I read with much interest Hugh Byford’s fascinating item on South Norwood in the last issue of the Review. It prompted me to go to my bookshelf to see if I could discover something of the history of the area. With the end of the current century in mind I reached for my copy of Kelly’s Directory of Surrey for the year 1899 which contains thirty one and a half pages on Norwood, almost nine of which list the names of the prominent inhabitants and traders who resided in South Norwood at that time.
Though it is a large part of the Society’s area of concern, more often than not I search vainly in the Review for reference to this lively, crowded, rather shapeless area, so here is an up to date sketch of life in South Norwood. At the moment of writing we have just come through a period of acute traffic confusion and congestion due the re-laying of a gas main at the foot of South Norwood Hill, and have returned to the normal level of congestion consequent upon two highways crossing in the centre of the suburb.
The interesting submission in the last issue by John Brown of the 1899 entry for South Norwood in Kelly’s directory gives prominence to its churches and invites the question as to how they have fared throughout the past turbulent and increasingly materialistic century.
St. Mark’s Church. In the case of the district’s very first church, St. Mark’s (1852), not at all badly. This apsed, stone-built church still stands prettily on the corner of Albert and Coventry Roads and, situated within a populous area just below the railway, remains a lively Church of England community church.
How very fortunate we Norwoodians are to have so much natural beauty preserved for all time around us, in our beautiful parks and open spaces. In our last Review, we visited lovely Norwood Grove, situated 300 ft. up on the Norwood Hills. Now we descend the hills and find in South Norwood a charming willow-bordered lake of eight acres in a sylvan setting.
The use of waterways for transport, whether artificial or natural, has been in existence for many years – indeed centuries, The Romans were adept at creating aqueducts to enable precious water to be moved across valleys and low-lying ground, and the remains of them built to supply drinking water still exist in Italy. Rivers have of course long been seen as an extension of the sea for ships and small boats, and extending their navigable length was popular over a long period, mainly by dredging and maintaining a suitable depth.
At 2.30 on Saturday afternoon, July 12, 1975, a party of members from Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society Ltd. set out to explore Upper Norwood. They met at the Beulah Spa public house and used the excellent trail guide produced by the Norwood Society. They followed the instructions, but some of the party sighed with relief when the leaflet’s ‘28 miles’ turned out to be an innocuous 2.8!
The ‘Norwood Review and Crystal Palace Reporter’ published its first issue early in 1880. There is a glad confident ring in the Editor’s opening words: ‘With thorough faith… and a strong conviction that a hearty welcome awaits us…and we publish today…the Norwood Review’ - at a price of one penny a week. News items from outside the locality were evidently lifted more or less bodily, and without acknowledgement, from other papers, and one suspects that some at any rate of the local news was contributed by the participants.
There are no books on the life and work of John L Pearson, he never lectured and wrote little.
Architectural history sometimes reads like a chronicle of edifice builders, often with no mean show of personal vanity. As far back as 1272 Beauvais was the first of many cathedrals which was never properly completed because it was too ambitious and, perhaps, ambitious for the wrong reasons.
Alan S Watts, Secretary of the Worldwide Dickens’ Foundation, held members spellbound at last November’s meeting, on Charles Dickens and Norwood.
The lecture was so fascinating and so valuable to local scholars that it is reproduced here, in a slightly abbreviated form. (Some individual references, such as in David Copperfield, have had to be omitted but keen scholars will soon find them).