10 reasons to visit Croydon
PUBLISHED: 11:55 21 October 2015 | UPDATED: 13:39 21 October 2015
From the historic street market to its live music heritage and some of the best pies around, there's plenty to discover over the northern border of Surrey in the vibrant town of Croydon
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine September 2015
Airport House, Purley Way CR0 0XZ: 0777 968 1035 / croydonairportsociety.org.uk
Take a beautiful step back in time to the early 1900s when fabulous airliners used to whisk people off to exotic locations from Croydon’s aerodrome. Built in 1915 as an RFC station, the airport has a fascinating history right up to its closure in 1959 when the last international flight was made. Churchwarden at St Michael’s, Ken Leppard, remembers how, when staying with his auntie who lived opposite the runway, he would wave to people seated in wicker chairs on the aircraft. “Sometimes the wheels of the plane would knock off the chimney pots!” he adds. There are open days on the first Sunday of every month from 11am to 4pm. Admission free.
Church of St Michael and All Angels
Poplar Walk CR0 1UA: stmichaelscroydon.org
This stunning church near the town centre must be visited to be appreciated. The famous Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman described the church as a “gem” and how it “brings you to your knees when you enter.” It really is breathtaking inside with the wonderful architecture inspiring you to want to find out more about the history of the place. Modelled on Truro Cathedral by John Loughborough Pearson in 1872, there is also a magnificent organ once used by the BBC for recitals. A rare Grade I listed masterpiece of a building, it is open to visitors Monday to Friday, from 9.30am, and for Mass on Saturday and Sunday.
Surrey Street Market
Surrey Street CR0 1FF: oldtowncroydon.org.uk /surrey-street-market / firstname.lastname@example.org
Yet another fabulous part of Croydon, located in the historic quarter, is Surrey Street Market. Open six days a week selling fruit and veg, cheeses, fresh fish, cakes, street food and much more, you will be transported back in time as you browse the colourful stalls. Originally known as ‘Butcher’s Row’, the market can be traced right back to the 13th century. We were delighted to find the most delicious ripe peaches for sale on one stall at the bargain price of 10 for £1. Needless to say, they were soon gone! Seriously, you have to visit this street to soak up the atmosphere of one of the best markets around.
The Ikea towers
Croydon Valley Park, off Purley Way CR0 4UZ: 0203 645 0000 / ikea.com/gb/en/store/croydon
You can’t miss this store. Opened in 1994, Ikea put to good use the two towering chimneys from the old Croydon power station that once occupied the site. The local council insisted the chimneys remained as landmarks and so Ikea was allowed to wrap the top of them in their trademark colours of blue and yellow. Now famed for their Swedish meatballs in the restaurant as much as their flat-pack furniture, the store is mesmerising as you drift through the departments. We challenge you not to come away with something for your home!
The Spread Eagle Pub and Theatre Venue
39-41 Katherine Street CR0 1NX: 0208 781 1134 / spreadeaglecroydon.co.uk
Another gem in the centre of this town of contrasts. Not just a pub serving speciality pies (hang on – I’ll tell you about that in a moment) but also a theatre and a venue for private functions. Ah – almost forgot – and a cinema too. Describing themselves as “Croydon’s cosiest boutique cinema”, there is a complimentary bag of popcorn waiting for you to enjoy with your drink as you settle down on a sofa or beanbag (really!) to watch a big film. Oh and the pies. Believe it or not, there is a separate pie menu with such mouth-watering delights as ‘Dorset leg of lamb hotpot pie’; ‘chicken, ham hock and honeydew pie’; and ‘The Spread Eagle Special’. Yum.
9 Katherine Street CR9 1ET: 0208 253 1030 / croydonclocktower.org.uk
Jutting into the Croydon skyline, just a stone’s throw from the market and The Spread Eagle, is this landmark tower. Part of a design by Charles Henman Jun to house the original Town Hall and library, it was built in 1892. Now a venue for the town museum and arts complex, some of the original interior is Grade II listed. Pop in to visit the library, located on four floors of the tower, and also the David Lean Cinema – a small cinema built in the 1990s as an art house- style venue where recent showings have included Clouds of Sils Maria and The Goob. For the latest or to book tickets, see online at davidleancroydon.org.uk.
Coal Tax Post
Near Croydon/Bromley boundary, King Henry’s Drive
This month’s teaser for our readers… See if you can spot this lovely little bit of history sitting quietly just south of the busy metropolis of Croydon. Coal tax posts were put up around the mid-19th century in a circle about 20 miles from the centre of London to mark the point at which coal and wine duties had to be paid to the Corporation of London (a bit like the congestion charge really – nothing changes…!). So, if you feel like a little challenge, see if you can find it and send us a photo to email@example.com.
Park Lane CR9 1DG: 0208 688 9291 / fairfield.co.uk
An arts, entertainment and conference centre opened in 1962, the Fairfield Halls name has become synonymous with Croydon. One of the first acts to appear soon after the opening was a pop group called The Beatles (heard of them?). From The Rolling Stones in the ‘60s to Big Daddy wrestling in the ‘70s and Cannon and Ball in the ‘80s, there is more fascinating history in the online archive of the halls.
Croydon Clocktower, Katherine Street CR9 1ET: 0208 253 1023 / museumofcroydon.com
Located inside Croydon Clocktower, which as we mentioned earlier is just a short trot from the market and pub, Croydon Museum is the place to find out about the history of the town. Areas for you to explore include the Riesco Gallery, home to Croydon’s Roman and Anglo Saxon collection, and the Croydon Now Gallery, where there is currently an exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of the borough, with photos, personal stories and objects, called Moving to London.
49C Southend CR0 1BF: 0208 680 2010 / albertstable.co.uk
Surrey Life recently gave this intriguing restaurant a glowing review. Opened in 2008 and based in Croydon’s Restaurant Quarter, it’s certainly well worth a visit. Just as a tiny example of the good things waiting for you on the ‘Destination Menu’, you could start off with a Short Crust Tart of Dorset Crab, with rouille dressing and fine leaves, move onto eight-hour braise of Black Angus beef and then polish off with the Hot Chocolate pudding accompanied by Morant rum chocolate sauce and frozen hazelnut parfait (any menu item that has the word chocolate twice is a friend of mine…). Check the website to book your table.
• Next month: Walton-on-Thames