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The Geology of South Norwood

South Norwood lies on the southern slopes of the Norwood Ridge which forms the southern edge of the London Basin.  This line of hills runs from north-east to south-west for about three miles and rises to approximately 110 metres above sea level at its highest point.  It is formed by a ridge of grey silty deposits known as London Clay, capped in places with the gravel of the Claygate Beds.

Gravel working was an important local industry and at one time the road along Beulah Hill was called Gravel Pit Road. South Norwood Hill is the most southerly spur of this ridge and the London Clay extends at its foot to the southern edge of the South Norwood Country Park. Here a stream marks the junction with the sands and gravels of the Blackheath Beds that rise to Shirley, Addington Hills and Croham Hurst.

The Norwood Ridge splits into two spurs at the centre of Upper Norwood. One runs north-west (Central Hill) and one south-west (Church Road).  The spur divides into two again at All Saints' Church, Beulah hill running north-west and South Norwood and Grange Hill running south-west.

These spurs form a series of watersheds. The streams in the valley between Beulah Hill and Central Hill flow north to form the Effra River which flows through Dulwich and Herne Hill to Brixton and ultimately into the Thames.  It is mostly underground nowadays.  The streams that flow south-east off the Church Road ridge join the Ravensbourne and eventually the Thames at Deptford Creek.  This drainage system includes a stream that rises somewhere near the site of Fox Farm at the foot of Fox Hill, flows through the open space between Maberley Road and South Norwood Lake, where it can still be seen in wet weather, into the Lake at its north-east corner and out at the south-east where it flows in a culvert under the playing fields and probably into a stream that runs along the northern edge of the Country Park.

A second stream is marked on some old maps as rising somewhere near the old Woodside Brickworks site, flowing through the dip in Birchanger and Portland Roads and emerging on the Country Park at its north-west corner, where it can still be seen.  From here it flows along the edge of the cemetery to Elmers End Road where it joins another stream that emerges from a culvert at the north-east corner of Rylands playing fields and may have its source in the region of Ashburton Park.  These combined streams join the Chaffinch Brook and the Beck to form the Pool River which eventually flows into the Ravensbourne.

The third drainage system is the Norbury Brook, which rises near Lower Addiscombe Road and flows north-west through Selhurst, Thornton Heath and Norbury to join the Wandle at south Wimbledon. A Short stretch of this is visible in South Norwood at Heavers' Meadow, near Selhurst Station, where the Brook can be seen in a concrete channel next to the British rail works.  Other stretches are visible in Norbury and Thornton Heath.

[Extracted from The South Norwood Local studies Pack, available at South Norwood Library and (for reference only) at Croydon Local Studies Library].

Detailed geological maps are held in the Local Studies Library.

Simplified geological maps:

Warning: these are all large files

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Tuesday, 1 December, 2015


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