In 1965 I was living in Woodland Hill, Upper Norwood, and a young lady downstairs had just got a job with R J Hunters in Westow Street. They were at No. 67, opposite what is now Safeways. I had two small sons and my husband was on a low wage, so she suggested I went up there to see the Chargehand, Miss Massey, and she accepted me to start the following Monday.
When I started, the wages were £2.50 a week, which I spent on the children’s clothes. (My rent was £5 a week, but that was paid by my husband). The hours were 8 till 5, with two 15 minute tea breaks, and 45 minutes for lunch.
The woods at Beaulieu Heights, a remnant of the Great North Wood, were opened to the public as an open space by the Mayor of Croydon on Saturday, March 27th 1965. The Society’s Chairman, Mr Alan Warwick, was invited to be one of the official guests. The Society has always shown a great interest in the woods, and one of its first corporate actions was to approach Croydon to carry out the work which has now been completed. It was as long ago as 1938 that the site was acquired by Croydon Corporation under a covenant by the Church Commissioners that it should be used as a public open space.
In his Gossip on the Wild Birds of the Norwood and Crystal Palace District (see Norwood Review No. 40, Spring 1970), William Aldridge discusses his observation of 51 different species within the area. His pamphlet is useful and engaging, but probably only partially accurate: he was a Norwood rambler first and a Norwood ornithologist second.
Almost 50 years later, F.G.Swayne had a far more systematic survey of the Birds of the Norwood District published in the London Naturalist for 1933. Swayne spent at least seven years recording the distribution and status of the birds of an area which extends from Streatham Common east to Crystal Palace Park and from South Norwood Sewage Farm north to Brockwell Parl.
Butterflies seem to be more rare in and around the Norwood area than they used to be. At least when Butterfly Conservation recently sent out a thousand forms locally only three replies were received. This may mean that butterflies are not seen in suburban gardens or people have no interest or never bother about butterflies, or simply have no garden. One hundred years ago when Richard Jefferies lived south of the Thames at Eltham, and at Ewell Road, Surbiton, he wrote a book “Nature near London”. These places now are not so much near London as part of London but in 1880 he wrote on “footpaths” in which he paints a word picture:
Charles John Letts was the grandson of John Letts, printer, stationer and bookbinder of 92 Royal Exchange. John Letts’ son, Thomas Letts, father of Charles, was apprenticed in the 1790’s to the bookbinding trade and the publication of diaries, bills, due books and almanacs. It was he who formed the firm Letts, Son & Co. Ltd. with a factory at New Cross. By 1850 he had bought Clare Lodge, 27 Perry Hill, Catford, and moved later to Granville Park, Blackheath, where he died in 1873. Charles was Manager for a time of Letts, Son & Co. before it closed.
‘Today’s Commuters, crammed in their buses and trains, probably think at times nostalgically of the time when their grandparents made their leisurely way to work by the old buses. The following piece will probably remind them that there is nothing new in this world, least of all congested travel.’ (Quote from ‘History of London Transport’ by T.C. Barker and Michael Robbins).
Bensham (or Whitehorse) Manor. The estate of Bensham or Whitehorse was probably originally part and parcel of the ancient manor of Bensham, which also embraced the manor of Norbury. The first information which we have relating to it, is in the Patent Rolls of 1373 where it is stated that Walter de Cheriton shortly before 1351 acquired a messuage and carucate of land in Benchesham in the parish of Croydon with money borrowed by him pledging the King’s jewels without licence. A carucate was the amount of land that a team of oxen could plough in the course of a year, and varied according to the system of tillage from 80 to 100 acres.
When the tide of development overwhelmed Croydon individual homes had to have a road or street name and later a number. There remained a preference for an attractive house name rather than an impersonal number, but a number (now a postcode) and street name had to be added. House names, some fanciful, are however still displayed. One pair of cottages got together to be named ‘If not & Y not’. Another is ‘Two Hoots’, perhaps to thumb the nose at neighbours.
It is almost 30 years since, overnight, the Crystal Palace, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton for the Great Exhibition of 1851, was destroyed by fire. Modern architecture lost what was, and remains in illustration, its most potent creation; and London lost what, from all accounts, had been an incomparable recreational resort. Shortly before World War I funds were raised by public subscription to preserve the site from development and under the Crystal Palace Act of 1914 it became the property of the nation.