The Past and Present of Croydon's London Road

67–71 London Road: Savemore Spicy Foods

3 April 2015

Today, 65–71 London Road is occupied by Savemore: a grocery shop, greengrocers, and butchers specialising in Asian and African ingredients. Number 65 has no internal connection to the rest of the shop, and so I’ve covered it separately in its own article. Here I discuss the rest of the property: numbers 67 and 69–71. Despite the numbering, 69–71 is itself a single unit!

65–71 London Road, December 2011. Number 65 is under the “Savemore World of Frozen Foods” sign, number 67 is under the “Savemore Spicy Foods” sign, and number 69–71 is under the “Graphico” sign.[1] Despite the numbering, and the somewhat confusing choice to put four canopies across three shopfronts, number 69–71 is in fact a single property of the same width as numbers 65 and 67. The brick building rising up in the centre is the original part of numbers 67–71. Photo: author’s own.

The original building, and the present-day one

Numbers 67 and 69–71 currently form a double shop unit with no internal partitions, and although this has not been the case for the whole of their history, it does hark back to how the property started its life in the mid-1800s. Like several of the other shops I’ve discussed so far, the present-day configuration is made up partly of a ground-floor extension from the original mid-1800s building to the current pavement line. Notably, 67–71 London Road is one of the more extreme of these cases, since by my reckoning almost all of the publically-accessible space within the shop is in the extension.

One reason for this is that the extension was built as much around the original building as in front of it, in an L-shape with the long leg of the L stretching back on the left-hand side of the shop. This, in turn, has its own cause; the original building was the left-hand side of a semi-detached property, and so there was land available to the side for building on.

London Road on the 1868 Town Plans. The junction in the lower right-hand corner is with Mead Place and Oakfield Road. I’ve added a red “X” on the building that became numbers 67–71. Its northerly neighbour has since been demolished and replaced by a newer building that now houses the Turkish Food Centre (TFC). Base map image reproduced courtesy of the Croydon Local Studies and Archives Service.

1840s–1850s: Construction of the building, and the first few private residents

The original property was constructed as a semi-detached house between 1844 and 1851.[2] By 1851, it was occupied by Thomas and Sarah Morland, along with their children and servants.[3] By 1855, the Morlands had left and John Poole was in residence, but by the end of the decade John Poole had in turn been replaced by Willoughby Mullins.

1850s–1880s: Willoughby Mullins

Born in Bloomsbury in the early 1820s, Willoughby Mullins married Louisa Ann Huffam in 1853 and was resident on London Road by 1858.[4] His unusual first name may have come from his mother’s maiden name, according to research carried out by one of his descendants. Although this research does not cite its sources, the fact that Willoughby used Louisa Ann’s maiden name as the middle name of one of their sons is also suggestive in this direction.[5]

Before arriving on London Road, Willoughby travelled in Europe, including a trip to Rome in 1851 which resulted in a “nocturnal domiciliary visit” from the Italian police. A report in the “Foreign and Colonial Intelligence” column of the Staffordshire Advertiser of 8 March 1851 speculated that he “was probably an object of suspicion, from the circumstance of his having travelled with a foreigner from Switzerland, who, although unknown to him, appears to have aroused the jealous fears of the police.” Despite waking him up at 2am to see his identification, the police officers “offered no personal molestation to Mr. Mullins, and decamped on obtaining [the relevant paperwork].”[6]

Holy Saviour, Croydon, March 2015. Photo: author’s own.

Willoughby worked as an architect, often in partnership with his brother Arthur Rainbow Mullins.[7] Their work included the design of several churches, such as Holy Saviour in West Croydon (pictured above).[8]

He was active in a number of fields during his life, some directly relating to architecture and others more tangential. He was a Master of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers of the City of London,[9] and was also involved with the Croydon Microscopical and Natural History Club. His interest in the Club appears to have been at least partly geological; its 1902–1903 Proceedings and Transactions report that “The late Mr. Willoughby Mullins has presented to the Society a collection of Serpentine and other rocks.”[10] It’s unclear, however, whether this presentation took place before or after his death on 20 April 1902, at 9 Thornhill Road, Croydon.[11]

1880s: Thomas Arthur Richardson

Although Willoughby Mullins died in Croydon (and lived at 9 Thornhill Road for around half a decade before his death), his association with 67–71 London Road ended in the early 1880s.[12] Next to move in was Dr Thomas Arthur Richardson, who had previously been living above his surgery at number 61. Thomas remained here until around 1890, then moved again to a house (since demolished) on the corner of London Road and Montague Road.[13]

1890s: George Ashby Lean, architect and surveyor

Thomas Richardson’s replacement was another architect — George Ashby Lean. George moved to London Road from Hanwell in 1891 and became a member of the Croydon Microscopical and Natural History Club in 1892, like Willoughby Mullins before him. However, he was gone again by 1895.[14]

A page from the 1892–93 Proceedings of the Croydon Microscopical and Natural History Club, showing George Ashby Lean’s election to membership on 14 September 1892. Note that his address is given as 51 London Road; this was renumbered to 67–71 in 1927, after the property had been split. Photo: author’s own, taken by kind permission of Paul Sowan, librarian of the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society (the modern name of the abovementioned Club).

1890s: Division into two shops: Henry James, furniture dealer, and Chapman’s Stores

The mid-1890s saw the division of the property into two shops: in modern numbering, 67 and 69–71 respectively. The extension forward to the current building line probably took place at the same time.[15] Number 67 was swiftly occupied by Henry James, furniture dealer, and by 1897 number 69–71 was home to Chapman’s Stores.[16]

1900s: Universal Furnishing Co, Hilder’s Stores, and the Surrey Rubber and Waterproof Co

By 1899, Henry James had been replaced by the Universal Furnishing Co, a business which likely originated in Islington as the Angel Furnishing Stores. Other branches were in Deptford and Whitechapel.[17]

Advertisement for the Universal Furnishing Co on page 3 of the 27 March 1903 Surrey Mirror. Note that 49a London Road was renumbered to 67 in 1927. Image © The British Library Board. All Rights Reserved. Reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive; view the original here (requires subscription).

Around the same time, Chapman’s Stores became Hilder’s Stores. This was an independent business run by Joseph Hilder, who lived on the premises with his wife Caroline and their son, also called Joseph. Little evidence remains of the articles sold by this shop, but the 1901 census lists Joseph as a grocer, and a photo held in Croydon Local Studies Library shows an advertisement on the frontage for John Walker & Sons’ “Special Whisky”.[18]

The Universal Furnishing Co remained on London Road until around 1909, but Hilder’s Stores was to prove less long-lasting, and was gone by 1905. Number 69–71 remained unoccupied for most of the rest of the decade, with only a brief interruption by the Surrey Rubber and Waterproof Co around 1907.[19]

c.1909: Another subdivision, and the reason for today’s numbering

Around 1909, the shop previously occupied by Hilder’s Stores was subdivided again, and here at last comes the reason why this single unit has a double modern number. In contemporary numbering, Hilder’s Stores was number 51, and with the split this became numbers 51 and 51a, which were renumbered to 69 and 71, respectively, in 1927. When the two halves were later reunited, the numbering remained.[20]

1910s–1950s: Decorators’ merchants, pianos, newspapers, and advertising

The subsequent years brought a wide variety of occupants to the three shop units — one full-size, two half-size — that had now been formed from the original mid-1800s semi-detached house. Among the more long-lasting of these was Egleton Bros, decorators’ merchants, almost certainly run by the same family as the older business, F A Egleton, at number 5 just down the road. This occupied the full-size unit, number 67, from around 1913 to around 1959. It also had another branch further up at number 81.[21]

Advertisment for Egleton Bros in Ward’s 1921 Directory of Croydon, reproduced courtesy of the Croydon Local Studies and Archives Service. Note the claimed address of 49 London Road; the actual contemporary number for Egleton Bros was 49a.

Another long-lasting business was Williams & Co, newsagents & tobacconists, present in the half-unit now known as number 71 from around 1910 to at least the late 1950s.[22] The neighbouring half-unit, number 69, was home to Jarrett & Goudge, piano manufacturers, from around 1913 to around 1929.[23]

The 1930s saw Elite Advertising Services arrive at number 69 to replace Jarrett & Goudge. This company had previously been based across the road at number 72. It was here by 1930, and by 1932 had been renamed to C S Howes & Co. However, it was gone again by 1939, replaced by a “furrier” known as Uden. It’s unclear how long Uden lasted, but it too was gone by the mid-1950s.[24]

Advertisement for C S Howes & Co, found in the firms files at Croydon Local Studies Library. No information is available about its source, but a handwritten note on the mounting sheet reads “Nov. 1934”.

1950s–1970s: Bicycles and electronics

By the mid-1950s, number 69 had become home to Abbey Cycles Ltd, which was to remain in place until at the mid-1970s. By 1967, it had been joined by Coastal Cycle Co Ltd, Holiday Radio Ltd, and Auto-Slot (Sales) Ltd. Although contemporary phone books list all four of these businesses at number 69, it's likely that either some of them were in number 71, or numbers 69 and 71 had been reunited into a single premises which the four businesses shared.[25]

Meanwhile, by 1968 Egleton Bros’ old premises at number 67 had been reoccupied, this time by a company known as Servo & Electronic Sales Ltd. By 1974 this had become J M G Electronics.[26]

1970s–present: Savemore Spicy Foods

Electronics and cycles alike were gone by 1977, replaced by Savemore Spicy Foods. Originally opening in the double unit of 67–71, three decades later it expanded to take in number 65 as well.[27] Today, number 65 houses the butchers counter and a few lines of dry goods while number 67–71 carries a small selection of homewares plus the faster-moving groceries including whole and ground spices, rice, beans, and lentils. Neatly-arranged open displays of vegetables stretch the length of the pavement outside, including fresh herbs, Asian vegetables such as tinda and bitter gourd, and multiple types of aubergine.

Pestle and mortar from Savemore Spicy Foods, 67–71 London Road, August 2014. Photo: author’s own.

Thanks to: Khalid at Savemore; Paul Sowan; Sean Creighton, for advice on researching Willoughby Mullins; the Planning Technical Support Team at Croydon Council; all at the Croydon Local Studies Library; and my beta-reader bob. Census data, FreeBMD indexes, and some phone books consulted via Ancestry.co.uk.

Footnotes and references

  1. According to Khalid of Savemore, the Graphico sign on the frontage above number 69–71 has only ever been an advertisement, and Graphico has always conducted its business from the buildings at the back of the premises, accessed via Parsons Mead (conversation in shop, 18 February 2015).
  2. The 1844 Tithe Map shows the land on which the present numbers 67–77 were later built as “Building ground” belonging to Samuel Bendry Brooks. Gray’s 1851 directory lists Thomas Morland, gentleman, at 26 London Road, which was renumbered to 51 in 1890 and split into 49a, 51, and 51a a few years later. In 1927, 49a was renumbered to 67, 51 was renumbered to 69, and 51a was renumbered to 71. (See later in the article for evidence on splitting.)

  3. The 1851 census lists Thomas Morland (28), his wife Sarah (31), their children Caroline (4), Isabella (3), Henry (2), and Albert (9 months), and their servants Amelia Marcus (25) and Sarah [something unreadable] (24). It’s hard to make out Thomas’s profession, but the Swinhope Burn Families website suggests “Umbrella & Parasol Manufacturer”, which looks plausible to me (though “Manufacturer” must be abbreviated).
  4. The 1881 census gives Willoughby Mullins’ birthplace as Bloomsbury, Middlesex, and his age as 59, suggesting he was born in 1821 or 1822. The Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser of 26 April 1902 carries a report of the death “On April 20th, at 9, Thornhill Road, Croydon” of “Willoughby Mullins, aged 78 years.” (front page, first column; viewed online at the British Newspaper Archive, requires subscription), and the FreeBMD Death Index, 1837–1915 also records his death in Croydon at age 78 in the second quarter of 1902, suggesting that he was born in 1823 or 1824. There is clearly some inconsistency here, but it does suggest a birth date in the early 1820s. The England, Select Marriages, 1538–1973 database on Ancestry.co.uk records his marriage on 8 October 1853 in Kennington, Surrey, to Louisa Ann Huffam (and gives his father’s name as John Mullins). He’s listed on London Road in the October 1858 Poor Rate Book, street directories from Gray & Warren’s 1859 onwards, and the 1861, 1871, and 1881 censuses.
  5. Willoughby Huffam Mullins was baptised on 28 October 1864 at St Saviour’s, Croydon, according to a baptism record viewed on Ancestry.co.uk (a digitised version of original Anglican Parish Registers held at the Surrey History Centre in Woking).
  6. Staffordshire Advertiser column viewed online at the British Newspaper Archive (first column of page 7, about halfway down; requires subscription).
  7. The Directory of British Architects, 1834–1914, viewed online at Google Books, lists Willoughby Mullins as active between 1854 and 1886, and “In partnership with Arthur R Mullins and Francis Goodall Lee as Mullins, Lee & Mullins. Later with A R Mullins.” According to a notice on p242 of the 11 January 1870 London Gazette, the partnership with Francis Lee was “dissolved by mutual consent as from the 31st December, 1869.” Arthur’s full middle name is given in a notice on page 4 of the Manchester Times of 6 February 1875 (available online via subscription on the British Newspaper Archive; 5th column about halfway down under wills): “The will, dated November 9 last, of Mr. George Mullins, late of No. 304, Kennington Park Road, who died on December 17, was proved on the 13th ult. by Willoughby Mullins, Arthur Rainbow Mullins, and George Spencer Fisher (nephews of deceased) [...]”.
  8. Information on Holy Saviour taken from Diocese of Southwark website. A photo of another of the Mullins’ churches, St Mary in Brook on the Isle of Wight, is viewable on Flickr; according to an entry on page 3580 of The Isle of Wight by David Wharton Lloyd and Nikolaus Pevsner (viewed online via Google Books), St Mary’s was an 1864 rebuild after a fire in 1862.
  9. The History of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers of the City of London by Charles Welch has a list of past Masters and Wardens of the Company in Appendix II to Volume II (viewed online at the Internet Archive); this states that Willoughby Mullins was a Warden in 1858 and 1863, and Master in 1864. (The Wardens and Masters seem to have changed every year, so his short tenure is not unusual.) The author also states in the Introduction (page ix) that he “has to acknowledge his indebtedness to the late Mr. Willoughby Mullins, a Past Master of the Company, for much kind help and advice”.
  10. Page cxxxvi; viewed online at the Internet Archive. Note that the Croydon Microscopical and Natural History Club was renamed to the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society on 1 January 1902 (see page xciii of the previous link) and is still going under that name today, with local history being one of its functions. I, like Willoughby Mullins, am of course a member, and no doubt I will also find some interesting items to bequeath it after my death.
  11. Willoughby Mullins’ date of death and residence at the time taken from the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser report cited above. These details also appear in the GOV.UK “Find a will” search.
  12. Willoughby Mullins is listed at 9 Thornhill road in Ward’s directories from 1896 to 1902 inclusive. His last documented appearance at 67–71 London Road (26 London Road in the numbering of the time) is in Purnell’s 1882 directory (as “Wilesby Mullins”). Ward’s 1884 directory lists Thomas Arthur Richardson. Oddly, the last few editions of Ward’s to include Willoughby Mullins on London Road (1878, 1880, and 1882) have him as “Mrs Mullins”, though the 1881 census makes it clear that at that point there was no Mrs Mullins — Willoughby is listed as a widower, and his son (also Willoughby) is only 16. Additional confusion comes from his listing in the abovementioned Directory of British Architects, 1834–1914, which claims that he was living on North Park, Croydon, in 1868. (North Park was renamed to Elmwood Road in the 1880s; see for example Ward’s 1882 directory, which lists North Park with a subtitle of “(Elmwood Road)”.)
  13. More information on Thomas Arthur Richardson is given in my article on 61 London Road.
  14. Ward’s 1891 directory and the 1891 census both list the property as unoccupied. The 1891 census does however list George Ashby Lean, “Architect & Surveyor. Land & Estate Agent” at St Vincent Lodge in Hanwell, Middlesex (along with his wife Maria, two sons aged 15 and 20, a daughter aged 18, and two servants). G Ashby Lean — architect, surveyor, house agent, and estate agent — is listed in Ward’s directories for 1892, 1893, and 1894 (though the latter two of these have him only as architect and surveyor). Ward’s 1895 again has the property as unoccupied. George’s election as a member of the Croydon Microscopical and Natural History Club is reported on page xvii of the Club’s Proceedings and Transactions for 1892, pictured here and also viewable online at mocavo.com.
  15. In Ward’s directories up to and including 1895, the property is listed as number 51 (following its renumbering from 26 in 1890). It's also shown as a single, unsplit, unextended property on the 1894–5 Town Plans. From 1896 onwards, 51 continues to appear in Ward’s directories but a new address, 49a, is listed between numbers 49 and 51. Despite this numbering, other evidence suggests that 49a was split off from 51, not 49. As noted in my article on 63 London Road, 49 wasn’t split until the 1930s, and the two units it was split into correspond to the modern-day numbers 63 and 65. Moreover, according to Ward’s directories, by 1913 number 49a was occupied by Egleton Bros, hardware & glass merchants, and this was renumbered to 67 in 1927; according to Kent’s directories this remained there until the mid-1950s. A late 1940s photo in Croydon Local Studies Library (ref PH/96 2702) makes it clear that Egleton Bros was next to the modern-day number 65 and not identical with it.

    I have no direct evidence that the extension took place at the same time as the division, but as noted in the main article, without the extension there would have been very little interior space available to number 49a, so I think it likely that all the building work was done at that time. The extension to number 51 (modern 69) was certainly complete by around 1905, as made clear by a photo in Croydon Local Studies Library (PH/96/2959) showing the occupant at that time (Hilder’s Stores).

  16. Ward’s directories list Henry James at the contemporary number 49a from 1896 to 1898 inclusive, and Chapman’s Stores at the contemporary number 51 from 1897 to 1899 inclusive.
  17. The Universal Furnishing Co is listed in Ward’s directories from 1899 to 1909 inclusive. An advertisement for the Angel Furnishing Stores, “6, Pentonville Road, Islington, N. (Next to Angel)”, on page 20 of the 14 January 1900 Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper lists branches at 136 Deptford High Street, 223–225 Whitechapel Road, and (under the name Universal Furnishing Co), 49A London Road, Croydon. Given the name “Angel”, it does seem likely that the Islington store was the original one. (Advertisment viewed online at the British Newspaper Archive; requires subscription).
  18. Hilder’s Stores is listed in Ward’s directories from 1900 to 1904 inclusive. Information on Joseph’s wife and son taken from the 1901 census. The Local Studies photo showing his shop has reference PH/96/2959.
  19. See previous footnotes for dates of the Universal Furnishing Co and Hilder’s Stores. Ward’s directories list 51 London Road (modern 69–71) as unoccupied in 1905, 1906, 1908, and 1909; the Surrey Rubber and Waterproof Co appears in 1907 only.
  20. 51a London Road appears for the first time in Ward’s 1910 directory; it’s occupied by Williams & Co, newsagents & tobacconists, while 51 is unoccupied. In the 1912 edition, number 51 is Jarrett & Goudge, piano manufacturers and number 51a is still Williams & Co; this state of affairs continues until the 1927 renumbering, which puts Jarrett & Goudge at number 69 and Williams & Co at number 71.
  21. Egleton Bros is listed in Ward’s directories from 1913 to 1939 inclusive (1939 was the final edition of these directories). It also appears in Croydon phone books up to and including 1959, but is absent from the 1960 and subsequent editions.
  22. Williams & Co is listed in Ward’s directories from 1910 to the final edition in 1939 (under number 51a up to and including 1927, and number 71 thereafter). The 1911 census lists William Buckle [sic], age 32, tobacconist & newsagent, at number 51a. Kent’s 1955 and 1956 directories list William Buckles [sic], newsagent & tobacconist, at number 71. A planning application granted in July 1959 (viewed on microfiche at Croydon Council offices, ref 59-1070) includes a location plan showing Williams newsagent next-door-but-one to number 67.
  23. Jarrett & Goudge is listed in Ward’s directories from 1913 to 1929 inclusive (under number 51 up to and including 1927, and number 69 in 1928 and 1929).
  24. Ward’s directories list Elite Advertising Services (along with Kaye’s gowns and coats) at number 69 in 1930; C S Howes & Co in 1932, 1934, and 1937 (along with Georgies, milliners, in 1934 and Excellent Dyers and Cleaners Ltd in 1937); and Uden, furrier, in 1939. See my article on 72 London Road for evidence as to Elite Advertising Services and C S Howes & Co being the same company, as well as more information on what happened to it after leaving London Road.
  25. Kent’s 1955 and 1956 directories list Abbey Cycles Ltd, cycle dealer, at 69 London Road. Abbey Cycles also appears in the 1961 Croydon phone book. Croydon phone books from 1967 to 1974 inclusive list Abbey Cycles Ltd, Coastal Cycle Co Ltd, Holiday Radio Ltd, and Auto-Slot (Sales) Ltd, all at number 69. These phone books generally do not list ranges of numbers for multi-shopfront properties, so would have listed, for example, 69 London Road for a business with the actual address of 69-71 London Road.
  26. Servo & Electronic Sales Ltd is listed in Croydon phone books from September 1968 to March 1973 inclusive, while J M G Electronics is listed in July 1974 and January 1976 and also appears on the August 1974 Goad plan.
  27. Savemore is listed in Croydon phone books from July 1977 onwards (as “Savemore Spicefoods”) and Goad plans from March 1983 onwards (as “Savemore Spicyfoods”). It also appears in Brian Gittings’ 1980 survey of central Croydon retail, and other sources including the London Shop Surveys of 1984–85, 1986–87, and 1988–89. Khalid of Savemore told me that the business used the double unit (numbers 67 and 69–71) from the beginning (conversation in shop, 18 February 2015). A photo held at Croydon Local Studies Library (no ID number, but filed under shelfmark 141.4) makes it clear that as of 1997 the name on the frontage was “Savemore Spicyfoods”. From my own observation, by December 2011 this had become “Savemore Spicy Foods” (see first picture in article).
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« 65 London Road: Savemore World of Frozen Foods
After being split off from number 63 in the 1930s, 65 London Road became a branch of budget supermarket chain Victor Value, and was later used for selling car spares, fishing tackle, and cosmetics. Today, it offers fresh meat, frozen fish, and African groceries.
68–70 London Road: Rockbottom »
Music shop Rockbottom is currently celebrating its 40th year on London Road. Originally opened at number 74 in 1975, it moved to numbers 68–70 a decade later, and is still going strong today.