Saturday, April 6th 2019
The above map shows where we went today. We visit Croydon from time to time, mainly to see whether there is any new street art worth photographing. In the past this town has been popular with street artists but in reent months there seems to have been a decline. So it was on this visit: most of the art was stuff we had already seen and I found little in the few new works that was (in my opinion) worth photographing. I took a couple of photos and these appear below.
Croydon has existed since at least Anglo-Saxon times as it name indicates. References to the name of Croydon in various documents show it evolving from Crogedene (Anglo-Saxon charter of 809) through Croindene (Domesday Book, 1086), Croiendene (12th century) to Croindone and Croydone in the 13th century. The most popular etymology derived from these proposes the formation of the name from Anglo-Saxon croh, ‘crocus’, and denu, ‘valley’ (often a long narrow valley of the sort at whose head Croydon stands), giving the settlement the name ‘crocus valley’.
Some etymologists assert that the crocus in question is crocus sativus, the saffron crocus, and that it was cultivated commercially in the valley. The Romans certainly knew saffron and cultivated it in Gaul but it is uncertain whether they cultivated it in Britain and whether, if they did, its cultivation could have survived into Anglo-Saxon times. Perhaps, then, the crocus growing here was the native wild crocus which for some reason grew in sufficient abundance for its name to be given to the settlement.
We travelled to Croydon as we usually do, by train, arriving at East Croydon Station. This station is an important junction for train services to Sussex and Kent. It is also served by the local tram network, Tramlink, run by London Trams, hence the rails that you can see in the road.
Though I don’t wish to upset the inhabitants of Croydon, I have to say that it is not the most beautiful of towns, especially at the moment when there is a lot of building activity going on, many of whose objects are preposterously tall buildings whose size speaks more of developer greed than of usefulness. These blocks of ‘luxury apartments’ may attract affluent families and foreign speculators but do nothing to alleviate the shortage of housing for ordinary people.
As we passed by the Queen’s Gardens, I captured this view of Croydon’s 1895 Town Hal with its prominent clock tower, a striking symbol of Victorian civic pride. For a succinct history see here.
This photo shows the lift shafts of another monstrous building in process of construction. It is beyond me why, after the Grenfell fire and similar disasters around the world, anyone woukld want to live or work in a tower block. I felt nervous just occupying a room on the 9th floor in our hotel in Glasgow (see Glasgow 2019 – Day 1).
On reaching the Town Hall, we decided it was time for a coffee break. Our needs were met by the Clocktower Cafe which is inside the town hall. That explains the size of the rooms used by the cafe. Also accommodated within the Town Hall are the Central Library, the Museum of Croydon, and the usual Council services.
Refreshed, we returned to the streets and contiued our explorations. We soon spotted this large-scale work immediately recognizable as a painting by Chilean artist Otto Schade aka Oscho. No title is shown but it is signed by the artist.
These two figures are signed by Haz, who doesn’t seem to have any online presence that I can link to.
Two items is not much of a haul for the whole of Croydon but, as I said at the beginning, I did not see much that was both new and worth collecting. We possibly missed other worthwhile paintings as Croydon presents a large area for artists and it’s easy to miss things in side streets and off-street sites.
We found the Surrey Street Market in full swing. This is just one of the markets that take place in the area. The Council’s Market webpage has this to say:
Located on Surrey Street in Croydon Town Centre, the historic Surrey Street Market is one of the oldest markets in Britain, trading since 1276. It operates 7 days a week, selling a range of items, including fresh produce, fruit and vegetables Monday to Saturday as well as an alternative artisan market on Sundays.
We walked along North End which is a street, pedestrianzied for much of its length, that is lined with shops and was very busy. It is a place where one can appreciate the mixture of buildings of diffeent ages in Croydon. Old and new rub shoulders together making a mishmash of styles.
This building id distinguished by possessing 12 coats of arms on its façade. I don’t know what its original purpose was or its age.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I ‘collect’ old stores that were built by Burton’s tailoring company. In its heyday, Burton’s opened purpose-built stores all over the UK. Although they differed according to the site, they shared a common ‘house style’. This one is unusual in that the foundation stones, that always accompanied a store and were inscribed with the date and the names of the members of the Burton family present at the ceremony, have disappeared. I therefore don’t know the date of this building.
This building intrigued me. Built as a unit comprising two properties is has a symmetrical design with small differences which may be the result of repairs or may have been options offered to the original owners in order to personalize their respective properties. I imagine that these were originally dwelling houses whose ground floors were later converted for retail. The large clock on the façade of the left unit suggests that a clockmaker or at least a clock retailer once occupied the premises. When was it built? I am guessing it is late Victorian but I could be wrong.
It is a curious feature of British culture that many pubs include the word ‘Hotel’ in their name despite not offering accommodation. Some of these undoubtedly did once offer overnight lodging to travellers and though they no longer do so, retain the word in their name. In the case of the Railway Bell, ‘Hotel’ is not included in its name but appears in large letters over what I assume was once the main entrance. The name no doubt refers to the nearby West Croydon Station, so perhaps this small inn did once provide accommodation for travellers. Those days are gone and the erstwhile inn has been taken over by retail. (There is a pub next door to it, called the Arkwright’s Wheel, which I believe, survived its rival for a while but has now, like it, succumbed to retail.)
The cliché adjective ‘playful’ is so often included in art crticis’ descriptions of works of modern art that the word has virtually lost all meaning in that context. However, I think it applies quite properly in this instance: surely this artwork is truly playful in its depiction of a telephone kiosk from which someone has taken several bites as from a hotdog. We searched for a plaque or inscription but in vain and so I cannot tell you the name of the artist of the date of the work.
We now started on our way to our next destination, Streatham. Why Streatham? Well, because it was past lunchtime and we knew of a suitable venue for lunch in Streatham that we had visited before and wanted to visit again.
Not being in a hurry , we decided tio break our journey at Thornton Heath. Here we came across this simple but pleasant clock tower. A symbol of both time and the passing of time, it was built in 1900 in celebration of the new century. Having suffered graffitii and city dirt, it was cleaned and renovated in 1987.
(The name ‘Thornton’ is said to derive from Anglo-Saxon þorn, ‘thorn (tree)’, and tun, ‘farm’ or ‘(cattle) enclosure’. In the case of Thornton Heath, the word ‘heath’, from Anglo-Saxon hæþ, means what it appears to mean.)
And so on to Streatham and, in particular, to Shrubbery Road. For an etymology of Streatham, see here.
Number 1 Shrubbery Road is the address of our destination, the Wholemeal Cafe, a vegetarian and vegan establishment. It was almost full of diners but we managed to fit in. What more need I say but that we were served with a tasty and satisfying meal by friendly and attentive staff, an enjoyable end to our outing.