Norwood was originally groups of scattered houses and is described by Manning & Bray, History of Surrey, as ‘a village scattered round a large wild common and a principal haunt of gipsies’. Aubrey, Perambulation of Surrey, 1661, writes ‘In the parish of Croydon lies the great wood called Norwood belonging to the see of Canterbury, wherein was an ancient tree where the churchwardens of the several parishes used to dine at their boundary perambulation.’
In the last years of Victoria’s reign several authors wrote their predictions for the 20th century and beyond. Local places featured in some of these forecasts by writers with local connections.
William Morris. Morris had a mill at Merton Abbey on the River Wandle, where textiles and wallpaper were produced, to his designs. He wrote ‘News from Nowhere’ in 1890: ‘Nowhere being a literal translation of the Greek word ‘Utopia’.
Anyone familiar with the story of ‘FitzRoy of the Beagle’ and his association with Charles Darwin, who as a young man took passage in HMS Beagle on his appointment as official biologist on the historic voyages, will be gratified to know that a commemorative stone has recently been installed at the foot of the grave of Admiral FitzRoy in All Saints’ Churchyard, Upper Norwood.
The name of one of Norwood’s former residents is broadcast several times a day, every day of the year, by BBC radio; but even in Norwood, let alone the world at large, few people know who he was and why he should be honoured in this way., The name is Fitzroy, given to the sea area formerly known as Finisterre in 2002, and broadcast repeatedly in the shipping forecast on Radio 4 long wave.
As many will know there was very little indeed in the South Norwood area prior to the coming of the canal in 1809, to be replaced by the railway in 1839: just a large expanse of common and wooded land stretching down to Woodside, crossed by one or two tracks with no buildings or habitations in sight except of course ‘THE GOAT HOUSE’. This name first appeared on the fine parchment map of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s lands in the area by William Mar in 1678, now in the archives of the Croydon Local Studies Library.
Coombe Cliff Conservatory was saved from demolition in 1973, when the Norwood Society actively supported the GLC in its intervention to save it. John Horniman, who founded the famous tea-merchanting firm in Newport, Isle of Wight, around 1845, made a fortune by so doing; but he was also a great reformer and gave much of his fortune to charity. He sent his youngest son, Frederick John Horniman, to the Friends’ College in Park Lane, Croydon, and in 1852 removed both himself and his tea business from the Island to Croydon, building Coombe Cliff to live in.
It is good to see the old Arnold and Jane Gabriel Home, at the bottom of Wolfington Road, West Norwood, now spruced up and cared for by the London & Quadrant Housing Trust as the headquarters for their South West Thames division. The old name is still proudly over the main door, while a new entrance has been added at the side for the Trust. Built in 1910, this fine red-brick block was, I think, the school for the children in the even finer Jew’s Hospital which was set up in 1862 in the open country-side that was West Norwood then.
The Chalybeate spring was in the centre of the Spa and had long been known to local people, possibly as far back as the reign of King John. Eminent physicians, such as Sir Benjamin Brodie and Sir Astley Cooper praised its qualities and during a Court case it was established that the water contained more salts than the water at Cheltenham Spa.
A plot of land bordered by Ross Road, South Norwood Hill and Whitehorse lane was sold by Lord Falkland in 1890 to James Junkison, a leather-dresser from Bermondsey who lived in Lyndhurst Lodge, which shared a boundary with the plot. Junkison therefore added the land to his estate, but when he died it was sold separately from Lyndhurst Lodge in 1909 by his sons to Edwin Evans, a surveyor, auctioneer and land developer from Battersea.