Sunday, June 19th 2016
For today’s jaunt we took a train to West Croydon Station. The Croydon Canal used to terminate in a basin here but it was drained and the site became a station for the London & Croydon Railway. This is not the original station, though I believe that parts of that structure remain in the fabric of nearby shops. I don’t know when the present station was built.
I find Croydon a rather curious place and don’t know quite what to make of it even though we have visited it on a number of occasions. It is a place of mixed architectural styles (no harm in that, of course) and we have found some interesting things here (for example, see Rambling around Croydon and Morden).
We had a special reason for coming here today and that reason took us into Wandle Park. This is a large and attractive park with plenty of amenities, including a play area for children that includes swings and a large sand pit. It is called Wandle Park because a short stretch of the River Wandle appears here. The Wandle (its name derives from an old word meaning ‘wandering’) actually has its source in South Croydon but these days much of it now is confined underground.
Another facility in the park is the cafe. This is quite large for a park cafe and has clean toilets. It’s also useful as a meeting place and that was why we were here. Tigger had heard that there was a walking tour starting from here and wanted to join it. The tour didn’t interest me and guided tours always bore me so that I tend to wander off and look at things I find for myself. I did that today.
The tour halted a while here and so I photographed what is called the Minster Church of St John the Baptist. There has been a church here from about the 14th century but the present building, as is often the case with churches, is a mixture of parts from different epochs. Untangling it all can be a bit of a puzzle as the following edited quotation from the Historic England (English Heritage) listing text will show (the church is Grade I listed):
Large C15 church, built at the expense of the archbishops of Canterbury (whose Old Palace adjoins) severely damaged by fire in 1867 but retaining South porch with parvise, West Tower and nave walls, the remainder rebuilt on the previous foundations by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1870 in Perpendicular style… with new vestry. The tower was restored 1892-3 with extended pinnacles of 1915.
The elaborately styled side door pictured above is flanked (as is often the case) by two sculpted heads, of which I show one. These are no doubt intended to represent important figures in the history of the church but I have not identified them.
We spotted these two wooden sculptures on a lawn. I would have liked to see the further one too but the tour group was moving on and I had to follow.
I have included these two structures as they were mentioned on the tour. To my mind they are good examples of what gives modern British architecture its bad name, huge lumpish and depressing buildings that fit in with neither the environment or the surrounding buildings. They cast a long shadow (literally) and dominate the visual landscape, blotting out the sky.
In contrast is this turreted little building, the Waterworks of 1866, which I felt, after the previous two horrors, provided the visual equivalent of an aspirin for a headache.
This building proves, if proof were needed, that it is not necessary to go back to the Victorian era to find well designed architecture. The Electricity Showrooms and Offices were built in 1939-1942. This Art Deco design in Portland stone has clean lines and an elegant shape. I think it expresses a confidence in the modern world that was about to be rudely shaken by WWII. It is Grade II listed and in my opinion exists as a palpable reproach to the greed-inspired towers that more and more overshadow it.
The tour ended in front of another lump of a building called Amp House. Thoroughly bored now with unsightly architecture, I paid it scant attention and therefore know nothing about it. I did, however, spot a piece of relief sculpture above the door which deserved a second look in my opinion. I don’t know who made it or what the work seeks to convey but I think it has some merit.
Another happy surprise awaited. In Art and about 2, I showed you this piece of art on a shop shutter in St George’s Walk:
We visited St George’s Walk again today and found that the second shutter was also down, showing the complete picture, no doubt a reference to the film Lady and the Tramp:
One of Croydon’s more endearing features is its tram service. As I have said before, we like trams and always take a tram ride whenever we can in whatever city we find them. For our return journey, we took the tram from Croydon to Mitcham and walked through Morden Hall Park.
The park is a pleasant place to stroll but also has features of historic interest which we have already explored (see Rambling around Croydon and Morden). Today, though, we were content to make our way to Morden Underground Station and there catch a train that deposited us conveniently at the Angel.