build a ‘garden village’ with a cinema, churches, and a village green, the idea spearheaded by Charles Boot. But once construction was under way it was halted in 1939 due to the war, with only a third of the planned housing built. After the war some of the land surrounding the new area was designated as green belt. From then onwards the garden village idea was scrapped as the land was bought from the trust by the Croydon council to deal with an expanding housing problem created after the war. They bought more land, which became Fieldway. Now the two wards together have a population of over 20,000 residents. For years it was difficult to get to and still only has one major road linking it. With the introduction of the tram in 2000 it has provided a convenient and quick service. The tram is also a lifeline for people like me to get to work.

It is a community aware of its shortfalls but willing to take action

Perhaps it is because it was created to solve a problem that is has never been able to shake off its label as a ‘problem’; the label never quite disappearing as the town grew. Despite the great views and plenty of open space, New Addington and Fieldway have problems that can’t be denied: they are the most deprived areas of Croydon. But they are no greater than those faced by many other boroughs in London. Regardless they have earned us an over-exaggerated reputation that doesn’t fit in with the place I grew up in.

Despite these labels and statistics it is an area with a close community. On Sunday two local residents decided to come together to organise a Big Lunch not just for their street, but for the whole community in the newly regenerated Market Square where there were activities for children and adults. Even last year during the riots the community came together to protect itself after the local co-op store and the flat above were burned down. It is a community aware of its shortfalls but willing to take action.

There are lot of things that can be improved in New Addington and plans for rejuvenation have already begun. So in the coming weeks I hope to bring you a lot more knowledge and understanding on the issues that we face as residents in this sometimes forgotten pocket of Croydon. The ones we are addressing and the ones that are still to come.

Rajdeep

Rajdeep Sandhu has been a lifelong resident in New Addington, apart from when she studied journalism in central London. Now she works in book publishing and when she isn't working, can be found reading, writing or tweeting. Most of all she is excited about how New Addington will benefit from the changes in Croydon.

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  • Anne Giles

    Great article. Thanks.

  • http://www.earth.li/~kake/ Kake

    I look forward to reading your future articles! I went to explore New Addington in November 2011 — possibly not the best time of year, since it was cold and grey. I photographed some buses and went to a couple of pubs (Man on the Moon and Randall Tavern), then came home again. What would you suggest is worth looking at next time I go?

  • David White

    This is a very good article and Raj identifies the pluses and minuses of living in New Addington well. I have had the privilege of living in Fieldway and also representing it as a councillor on Croydon Council.

    One of the problems is that there is little to attract anyone to come to New Addington unless they live there. Because of the geography it is hard to overcome this. Perhaps if there were more leisure facilities that would appeal to people all over Croydon this would help. Also perhaps the Council could promote events like the New Addington Carnival and the farmers’ market better.

    Despite sales of Council houses and flats in recent decades, a large proportion of New Addington is still public sector housing. Therefore general policies by the Government and Council to lessen inequalities and tackle poverty would have a positive effect in improving the quality of life for all in the area.

    • Anne Giles

      I used to teach there.

    • http://www.earth.li/~kake/ Kake

      I had no idea there was a farmers market in New Addington! This page says it’s on the 3rd Saturday of the month, 9:30am–1:30pm, Central Parade. Do you know if this is still accurate?

  • Andrew Dickinson

    A very warm welcome to you Rajdeep and your article and great that CC has a voice from this part of the borough.I have a work colleague who moved to NA about 4 years ago with her young family and she has nothing but praise for it. As with most of Croydon there’s a misguided outside view of the place and i’m looking forward to more articles from you.

  • Rajdeep Sandhu

    Thanks for the warm welcome everyone. @KakeLP:disqus it’s nice to hear you gave New Addington a try. Apart from the ones you already mentioned, there aren’t that many. There used to be a huge one called The Cunningham which is sadly now a Lidl. But I have very fond memories of going to birthday parties (I was too young to be an actual customer). I’ve heard very good things about The White Bear which isn’t quite New Addington but very near.

    There is a market that happens every Tuesday and Friday mornings that sells bits and bobs including clothes, homeware, toys etc. I haven’t been to the Farmers’ Market on Saturday in a while but I believe it’s still going. I can check it out and let you know. But I agree with @disqus_TRNxhw3jzm:disqus there isn’t a lot to attract people here which is a shame. There is the annual People’s Carnival happening on the 29th and 30th June in Milne Park which is always fun.

    • David White

      Unfortunately I understand from Simon Hall (one of the Fieldway councillors) that the Farmer’s Market is not currently being held.

      • http://www.earth.li/~kake/ Kake

        Oh, that’s a shame, but thanks for letting us know.

    • http://www.earth.li/~kake/ Kake

      Oh, I am interested in things other than pubs! Perhaps I should just come and have a look around and see what I can find.

      I’ve also heard good things about the White Bear, though people tell me it’s a bit of a walk from the nearest public transport. Doesn’t look too far on the map though — one for a sunny day, I think!

  • Christian Wilcox

    Interesting.

    My experiences of New Addo have been mixed. Much as there are some lovely people up there there is also a major racism problem in some parts ( same as Heathfield, Selsdon, Addiscombe, and the City Centre ). The dreaded White Trash.

    It’s where New Addo is a cheap area. But…

    Seeing as there is nowhere else to build in Croydon that is affordable it’s pretty obvious New Addo is the way to go.

    I look forward to New Addo Motorcross happening. And maybe a drag strip as well. Bored kids need something to do, or they’ll shift to substance abuse. Our City Centre is a bomb-site for a reason. The tram link-up and the rise in City Centre crime was not a coincidence ( although I am not going to damn all New Addo kids for obvious reasons ).

  • nmakwana

    Very nice article and well researched. I actually drove around New Addington and whilst it felt isolated, it also felt serene and ‘otherwordly’, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way.

    Look forward to more similar stuff Raj.

  • Paul Morgan

    I lived in Fairchilds Avenue as a child in the early sixties and my brother and I both attended Fairchilds Avenue Junior and Infant schools. It was living in the countryside as far as I was concerned including BlackBerry picking with my parents, long walks down never ending country lanes and a trip to the White Bear on a summer evening enjoying a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps sitting on the White Bear! The winter when snow qas so bad i remember jumping down into the shop doorways! The summer i was with my brother and his friends trying to cook sausages and setting light to the field! I saw my first two films at the local community centre, Lady & The Tramp and Bambi. Haven’t been back since we moved many years ago so can’t offer any comment on how it is now but it really was a really special and important part of my childhood.