Croydon is a large suburban town and commercial centre to the south of London and forms part of the Greater London conurbation. It was once a Surrey Urban District Council, but in 1889, through its growing economic importance, it was made into a County Borough exempt from county administration. In 1965 it became the London Borough of Croydon, annexing the former Coulsdon and Purley Urban District. It is now governed by a cabinet-style council created in 2001.
Its area is 34sq m (87km²). Population: (1998) 338,200.
The town of Croydon is situated 10 miles south of London at the head of the River Wandle. Just to the south is a significant gap in the North Downs which acts as a route focus for transport from London to the south coast. The old London to Brighton road , the A23, passed through the town as does the main line from London to Brighton. Today the A23 follows a route to the west of the town known as the Purley Way. Croydon is the largest office and retail centre in south-east England outside of central London.
In the late Saxon period, it was the centre of a large estate belonging to the Archbishops of Canterbury. The church and the archbishops' manor house occupied the area still known as the Old Town. The archbishops used the manor house as an occasional place of residence.
In 1276, the archbishop acquired a charter for a weekly market, and this probably marks the foundation of Croydon as an urban centre. Croydon developed into one of the main market towns of northeast Surrey.
The market place was laid out on the higher ground to the east of the manor house in the triangle now bounded by High Street, Surrey Street and Crown Hill.
By the sixteenth century the manor house had become a substantial palace used as the main summer home of the archbishops. The original palace was sold in 1781, and a new residence, nearby at Addington, purchased in its place. Many of the buildings of the original Croydon Palace survive, and are in use today as Old Palace School.
With the development of Brighton as a fashionable resort in the 1780s Croydon’s role as a significant halt for stage coaches on the road south of London increased.
A the beginning of the 19th century, Croydon became the terminus of two pioneering commercial transport links with London.
The first, opened in 1803, was the horse-drawn Surrey Iron Railway from Wandsworth which was later in 1805 extended to Merstham, as the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Railway.
The second, opened in 1809, was the Croydon Canal, which came from the Surrey Canal at Deptford.
The London & Croydon Railway (a steam-powered railway), opened between London Bridge and West Croydon in 1839 and other connections to London and the south followed.
The rapid expansion of the town brought about by the railways in the 19th century led to considerable health problems, especially in the damp and overcrowded working class district of the Old Town In response to this in 1849, Croydon became one of the first towns in the country to acquire a Local Board of Health. The Board constructed public health infrastructure including a reservoir, several miles of pipes and sewers, a pumping station, and sewage disposal works.
As the town continued to grow, it became especially popular as a pleasant leafy residential suburb for members of the Victorian middle classes, who could commute to the City of London by fast train in 20 minutes.
In 1883, Croydon was incorporated as a Borough.
In 1889, it became a County Borough, with a still greater degree of autonomy. The new Council implemented the Croydon Improvement scheme in the early 1890s, which resulted in the widening of the High Street, and the clearance of much of the 'Middle Row' slum area
By the 1950 and the growth of motor transport the town was becoming congested, and the Council decided to introduce another major redevelopment scheme.
The Croydon Corporation Act was passed in 1956. This coupled with government incentives for office relocation out of London led to the building of new offices and roads in the late 1950s onwards
The town boomed as an important business centre in the 1960s, with the building of a large number of multi-story office blocks, underpasses , flyovers, and multi-storey car parks.
The town has born the brunt of many jokes aimed at its enthusiastic adoption of urban modernism. It has often been characterised as dull and inhuman. A calendar entitled ‘Roundabouts of Croydon’ with a picture of a different Croydon roundabout each month has enjoyed some success.
Croydon also developed as an important centre for shopping with the construction of the Whitgift Centre which opened in 1969. In the same period, Fairfield Halls arts centre and event venue opened (1962).
The 1990s saw further changes intended to give the town a more attractive image. These include the closure of North End to motor traffic in 1989; and the opening of the Clocktower arts centre, in 1994. Croydon Tramlink, began operation in May 2000.
The horse drawn Surrey Iron Railway was probably Britain's first public railway. It was opened in 1803, had a double track, some 8½ miles long and ran from Wandsworth to Croydon terminating at what is now Reeves Corner. The railway boom of the 1840s built superior and faster steam lines and it closed in 1846. The route is still followed in part by Croydon’s new Tramlink system.
The Croydon canal ran for 9½ miles from what is now West Croydon railway station north along the course of the present railway line to New Cross, where it joined, the Surrey canal and went on into the Thames. It was opened in 1809 and had 28 locks. It had a strong competitor in the Surrey iron railway and was never a financial success. It sold out to the steam railways in 1836 and the present Croydon to New Cross line follows much of its course. The lake at South Norwood is the former reservoir for the canal.
Croydon Airport on Purley Way used to be the main airport for London before it was superseded by London Heathrow Airport and London Gatwick Airport. Starting out during World War I as an airfield for protection against Zeppelins, and developing into one of the great airports of the world during the 1920s and 1930s, it welcomed the world's pioneer aviators in its heyday. As aviation technology progressed, however, and aircraft became larger and more numerous, it was recognized in 1952 that the airport would be too small to cope with the ever-increasing volume of air traffic. It was decided it would have to close, and the last scheduled flight departed on September_301959.
The air terminal, now known as Airport House, has been restored and may be visited at certain times.
Actor and dramatist Miles Malleson, – (1888 - 1969), was born in Croydon.
French Novelist Emile Zola, – (1840-1902), lived at The Queen's Hotel, 122 Church Road, Upper Norwood, Croydon SE19 between 1898-1899.
William Ford Robertson Stanley, – (1829-1909), inventor, collector, manufacturer scientific instruments and philanthropist, lived in Croydon , and founded and designed the halls and technical school known as Stanley Halls, 12 South Norwood Hill, South Norwood, SE25 , Croydon .