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The Skylark

This pub is closed permanently. Your nearest Wetherspoon pub: The George

This pub is named after one of the well-known and widely appreciated poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins. One of the most original poets of Victorian times, Hopkins knew Croydon well, from his visits to his grandparents’ house.

Framed drawings and text about transport in Croydon.

The text reads: During the 19th Century Croydon grew from a small market town, population under 6,000, into a major county borough with 130,000 inhabitants. The greatest single factor in this rapid growth was transport.

The century dawned with the opening, in 1808, of the new London to Brighton Road. Coaches multiplied, the Prince Regent regularly stopped off en-route, and inns sprang up to accommodate the traffic.

A year later the Croydon Canal was opened, joining the Grand Surrey Canal at New Cross, making Croydon the receiving point for goods destined for London.

Railway mania was soon abroad, and Croydon was an easy link in the chain. The canal was drained in 1836 to provide a ready made flat bed for the track. In 1839 The London and Croydon Railway opened. Two years later it was connected with the Brighton line.

From 1801 to 1846 the world’s first public railway, the Surrey Iron Railway, ran through Croydon, The line moved goods from the mills and factories along the River Wandle, reaching from Wandsworth, where it could unload on to Thames barges, to Merstham.

In Croydon it followed the line of Southbridge Road, passing the rear of this site, before joining the line of the Brighton Road. Its trucks were horse drawn, and steam engines made it redundant.

Lastly, the Atmospheric Railway ran between Norwood Junction and Forest Hill. Motion was achieved by creating a vacuum in a tube to which the train was linked. Noiseless, pollution-free, and 2.requiring no fuel, the Atmospheric Railway achieved unheard of speeds. But it relied on leather seals, and the rats proved very partial to them. No way of preventing rodents devouring vital working parts was found, and the experiment was abandoned.

Framed text about John Ruskin and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The text reads: John Ruskin’s maternal grandmother was landlord of the Old King’s Head Inn, which once stood in Surrey Street, next to the second Town Hall. The great Victorian author and art critic was a temporary resident there in his youth. One of his mother’s sisters married a baker, and lived above the shop in Surrey Street.

Here Ruskin came at weekends, despite the fact that his aunt was a rabid evangelical, and served cold meat on Sundays. Visiting his grandmother and aunt gave him access to the countryside, to Duppas Hill or Crown Hill, rather than the streets outside his parents’ London home.

Between 1891 and 1893, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, lived at 12 Tennison Road in South Norwood. During this time he was regularly to be seen cycling around Croydon on a tandem tricycle, with his wife Louise seated in front of him. He also used the area as a setting for his stories.

Louise had to give up cycling 1892, when she was pregnant with the couple’s son. Doyle produced many of the Sherlock Holmes stories here. It was in Norwood that he penned the great detective’s death at the Reichenbach Falls, having grown tired of his creation. Public demand subsequently forced him to devise a way of bringing him back, and prolonging his career by several years.

In 1893 they discovered Louise had consumption. Doyle immediately arranged for them to move to Switzerland, in the same month as The Strand magazine published Holmes’ premature death in The Final Problem.

Framed drawings and text about South End.

The text reads: The Cooper & Sons Steam Boot factory was demolished in the early 1980s, which was a pity, as it was an outstanding piece of Victorian brickwork.

It was built by John Cooper, who began life as the son of a country shoe-maker in West Wickham. John built the business up, until he moved to a factory in Lower Coombe Street. To accommodate his still expanding concern he built the impressive factory near the crossroads in 1860. It was then the largest factory in Croydon. He also built houses for his workmen, and put a lot of work out to families in their homes.

In 1894 the firm moved to Northampton, taking 140 families with them. The building was a depository for many years, until it was replaced by an office building.

Boswell House was built around 1700, and the building has since been divided into three residences. No17 retains the original name, which recalls the local family who built house. No 19 became Boswell Cottage.

Trengrove is probably the oldest house and shop in Croydon, dating from around 1600. It was converted into a shop in the 19th century, when it was also re-roofed. Trengrove is now no 46 South End.

South End House, or rather it remains, can be seen at no. 96 South End. In its time, around 1700, it was a substantial mansion, facing south with its side to the road, with ample grounds. The Coatman family lived here from 1875 until they sold the house in 1922. They had a shop in the High Street, only a part of their business interests that sold Token Tea, their own brand. Token House, off High Street, recalls the shop.

Top: The Copper & Sons Steam Boot factory
Below: South End 1825.

Framed drawings and text about the Grand Theatre, 1896– 1959.

The text reads: The Grand Theatre and Opera House at 125 High Street was opened in 1896 by the great actor/manager, Herbert Beerbohm Tree.

The Grand was managed by Messrs Battey and Linfoot, in its early days it was a top flight theatre venue. George Bernard Shaw’s Man of Destiny was premiered here in 1897.

Other big occasions were appearances by Sarah Bernhardt in La Dame aux Camelias, and Henry Irving with his Lyceum company.

In the Edwardian period the Grand’s staple diet was popular melodrama and light comedies. Between the wars it subsisted on touring companies, until it closed in 1940.

After the war Will Hammer staged repertory and an annual pantomime, but by 1957 the Grand was no longer viable. It struggled on whilst theatre goers, the Council for Theatre Preservation and the Croydon Theatre Trust fought to save it from demolition, and replacement by an office block.

Their efforts failed. The curtain came down on the last show in April 1959.

A framed portrait and text about Catherine of Aragon.

The text reads: Catherine of Aragon was married to Prince Arthur, heir to the throne of England occupied by his father Henry VII, was his younger brother. Their marriage had been arranged in 1488, when the prince was not yet two. The marriage took place in 1501, but Arthur was a sickly youth, and died the following year.

The Queen placed Catherine in the places of two churchmen, Durham House in the city, and Croydon Park, seat of the Archbishop, among the Surrey Hills. The then Primate, Archbishop Deane, was at Lambeth Palace so the princess had Croydon to herself.

Catherine spent her early weeks of mourning with her chaplain, her ‘duena’, and her ladies-in-waiting. She was expected to live like a nun, but contemporary accounts reveal otherwise: “Croydon Park was not a convent… nor was Catherine ready to become a nun. A girl of flesh not weak, the blood not water. …A clever girl, not 18 years of age, she saw that all her feelings, as a daughter and as a widow had been made the sport of Kings.”

Henry VIII later married his brother’s widow, and in the early days of his reign he spent much of his time at Croydon. Between 1510 and 1514 she bore four children who all died. In 1516 she gave birth to Princess Mary, later Mary I or ‘bloody’ Mary.

In 1527 Henry sought an annulment, in order to marry Anne Boleyn, hastening England’s split from the church in Rome, and the start of the Reformation in England. Anne was sent into a dignified retirement. She died in 1536.

A framed photograph of Croydon’s Corporation Tramways.

A framed photograph of Brighton Road, South Croydon, c1920.

Framed photographs of Croydon Aerodrome, c1920.

A framed poster referring to the advancement of aeroplanes.

A framed photograph of Southend Croydon, c1910.

A framed photograph of Croydon High Street, c1908.

Framed prints of aeroplanes significant to development, from c1920.

A stained-glass window.

A photograph of the upper level and grand chandelier, hanging from the ceiling in The Skylark. 

A picture of the internal wooden staircase in The Skylark.

External photograph of the building – main entrance.

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