The Past and Present of Croydon's London Road

40 London Road: Ideal Beauty (part 1)

20 June 2014

Since my previous article was about 38 London Road, given that I’m doing these articles in numerical order one might expect me to be writing about number 39 this time. However, 39 London Road doesn’t exist! As it crosses Mead Place, the west side of the road jumps straight from number 37 to numbers 51–53. Hence this article focuses on 40 London Road, which along with its neighbour at number 42 is currently home to a beauty supplies shop known as Ideal Beauty. Although Ideal Beauty occupies a double shopfront, the two properties have been separate for much of their lives, so I’m going to give each one its own article.

Ideal Beauty, 40–42 London Road, March 2014. Photo: author’s own.

1870s: Construction of the building, Pelling Bros, and Charles Heathfield

Numbers 40 and 42 were built in the mid-1870s, as part of a block with numbers 36 and 38. First to move in to number 40 was a company of “grocers and provision merchants” known as Pelling Bros, in place by 1876.[1] However, just a couple of years later Pelling Bros went into liquidation,[2] and a new grocer arrived at 40 London Road — a young man named Charles Heathfield.[3]

Although only in his mid-twenties, Charles employed two teenage apprentices, Richard Fry and William Smith. Richard and William were probably not related to Charles, but all three men were born within 15 miles of each other in Kent, so it seems possible they had met before moving to Croydon.[4]

A black-and-white advertisement with the words “C. A. Greenslade, London Road, West Croydon,” at the top and “Family Grocer, Provision Merchant, and Italian Warehouseman. (11 doors from West Croydon Station). Our Specialite Teas, 2/- and 2/6, are unequalled.” at the bottom.  In between is an illustration of a single terraced shopfront with a sign on the first floor reading “London Road Grocery & Provision Stores” and another above the ground-floor frontage reading “Late Heathfield – Greenslade — Late Heathfield”.
Advertisement for C A Greenslade in Purnell’s 1882 Directory of Croydon, reproduced courtesy of the Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service. Note the wording “Late Heathfield” on the frontage sign.[5]

1880s–1890s: Charles Greenslade

Charles Heathfield’s tenure was brief, and by 1882 the property was in the hands of Charles Greenslade.[6] Initially advertising himself primarily as a family grocer and provision merchant, by the end of the 1880s Charles was specialising in tea and coffee.[7] An advertisement in Ward’s 1888 Croydon Directory boasts of “coffee roasted daily on the premises”, while another in the 1889 edition describes “Greenslade’s teas” as being “highly cultured, perfectly matured, skilfully blended”, with their “cardinal virtues” being “high natural purity, full ripe body, luxuriant fragrance, grateful [sic] flavour, refreshing power, rich colour, [and] considerate cost.”

The name of the shop also appears to have varied during this period, from the London Road Grocery & Provision Stores to The Parade Stores and finally Greenslade’s Tea Warehouse.[8] All of these were likely inspired by changes in the property’s address, first in the mid-1880s from 7 Oakfield Terrace to 7 The Parade, and then in 1889 to 22 London Road.

1900s: Eugene Fox

Around the turn of the century, Charles Greenslade gave way to Eugene Fox, who continued the grocery business until around 1903.[9]

1900s–1920s: W E Pratt and the West Croydon Post Office; amalgamation with number 42

The next proprietor of the grocery shop at 40 London Road was to remain longer than any of his predecessors — and he also expanded the remit of the premises to include the West Croydon Post Office, which had previously been across the road at number 27. William Pratt arrived on London Road around 1902, took on Post Office duties in addition to his grocery business around 1906, and remained in place until the early 1930s.[10]

William Pratt was also responsible for first amalgamating numbers 40 and 42 into a single property. Previously occupied by a corn and flour dealer, number 42 fell vacant around 1917, and by 1920 William Pratt had expanded sideways and was trading from numbers 40–42.[11]

1930s–1980s: Halfords

By 1932, number 40’s long run as a grocery shop had come to an end, as the Halford Cycle Company moved in to the double-fronted property at 40–42 London Road.[12]

Advert reading “Motor cyclists, motorists, cyclists / look around Halfords for every accessory that’s necessary” above a line drawing of a person fixing a motorbike.  At the bottom are addresses of “Local & District Branches”: 40–42 London Road and 6 Acre Lane, Brixton.
Advertisement for Halfords on page 5 of the 14 June 1946 Croydon Advertiser, reproduced courtesy of the Croydon Advertiser and the British Library.

Halfords (as it later became known) was founded as a wholesale ironmongery business in 1892, but by the time it took over 40–42 London Road four decades later it had transformed into a retail bicycle shop with around 200 branches.[13]

It first arrived in West Croydon around 1922, with a shop in the small parade just in front of West Croydon Station, but this was demolished along with its neighbours as part of the early 1930s rebuilding of West Croydon Station. Undeterred by this, the company simply moved along the road to the larger property at numbers 40–42.[14]

Around the end of the 1950s, Halfords undertook a number of alterations to its London Road property, including the removal of chimney breasts and internal walls that still remained from its history as two separate shops, and an extension of the ground floor into the existing yard behind the properties. Internal staircases to the upper floors were also removed.[15]

Halfords remained at 40–42 London Road until around 1985, at which point it moved to 550 Purley Way and the London Road premises fell vacant.[16]

Heritage Pine, 40–42 London Road, 1989. Photo © Brian Gittings, used by permission.

late 1980s–early 1990s: Heritage Pine; splitting back into separate shops

This period of vacancy was short, as by 1988 the premises were occupied by a furniture shop called Heritage Pine, which remained in place until around 1992 (though possibly with a name change to “Discount Pine” towards the end of its stay).[17]

Following the departure of Heritage Pine, numbers 40 and 42 were once more split into separate shops.[18] Number 40 became vacant once again,[19] while number 42 became a branch of Richer Sounds (of which more in my next article).

late 1990s: Unikob

The premises remained vacant until early 1998, when it became home to the second branch of Unikob, a stationery shop that had originally opened in March 1998 at 10 Astoria Parade in Streatham. The London Road branch of Unikob opened a few months after the original, but the location turned out to be less suitable than the owner had hoped, and by early 2000 it had closed again. However, the Streatham branch remains open today.[20]

Unikob, 10 Astoria Parade, Streatham, June 2014. While the London Road branch of Unikob was short-lived, the Streatham branch is still going strong after more than 15 years. Photo: author’s own.

early 2000s: Pound Paradise and Saver’s Land

Next to arrive at number 40 was a discount household goods shop which went under at least two names during its tenure: first Pound Paradise, and then Saver’s Land. This was in place by May 2000, and gone again by July 2007.[21]

late 2000s–present: Ideal Beauty

Omar Khan opened Ideal Beauty at 40 London Road in 2007, as an expansion of his existing shop across the road at number 35. By mid-2008, he had also opened number 42 as a household goods shop, but by late 2010 he’d ceased selling household goods in favour of using the space for more beauty products.[22]

As of 2014, 40 and 42 London Road are once more a single property, with no internal divisions. It remains to be seen whether the future holds yet another cycle of division and reamalgamation!

Thanks to: Brian Gittings; Omar Khan; Mrs Bisi Nwaeke; Richer Sounds PLC; the Planning Technical Support Team at Croydon Council; all at the Croydon Local Studies Library; and my beta-reader Kat. Census data and London phone books consulted via

Footnotes and references

  1. See my article on 36 London Road for evidence on the date of the building. Pelling Bros is listed in Ward’s 1876 and 1878, Wilkins’ 1876–7, Worth’s 1878, and Atwood’s 1878 street directories.
  2. The London Gazette of 5 October 1877 carries a notice on page 5534 regarding “the Matter of Proceedings for Liquidation by Arrangement or Composition with Creditors, instituted by Edward Pelling, of No. 7, Oakfield-terrace, Croydon, in the county of Surrey, Grocer and Provision Dealer”, stating that “a First General Meeting of the creditors of the above-named person has been summoned to be held at No. 7, Mark-lane, in the city of London, on the 22nd day of October, 1877, at twelve o’clock at noon precisely.”
  3. C Heathfield, grocer and provision merchant, is listed in Ward’s 1880 directory, and Charles Heathfield, cheesemonger, appears in the 1878 Post Office Surrey directory. As noted above, Ward’s 1878 directory lists Pelling Bros. Hence it seems likely that Charles Heathfield took over in early 1878.
  4. The 1881 census gives Charles’ age as 27, and also lists Richard and William as 17-year-old apprentices. Richard and William don’t seem to have been relatives of Charles, as their “Relation to Head of Family” is given as “servt” [servant]. However, Charles, Richard, and William were born in Smarden, Capel, and Aylesford respectively, all of which are within about 15 miles of each other. It thus seems possible that Richard and William may have been apprenticed to Charles before he took over the London Road shop, and they then all moved to Croydon together.
  5. The exact same drawing appears in an advertisement in Ward’s 1887 directory, but with “Late Heathfield” blanked out.
  6. The only street directories I’ve seen Charles Greenslade in are the 1878 Post Office Surrey directory and Ward’s 1880 directory. Ward’s 1882 directory lists T [sic] Greenslade, grocer and provision merchant, though I think the “T” is probably a mistake for “C” — Purnell’s directory of the same year not only has Charles A Greenslade in the street listings but carries an advert under the same name (shown here).
  7. Ward’s directories list Charles Greenslade as a grocer and provision merchant in 1882 (though see previous footnote), a grocer and cheesemonger from 1884 to 1888 inclusive, and a tea merchant from 1889 to 1898 inclusive. See also next footnote regarding the name of the shop.
  8. An advertisement in Purnell’s 1882 directory (shown here) includes a drawing of the shop with a sign reading “London Road Grocery & Provision Stores”. Ward’s 1887 directory includes an advertisement with the same drawing which has been manipulated to remove the words “Late Heathfield” but in which the abovementioned sign still remains, suggesting that the shop still had the same name. Ward’s 1888 and 1889 directories both include advertisements referring to the shop as “The Parade Stores”, and the street listings in the 1889 edition describe Charles Greenslade as “Tea Merchant, &c., Parade Stores”. Finally, the January 1894 Croydon Review has two adverts (for butter and tea, respectively) naming the shop as “Greenslade’s Tea Warehouse”.
  9. Charles Greenslade is listed in Ward’s directories up to and including 1899, while E R Fox, Tea Merchant, is listed from 1899 to 1902 inclusive, and W E Pratt is listed from 1903. Mr Fox’s full first name of Eugene is given in the 1901 census.
  10. W E Pratt is listed as a grocer in Ward’s directories from 1903 to 1906 inclusive, and as a grocer plus Post Office proprietor from 1907 to 1930 inclusive; the next edition after this is 1932, which lists the Halford Cycle Co. His full name is given in the 1911 census as William Eldridge [probably] Pratt (and he is 40 years old and single, living with his 52-year-old housekeeper, Catherine Dunn, and the 20-year-old bookkeeper for the grocery, Edith Anne Dunn — most likely Catherine’s daughter). He appears in London phone books up to and including November 1931; these phone books also give addresses at 1345 and 1414 London Road, of which more later in this series.

    Curiously, the November 1931 London phone book lists W E Pratt at 30 London Road (in addition to 40) and the May 1932 edition lists him at 4 London Road (but not 40). I think these are likely to be misprints, particularly the latter. The property numbered as 4 London Road from 1928 onwards was demolished around 1931–1932 as part of the rebuilding of West Croydon Station, and I find it very unlikely that William Pratt would have been able to — or even wanted to — move in there at this point. I also think it unlikely that “4” is a typo for “40”, since the Halford Cycle Co is listed at 40 London Road in the February 1932 edition. (Note that at this period, London phone books were published four times a year, with two editions covering A–K and the other two covering L–Z.)

  11. Ward’s directories list W E Pratt at 22 London Road (later renumbered to 40) up to and including 1919, and 22–24 (later 40–42) from 1920 onwards; they list W Wilson & Co, corn and flour dealers, at number 24 (later 42) up to an including 1917, “unoccupied” in 1918 and 1919, and W E Pratt from 1920 onwards.
  12. The Halford Cycle Co Ltd is listed at 40 London Road in London phone books from May 1932 onwards and in Ward’s directories from 1932 onwards.
  13. Background information on Halfords is taken from a Times article from 30 May 2005, titled “And it’s all thanks to a passion for a penny-farthing bicycle”.
  14. Ward’s directories list the Halford Cycle Co Ltd at 4 Station Parade in 1922, 1923, and 1924; at 4–5 Station Parade in 1925, 1926, and 1927; at 8–10 London Road in 1928, 1929, and 1930; and at 40–42 London Road in 1932, 1934, 1937, and 1939 (the final edition published).

    Note that the change from 4–5 Station Parade to 8–10 London Road was not a physical move, just a renumbering of the road. Station Parade was roughly where the entrance to West Croydon Station is today, but the current buildings and the station entrance date from the early 1930s.

  15. Details of these alterations viewed on microfiche at Croydon Council offices (ref 59-669). This planning application was initially submitted in December 1958 (ref 58-1806), sent back to the company due to “Insufficient information [...] for consideration of the proposal in detail”, and then resubmitted with more details; the council’s records state that the alterations were completed by January 1962.
  16. Halfords is shown in Goad plans up to and including March 1985, while plans from April 1986 and April 1987 show the property as vacant. The 1988–89 London Shop Surveys also list it as vacant. The move to Purley Way is somewhat speculative on my part, as it’s based solely on documentation from phone books. Croydon phone books from the 1980s don’t list Halfords at 40 London Road at all, but I think this is likely because the company preferred Croydon customers to phone its Whitgift Centre branch (which is listed). The Purley Way branch is listed from 1985 onwards. I think it unlikely that customers for this branch would have found it useful to be redirected to the Whitgift Centre, as Purley Way is some distance from central Croydon and tends to be the home of larger stores that customers drive to rather than walking, and so I think the reason the Purley Way branch was absent from earlier phone books was because it didn’t exist yet.
  17. Heritage Pine is listed in the 1988, 1990, and 1992 Croydon phone books, as well as the March 1990 Goad plan. The June 1991 and June 1992 Goad plans list Discount Pine, while the April 1993 edition has the property marked as vacant.
  18. The Croydon Council planning department’s index card for 42 London Road lists an application (ref 93/486/B) to “Install internal wall between 42 & 40 at ground floor and alts to shopfront.” I haven’t been able to view the details of this application, as the records aren’t open to the public, but the index card notes that the application was granted and the work was completed by 30 April 1993.
  19. Goad plans from April 1993 to May 1997 inclusive show the property as vacant. I should note that Croydon phone books during this period claim that number 40 was occupied by Richer Sounds, but as far as I can tell, this was a mistake, as Richer Sounds was actually at number 42 (see my next article).
  20. The April 1993, April 1994, June 1995, May 1996, and May 1997 Goad plans show 40 London Road as vacant, while the June 1998 and September 1999 editions show a stationers called Unikob. The January 1998 Croydon phone book has no entry for Unikob, but the July 1999 edition lists “Unikob The Stationers” both at this address and at 10 Astoria Parade SW16. A planning application granted on 9 July 1998 (ref 98-1070-A) for an “illuminated fascia and projecting sign” includes a drawing of a sign reading “UNIKOB the stationer” in fonts identical to those on the photograph of the Streatham branch shown here.

    According to the owner of Unikob, Mrs Bisi Nwaeke, the business was set up by her late husband, Mr Benedict Nwaeke. She told me that the Streatham shop opened in March 1998, the London Road one opened in April or May of the same year, and a branch in Worcester Park also opened around the same time. According to Mrs Nwaeke, her husband had thought the London Road location would work well because it was right next to a bus stop, but it turned out that instead of pausing to shop on London Road, people getting off the bus simply immediately headed south to the Whitgift Centre. As the shop did less well than he’d hoped, he closed it again shortly after; Mrs Nwaeke couldn’t remember exactly how long this branch was open, but she suggested 12–18 months as being most likely, and she was sure it was no more than two years at the most. (Conversation between Mrs Nwaeke and the author, 16 June 2014.)

  21. Mrs Nwaeke (see previous footnote) told me that after Unikob left 40 London Road, the next occupant was a household goods shop. Confirming this, Goad plans list “household goods” (with no other name) in May 2000; Pound Paradise household goods in June 2001 and May 2002; Savers [sic] Land in May 2004, June 2005, and May 2006; and Ideal Beauty in July 2007. Pound Paradise also appears in the 2001 and 2002 Croydon phone books, where it’s described as selling “stny, hdwre & gifts” (stationery, hardware, and gifts); I haven’t been able to find Saver’s Land in the phone books at all. Note that although Goad plans claim the name was “Savers Land”, with no apostrophe, a photograph provided to me by Richer Sounds PLC makes it clear that (at least in April 2007) the name on the frontage was “Saver’s Land”.
  22. Omar Khan told me he took over numbers 40 and 42 in 2007 (in-person conversation, 5 March 2014). The July 2007 Goad plan shows Ideal Beauty at number 40 and Richer Sounds at number 42, while the August 2008 edition shows Ideal Beauty at number 40 and Ideal Discounts at number 42. A Google Street View image from July 2008 confirms that Ideal Discounts was open by then, while a similar image from November 2010 shows it as having switched over to selling beauty products.
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Originally a drapers shop, 38 London Road has also seen use as a photographic studio, a piano and radio shop, a dry cleaners, and finally an internet cafe and barbers.
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