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Norbury - gateway to Croydon (if you're coming down the A23 from London)! It is hard to imagine that less than 100 years ago, Norbury was still a rural area, a buffer zone between Croydon and Streatham.

The Official Guide for Croydon (1948) comments: Within living memory... Norbury was a park-like countryside with wooded and meadowed eminences to east and west. It has become a suburb of pleasant villas running down on either side to the roaring London Road.

It is most likely that the name Norbury (=North Burh) arose because of its position at the northern boundary of Croydon manor.

The boundary between Norbury and Streatham, on the London Road at Hermitage Bridge, is one of the few rivers remaining over ground in the area - called Norbury Brook to the east of the Bridge and the River Graveney to the west where it flows on to join the Wandle and ultimately the River Thames.

Hermitage Bridge is probably named after a hermit (or a series of them) who used to live nearby.

Nineteenth Century Norbury

From the earliest records, Norbury was a sub-manor of Croydon Manor. Between the years 1385 and 1859 the manor of Norbury was held by various members of the Carew family - a remarkably long connection of one family with a manor. The Carews also held Beddington. Norbury Farm was the manor house, which stood close to where Kensington Avenue meets Norbury Avenue, but it was demolished in 1914.

The only really old building left is Norbury Hall, Craignish Avenue, now an Old People's Home and a Grade II listed building. It was built for William Coles, in 1802, but its best known owner was James Hobbs, local businessman and fifth Mayor of Croydon who bought the house in 1884. In 1893 he was involved in a major financial scandal and ended up in prison for fraud. The Hobbs Family owned the Hall until 1958 when it was sold to Croydon Council.

Other notable buildings include: St. Stephen's Church, Warwick Road, built 1908; brown and red brick, perpendicular style, and Barclays Bank (1434 London Road) both Grade II listed buildings.

The railway line through Norbury opened in 1862, but it was not until 1878 that Norbury got its own station. This was rebuilt in 1902.

Croydon's horse-tram network never extended further than Thornton Heath, but when electric trams were introduced, in 1901, the tracks were laid all the way up the London Road to Norbury. Passengers could then ride all the way from Norbury to Purley by tram. However, if you wanted to go up to London from Croydon you had to change trams at Norbury. This was because the Croydon trams and the London trams used different systems and couldn't travel on each other's tracks. This was finally sorted out in 1925.

For a few years in the 1870s, horse-racing fans flocked to Norbury. Streatham race-course had been set up stretching roughly from present-day Rowan Road, Streatham Vale to Northborough Road, Norbury. Races were stopped in 1878 - mainly because of the unruly nature of the meetings.

Norbury's main open space, Norbury Park, was purchased by Croydon Council in 1935, having been the North Surrey Golf Course since 1920.

Housing development in Norbury really took off after the turn of the century. Norbury was chosen by the London County Council for the first of its 'Out-County' estates - now Northborough Road, Tyelcroft Road and the roads in between. Between 1906 and 1910, the LCC built 498 small houses on this site, many with their own bathrooms - a major step forward in housing policy at the time.

By the late 1920s most of Norbury had been developed and the area was more or less as we know it today.

Description of Norbury in 1907

From Where to Live round London: Southern Side (2nd edn. 1907) [S70 ROW]

Although nominally part of Croydon, Norbury is growing so rapidly that it deserves separate mention. The main thoroughfare is a wide road, on which large modern and high-class shops have been, and are still being, erected. The demand for houses is great, and this has led to large estates being opened up and developed, and the houses already erected are of good appearance and moderate rentals. There are also some good self-contained flats fitted up with all modern conveniences.

The neighbourhood is healthy, the Croydon district having for the last sixteen years shown the lowest death rate of large towns in the kingdom. A good service of trains accomplishes the journey of eight miles to town in a short time. Electric trams to Croydon and Purley run every few minutes, and omnibuses run to the City or connect with trams at Streatham and thence to the Bridges.

There are tennis, cricket and football clubs. Two golf courses available: the Norbury Golf Club having a 9-hole course, and the North Surrey Golf Club an 18-hole course. Two good local theatres are within easy reach - the Grand Theatre at Croydon and the Brixton Theatre - both good houses, with a weekly change of programme provided by excellent companies.

There are many open spaces in the district, one of the most recently acquired within easy walking distance being Grange Wood. The wood has been left in its natural state, and the grounds adjacent to the house are kept in good order. Standing high as it does, extensive views can be obtained there from of the Surrey hills and surrounding country.

  • Railway Communication - London Bridge, Victoria, and Kensington by the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway
  • Rents - To suit all classes 35 to 100 per annum
  • Rates - 7s 8d in the (including water)
  • Gas - 2s 8d per 1000 cubic feet
  • Electric Light - Sliding scale 7d to 2d per BT unit; flat rate 5d per BT unit
  • Subsoil - Gravel and clay
  • Altitude - About 200ft
  • Early Closing Day - Wednesday
  • Schools - Boys: Norbury College, London Road, Principal Mr. Smith; Girls: St. Hilda's College, London Road, Principal Miss Agnes Robinson
  • Places of Worship - St Philip's Church and Wesleyan and other Nonconformist Churches
  • Recreations - North Surrey Golf Club, Norbury: Secretary W. Blackford, 18 holes, subscription 5 5s, a good sporting course with close turf and well-kept greens. Norbury Golf Club: Secretary F. Holmes, 9 holes, subscription 4 4s, fairly good, well-drained course with numerous natural and artificial hazards well placed

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Wednesday, 25 November, 2015


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