The Past and Present of Croydon's London Road

35 London Road: Khan Mobile, London Boyz Toyz, and Nadine Stylist

28 March 2014

35 London Road is currently home to no fewer than three businesses — a mobile phone repairs and accessories shop (Khan Mobile), a car styling and accessories shop (London Boyz Toyz) and a hairdresser (Nadine Stylist). Bags, baseball caps, wallets, and jewellery are also stocked on the premises. In the words of one of the staff members I spoke to in March 2014, shortly after it first opened, “It’s like a market!”

Khan Mobile/London Boyz Toyz/Nadine Stylist, 35 London Road, March 2014. Photo: author’s own.

1850s–1870s: Construction of the building, and use as a private home

The building began its life between 1853 and 1855, as part of a small terrace which also included numbers 31, 33, and 37. In contrast to the purpose-built shops which later sprang up to fill in the gap between here and the Fox and Hounds, these four buildings were originally constructed as private residences.[1]

By 1858, number 35 was occupied by Arthur Simpson, listed in Gray & Warren’s 1859 directory simply as a “gentleman”.[2] A couple of years later he was replaced by Mrs Ann Potter, a widow in her late 50s. The 1861 census also lists Mrs Potter’s younger sister, an unmarried cook named Phillippa Downing, though as a census is a snapshot in time I can’t say whether Phillippa was a permanent resident or merely an overnight visitor. In any case, Ann Potter remained at 35 London Road until the end of the 1860s.[3]

Next to move in was a commercial clerk named George Waters, along with his wife Charlotte and possibly also their son Frederick. The Waters family were the last to use the premises solely as a private home, and were gone by 1874.[4]

Advertisement for Samuel Hawkins’ business in the Croydon Chronicle of 3 April 1875 (page 4). Image from microfilm courtesy of Croydon Local Studies and Archives Service.

1870s–1880s: Butchers, poulterers, and cheesemongers

The Waters’ replacement was a cheesemonger and butcher by the name of Samuel Hawkins, who previously traded in Brixton. The meat on offer included poultry, game, ox tongues, and “dairy fed pork”.[5]

Samuel Hawkins continued at 35 London Road until the end of the 1870s, and was then replaced in quick succession by B Weston, pork butcher; Thomas Bradley, cheesemonger and poulterer; and T J Weston, poulterer and provision merchant. By 1885, however, the turnover of businesses had stabilised with the arrival of a familiar name — John Sainsbury, pork butcher.[6]

Excerpt from Ward’s 1888 street directory, reproduced courtesy of the Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service. Note that 18 London Road was renumbered to 35 London Road in 1890.

1880s–1930s: Sainsbury’s

This was the second of John James Sainsbury’s Croydon shops. The first, opened at 11 London Road a couple of years earlier, was a new model of grocery shop, with an extravagantly fitted-out interior aimed at attracting the more prosperous customers — and it was a huge success. With the new pork butcher’s shop, Sainsbury’s had the facilities to manufacture its own sausages, initially sold only at the 35 London Road branch but later available from other branches too.[7]

35 London Road also saw one of the few female Sainsbury’s managers to retain their seniority after the staffing changes enforced by the First World War. Rebecca Juniper was promoted to lead the Coulsdon branch during the war, but demoted again when the previous manager returned from his military service. However, in February 1922 she became manager of the branch at 35 London Road, and remained so until May 1928.[8]

1930s-1950s: Flinn & Son, dyers and cleaners

By the mid-1930s, Sainsbury’s had left 35 London Road (though it remained at numbers 9–11 until November 1969). The next occupant I’ve found evidence of was Flinn & Son Ltd, dyers and cleaners, which was in place by 1937.[9] At some point between here and the early 1950s, the premises was physically divided into two shops — 35A and 35B — with Flinn & Son now trading alongside Albert Smith, ladies’ and gents’ tailor.[10]

Advertisement for Richard Kerr, opthalmic & dispensing optician, in the 1958 Croydon phone book. Reproduced courtesy of BT Heritage & Archives and the Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service.

1950s–1970s: Richard Kerr, optician

By 1956, the lease of 35A London Road was in the hands of Richard Kerr, an optician who had previously worked from a room above Millet’s in the High Street. His new premises gave him a shopfront presence which he sought to expand by also obtaining control of number 35B. However, he was refused permission to reamalgamate the two shops; so when number 37, next door, came up for sale in the mid-1970s, he simply moved there instead — and his son and grandson still practice there today.[11]

1980s: London Leather

Next to move in to number 35 was London Leather, which sold leather and suede clothing. It was in place by early 1979 and remained at the premises until the late 1980s.[12]

I haven’t been able to pin down when 35A and 35B were finally reunited. A Croydon Council planning application from c.1976 (ref 76/1864 BR) for “Internal Alts to shop” is suggestive, but sadly not viewable by the public — I’ve only seen its entry on the index card for the address. This could be Richard Kerr’s refused application, or it could be a later successful application by the owner of the building or by London Leather. It’s possible that the reason for refusal was a reluctance to allow more non-retail use along what was seen as a shopping street[13] — and London Leather, as a retail business, would thus have had no problem amalgamating the two parts of the shop. Similarly, if the owner of the building was happy to advertise the property for retail use only, there could have been little objection on those grounds.

1990s: Croydon Tandoori

London Leather was followed by a takeaway called Croydon Tandoori run by a Mr Amin, who was originally from West Africa. The Croydon Tandoori opened in the early 1990s but had closed again by mid-1998.[14]

2000s: Toys and china, Nu West

The first decade of the twenty-first century saw a short period of vacancy followed by a couple of years as a “toys and china” shop (the name of which I’ve been unable to discover). By 2004 the premises were occupied by a clothing shop called Nu West.[15]

Beauty Trend, 35 London Road, December 2011. Photo: author’s own.

2005–2014: Beauty Trend

Shortly after this, the son of the long-term landlord of number 35 inherited the property from his father. As the incumbent tenants were ready to move on, the new owner decided to try running a shop there himself, rather than renting it out. Omar Khan opened his business in 2005, selling various health and beauty products, and by 2007 was doing well enough to expand across the road.[16] He thus had two shops on London Road when I moved to Croydon in 2011 — Beauty Trend at number 35 and Ideal Discounts/Ideal Beauty at numbers 40–42.

2014–present: Khan Mobile, London Boyz Toyz, Nadine Stylist

Following nearly a decade of trading at 35 London Road, however, in early 2014 Mr Khan decided to consolidate his beauty supplies business at numbers 40–42, and lease number 35 out to another trader.[17] Khan Mobile, London Boyz Toyz, and Nadine Stylist were all in place by 6 March that year.

Wallet bought from Khan Mobile, 35 London Road, March 2014. Photo: author’s own.

Thanks to: Omar Khan; Christopher Kerr; BT Heritage & Archives; the Planning Technical Support Team at Croydon Council; all at the Croydon Local Studies Library; and my beta-reader Kat.

Footnotes and references

  1. See my article on 31 London Road for evidence and a discussion of the piecemeal growth of this part of the road.
  2. As well as Gray & Warren’s 1859 directory, Arthur Simpson also appears in the October 1858 Poor Rate Book. The Poor Rate Books don’t give street numbers, but listings are generally in the same order as they come in the street, and Arthur Simpson is listed between Monsieur E Benoit and Mrs Wyatt, who were also on either side of him in Gray & Warren’s 1859.
  3. Mrs Potter is listed in Gray & Warren’s 1861–62, Simpson’s 1864, Warren’s 1865–66, and Warren’s 1869 directories (Warren’s directories give her first name as “Ann”, while the others omit it). She also appears in Poor Rate Books between these dates, and is listed in the 1861 but not the 1871 census.
  4. The 1871 census lists George Waters, aged 69, commercial clerk; his wife Charlotte (or possible Charlot), aged 59; his son Frederick, aged 39, “sen clerk in office”; and their servant Ann Wells, aged 17. Mr Waters also appears in Wilkins’ 1872–3 directory. Street directories from Ward’s 1874 onwards list Samuel Hawkins, butcher.
  5. Information taken from an advert on page 4 of the 3 April 1875 Croydon Chronicle, reproduced above.
  6. Samuel Hawkins is listed in Ward’s 1874, 1876, and 1878 directories (as a pork butcher); Wilkins’ 1876–7 directory (as a poulterer), Worth’s 1878 directory (as a pork butcher), and Atwood’s 1878 directory (as a pork butcher and poulterer). B Weston is listed in Ward’s 1880 and 1882 directories. Thomas Bradley is listed in Purnell’s 1882 directory (as T Bradley) and the 1881 census (which gives his age as 30, and also includes his wife Isabelle, aged 27, and his mother Jane, a widow and annuitant aged 60). T J Weston is listed in Ward’s 1884 directory. I don’t know whether B Weston and T J Weston were related. John Sainsbury, pork butcher, is listed in Ward’s directories from 1885 onwards, and Bridget Williams’ The Best Butter in the World: A History of Sainsbury’s states that it opened in 1884 (Section 1, p31).
  7. The Best Butter in the World, Section 1, p31.
  8. The Best Butter in the World, Section 2, p73; see also earlier in that Section for more information on changes caused by the war. By this point number 35 no longer specialised in pork butchery — according to Ward’s street directories, it switched to providing dairy products around 1986.
  9. See my article on 9–11 London Road for information on Sainsbury’s tenure there. “J Sainsbury, Butterman” is listed in Ward’s street directories up to and including 1932; the 1934 edition lists the premises as vacant; and the 1937 and 1939 editions list Flinn & Son.
  10. Information on physical division of shop provided by Christopher Kerr, son of Richard Kerr (audio-recorded conversation, 21 March 2014). Kent’s 1955 and 1956 directories (information for which was possibly gathered a couple of years previously) list Flinn & Son at 35 London Road, and Albert Smith (ladies’ and gents’ tailor) and Walter F Simmonds (who may have been a private resident) at 35A.
  11. Information on Richard Kerr’s practising above Millet’s, his acquisition of 35B, the refusal of permission to join the two shops again, and the reason for the move to number 37 all provided by Christopher Kerr, son of Richard Kerr (audio-recorded conversation, 21 March 2014). Croydon phone books list Richard Kerr at 35A from January 1956 to January 1976 inclusive, and at 37 from July 1977 onwards. I’ll cover the Kerr family business at greater length in my article on 37 London Road.
  12. London Leather is listed in the January 1979 Croydon phone book (as “London Leathers”), Goad plans from March 1983 to April 1987 inclusive, and the 1984–85, 1986–87, and 1988–89 London Shop Surveys. The 1984–85 London Shop Surveys states that it sold “Leath & Suede Wear”. The March 1990 Goad plan shows the premises as vacant.
  13. Number 37, which Richard Kerr moved to after vacating number 35, was already in non-retail use — the previous occupant was a Chinese takeaway called Red Rose.
  14. As noted in a previous footnote, the March 1990 Goad plan shows the premises as vacant. Croydon Tandoori is listed in Goad plans from June 1991 to May 1997 inclusive, as well as the January 1998 Croydon phone book. The June 1998 Goad plan lists the premises as vacant. Information on the name and origin of the Croydon Tandoori owner provided by Omar Khan (conversation with the author, 12 March 2014). If my speculation about the reason for refusing Mr Kerr permission to amalgamate 35A and 35B is correct, one might wonder how it was possible for a takeaway to open in the premises, since the planning system also considers this to be a non-retail use. I suspect the answer is simply that the planning department’s view of the appropriate mix of businesses on London Road had changed over time.
  15. Goad plans list “vacant outlet” in September 1999 and May 2000, “toys & china” in June 2001 and May 2002, and Nu West clothing in May 2004.
  16. Information provided by Omar Khan (conversation with the author, 5 March 2014). I’m not entirely clear on whether number 35 was called Beauty Trend from the start — Goad plans list “Nu West hlth & bea & wigs” from June 2005 to August 2009 inclusive, and “Beauty Trend hlth & bea” in May 2011.
  17. Information provided by Omar Khan (conversation with the author, 5 March 2014).
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