The Past and Present of Croydon's London Road

42 London Road: Ideal Beauty (part 2)

8 August 2014

As noted in my previous article, 40 and 42 London Road are currently a double shopfront housing a beauty supplies shop called Ideal Beauty. That article covered the history of number 40; here I fill in the gaps by exploring the history of number 42 where it diverges from that of its neighbour.

42 London Road, March 2012. Despite the signs reading “Ideal Discounts” and advertising “Electrical Appliances, Hardware, DIY, [...] Kitchen Ware, Bed Linen”, at this point it’s already part of Ideal Beauty next door, rather than a separate shop.

mid-1870s: Construction of the building, and J Smart’s piano warehouse

The building was constructed in the mid-1870s, as part of a block with numbers 36, 38, and 40. As I’ve discussed previously, although numbers 28–42 all look very similar, they were in fact constructed in two separate halves: 28–34 around 1868–1872, and 36–42 around 1874–1875.

The first occupant of number 42 — or 8 Oakfield Terrace as it was known at the time — was J Smart’s piano warehouse, providing “Pianos and Harmoniums of every description at all Prices for sale or hire”.[1]

Advertisement for J Smart’s piano and harmonium shop in Wilkins’ 1876–7 Directory of Croydon, reproduced courtesy of the Croydon Local Studies and Archives Service.

late 1870s: Parris & Co, hatters

J Smart’s tenure was short, and by 1878 the premises were occupied by Parris & Co, hatters. Parris & Co likewise only stayed a year or two, and were gone by 1880.[2]

Advertisement for William Overall’s milling, baking, and corn merchant business in Purnell’s 1882 Directory of Croydon, reproduced courtesy of the Croydon Local Studies and Archives Service.

1880s: William S Overall, baker and miller

Baker and miller William Overall moved his substantial family from Bermondsey to Croydon in 1879 or early 1880.[3] Employing “2 men & 1 boy” at the time of the 1881 census, William had clearly chosen an appropriate type of business for this corner premises, as even after his departure around 1885 the shop continued in the same line for another three decades.[4]

Illustration of 42 London Road in the hands of T H James, taken from page 58 of Where To Buy At Croydon (published in 1891 by Robinson, Son & Pike). Cropped and cleaned up from a British Library scan provided on Flickr with statement of “no known copyright restrictions”.

1880s–1910s: Thomas Henry James and William Wilson

William Overall’s successor at 42 London Road (which by then had been renumbered to 8 The Parade) was Thomas Henry James, who also seems to have expanded the business to include coal.[5] An advertorial for his business in the 1891 publication Where to Buy at Croydon[6] explains how “especially suitable” the premises were for a baker, with “a well-equipped bakehouse at the rear of the premises [...] reached from the side street by a waggon entrance through the courtyard.”[7]

Where to Buy at Croydon also describes the other goods for sale at the shop: “A good stock of all forage requisites is stored in the lofts, which are also situated here and in warehouses close by. Horse and stock keepers will always find this a depot for first-class goods. The shop itself is fully stocked with every kind of corn, meal, seeds, flour, etc., [...] notably the fine Midlothian oatmeal, so much used of late years as a breakfast dish, and with many as a general food for children [...] the coal department [...] appears to be doing a large and increasing trade, the quality and prices of these goods comparing very favourably with others in the trade; hence his success.”

Thomas Henry James continued to sell bread, corn, and other consumables until the late 1890s, at which point the business passed to William Wilson. There seems to have been some overlap here, as Ward’s 1897 directory lists William Wilson as a resident on the premises but Thomas Henry James as the proprietor of the shop. Census data makes it clear that William was around the same age as Thomas (Thomas is 40 in the 1891 census and William is 50 in the 1901 census), so this wouldn’t have been a case of an apprentice taking over his master’s business. In any case, around 1917 William Wilson also departed, and the premises fell vacant.[8]

late 1910s–early 1990s: a double-fronted property

By 1920, the destiny of number 42 had been joined to that of its neighbour. William E Pratt, who had been trading as a grocer and provision merchant at number 40 since around 1902, expanded his business into the vacant number 42 and continued in the double-fronted property until around 1932.

William Pratt was followed by the Halford Cycle Company (c.1932–c.1985) and then a furniture shop called Heritage Pine (c.1988–c.1992). More details of all three businesses can be found in my article on 40 London Road.

Richer Sounds, 42 London Road, April 2007. Cropped by permission from a photograph © Richer Sounds PLC. Note the resonance between the tilted rectangular “Richer Sounds” signs here and the “Ideal Discounts” signs in the first photo above.

1990s–2000s: Richer Sounds

Following the departure of Heritage Pine, numbers 40 and 42 were once more split into two separate shops, and number 40 fell vacant.[9] However, number 42 was taken over by Richer Sounds, an independent audio and TV retail company established by Julian Richer in 1978.[10]

Richer Sounds opened its London Road branch in March 1993. It continued to trade at this address until August 2007, when it moved to larger premises at 109 South End; it still remains there today.[11]

Richer Sounds, 109 South End, July 2012. Photo: author’s own.

late 2000s: Ideal Discounts

By July 2008, 42 London Road was in the capable hands of Omar Khan, a long-term Croydon resident with two other shops on London Road: Beauty Trend at number 35 and Ideal Beauty at number 40. Number 42 became Ideal Discounts, stocking items including shoes, bags, and kitchen equipment such as kettles, toasters, blenders, and weighing scales.[12]

2010s: Ideal Beauty

By November 2010, however, Ideal Discounts was no more, and number 42 again formed a single shop with its neighbour at number 40.[13] Today, Ideal Beauty trades from 40–42 London Road, selling all kinds of beauty items including wigs, hairbrushes, hairbands, and soap.

Soap and hairbands from Ideal Beauty, 40–42 London Road, June 2014. Note that the price tag on the hairbands reads “Beauty Trend” — clearly stock left over from the owner’s other shop across the road at number 35, which closed a few months earlier.

Thanks to: Richer Sounds PLC; the Planning Technical Support Team at Croydon Council; all at the Croydon Local Studies Library; and my beta-readers Flash, Henry, and Kat. Census data consulted via

Footnotes and references

  1. See my article on the renumberings of London Road for more information on addresses. The first appearance of 8 Oakfield Terrace in street directories is in Ward’s 1876, where it’s listed as unoccupied. Wilkins’ 1876–7 lists Smart’s pianoforte warehouse (with no number, but next to 7 Oakfield Terrace). Quotation (and Smart’s initial) taken from an advert in Wilkins’ 1876–7 (reproduced above).
  2. Ward’s 1878 directory lists Parris & Co, hatters, at 8 Oakfield Terrace; Atwood’s 1878 lists J Parris, hatter &c; and Worth’s 1878 lists J Parish [sic], hatter. (I’ve gone with the majority vote for the spelling here.) Ward’s 1880 lists S Overhall [sic], corn dealer and baker.
  3. The 1881 census, which was taken on the night of 3–4 April, lists 39-year-old William Overall and his 37-year-old wife Emma along with three sons and two daughters. All the children are listed as having been born in Bermondsey, and the youngest child, Henry, is listed as being a year old. Henry must have been born between 4 April 1879 and 3 April 1880, and so the earliest the family could have moved to Croydon is April 1879, and the latest is April 1880.
  4. Ward’s 1880 and 1882 directories list S Overhall [sic], corn dealer and baker, at 8 Oakfield Terrace; I think this must be a typo though, given that the 1881 census puts William Overall at this address. Ward’s 1884 and 1885 directories list Wm. [William] S Overall, so perhaps the “S” in Ward’s 1880 and 1882 signifies that William went by his middle name for a while — or this also could be a typo. In any case, William was gone by 1886, as Ward’s directory for that year lists T H James instead.
  5. T H James, corn dealer and baker, is listed in Ward’s directories from 1886 to 1897 inclusive. Kelly’s 1889, 1890, and 1891 directories give his full name: Thomas Henry James. The 1891 census lists him as Thos. [Thomas] H James, aged 40, along with his 41-year-old wife Margaret, his 16-year-old niece Minnie Lawrence, and his 21-year-old assistant Charles Howard. Ward’s directories make no mention of coal, but the engraving and text of Where to Buy at Croydon (see next footnote) make it clear that Thomas certainly sold it.
  6. Where to Buy at Croydon was published by Robinson, Son, and Pike. No date is given in this publication, but the copy at Croydon Local Studies Library has “c.1890–3” written on it in pencil, and its record in the British Library catalogue states that it was published in 1891.
  7. Examination of Ordnance Survey maps from 1896 (the 1:500 Town Plans), 1913, 1934, and 1954 suggests that the bakehouse and courtyard survived until at least 1934, but that some time between then and 1954 the former was demolished and the latter was built on. (I consider it unlikely that the bakehouse was simply extended over the courtyard to form the present building, since it looks too uniform for that.)
  8. Ward’s directories list W & W A Wilson, corn dealers and bakers, plus William Wilson, resident, from 1898 to 1901 inclusive; William Wilson, corn dealer and baker, from 1902 to 1910 inclusive; W Wilson & Co, corn and flour dealers, from 1911 to 1917 inclusive; and “unoccupied” in 1918 and 1919.
  9. See my article on 40 London Road for evidence on splitting into separate shops.
  10. According to the “Richer Culture” page on the Richer Sounds website, the company is “an unlisted PLC 100% owned by Julian Richer, the founder and managing director of the company.” This page also states that “Julian began at the age of 14 by buying and selling hi-fi separates while still at school. By the age of 17 he had three people working for him and in 1978, aged 19, the company formally began trading when Julian opened his first shop at London Bridge, with the help of the late Vic Odden, the photography retailer.”
  11. Information on opening and closing dates of Richer Sounds branch provided by Adam Chapman, Marketing Assistant at Richer Sounds (via email, May 2014). Adam adds: “I believe that the store relocated as the property at 109 South End [was] available to buy, whereas the premises at 42 London Road was being rented at the time, and the larger spaces at South End were required for the store to grow.”
  12. Google Street View from July 2008 shows Ideal Discounts at number 42 with a “Now Open” sign in the front window alongside shoes and bags, as well as (in the side window) kitchen equipment including kettles, toasters, blenders, and weighing scales.
  13. Google Street View from November 2010 shows wigs displayed in the corner window of number 42 and headshots in the front window.
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