It is hard to discover how long the Gipsies frequented Norwood Common. In 1808, Capper speaks of the place as ‘once the haunt of a numerous horde of gipsies’; but even though they had entirely deserted Norwood (which we are inclined to doubt) they were nevertheless to be found in Dulwich Wood for many years to come. The date of their first appearance in Norwood is a still more doubtful point, and like so much of the history of these wanderers, must be left in obscurity.
The old Crystal Palace shone like a star and died on its own pyre, but its ghost still haunts the empty heights of Norwood. Where the once glittering Palace of Glass stood, on the finest eminence of South London, anciently covered by the Great North Wood, is a wide desolate space. It is a human vacuum where once there were wonders. The Crystal Palace died in 1937 but to this day a whole neighbourhood is named after it, and many roads bear its romantic name.
The following is a story circulating in 1948. The owner of the Manor of White Horse took pity on a poor old horse that was being taken to the knacker’s yard. He turned it loose in a meadow that had a pool of water. To everybody’s amazement the horse grew sleek and fat. The owner, Mr Davidson Smith, being a shrewd man concluded that the change must be due to the water. So he sent a sample of the water to Professor Michael Faraday for analysis.
The Russian Lion was the popular title of one of the greatest athletes who ever lived - George Hackenschmidt. Born in Dorpat, Estonia, in Russia in 1877 he died at Dulwich Hospital on February 19th 1968 in his 91st Year.
As a very young lad he was interested in gymnastics and cycling, winning many prizes in these sports, and later, while training as an engineer, was spotted by a Dr. von Krajewski. The doctor was physician to the Czar in St Petersburg and founder of the athletic and cycling club in that city. He predicted that the young Hackenschmidt could be the world’s strongest man; a prediction fulfilled.
Just over thirty years ago, on the 27th November 1978, the death of a largely-forgotten South London actress passed almost unnoticed, with little mention in the press at the time. Susan Shaw had been a fine, very popular and pretty young British film actress, but her post-War 1950s heyday was, even in 1978, a distant era and she had not made a film for nearly twenty years.
School days are supposed to be ‘The Happiest Days of Your Life’, and looking back in the rosy glow of nostalgia, my time at All Saints School, Upper Norwood, certainly provided some pleasant memories, and one or two guiding principles that have helped me through my adult years.
Most of the surviving photographs and prints of the period emphasize only the surface splendours of Norwood in the second half of the 19th Century. But that is not the whole story. Away from the plush mansions on the well-to-do highways, there was often real deprivation and hardship.
I, too, remember the Triangle, since I was born in a house at one corner of Gipsy Hill. It was an open Common and at the corner there was a sturdy post to which a ring was attached, to which people might tether their horses. The first house that was built on the east side was a rather sad point in my baby life, as my eldest sister, Edith Gandy, told me we could not see the fields.Central Hill also had a green verge, and they built shops in the cottage gardens which adjoined the new shops. The old white-painted wooden fences were low and the gates swung out on to the green grass verge.
T. C. Lewis was born in Kennington in 1833 and died in Clapham in 1915 and was buried in Streatham Cemetery. His early life is somewhat of a mystery but his career was unique – architect, bell-founder, inventor, piano-maker as well as organ- builder. All that is known of his architectural profession is a house, Sunnydene, that is situated in Sydenham. In 1874 he married Ellen Hillier Sutton in Christ Church, Clapham. They had two children.