The Past and Present of Croydon's London Road

204 London Road: Vacant

26 July 2019

At the time of writing, 204 London Road is vacant, having most recently been occupied by a convenience store called Premier Express/Ellalan which closed down in 2018.

204 London Road, July 2018. Photo: author’s own.

1860s–70s: Construction of the building, Thomas Liddell’s fancy repository, and Janet Liddell’s registry for servants

As described in my article on 182 London Road, numbers 182–204 were built around 1867–1870 as 1–6 Kidderminster Terrace. By the beginning of 1873, number 204 (6 Kidderminster Terrace) was a “fancy repository” run by Thomas Liddell, selling a wide range of goods including bibles, stationery, embroidery wool, and dolls. Thomas also acted as an emigration agent for the New Zealand government, and had some connection with the local Board of Health.[1]

Advertisement for Thomas Liddell’s “fancy repository” in Wilkins’ 1872–73 directory.[2]

Thomas’ wife Janet also operated a business from the premises: a servants’ registry office, or in other words an employment agency specialising in domestic servants. Those wishing to find a job could register with her, but she also placed newspaper advertisements, including one in October 1873 seeking a “general servant” for a “quiet family of two” where “no washing” would be required and “good wages given”. Janet’s own family situation was rather different from this, as she and Thomas had at least five children.[3]

Newspaper announcement beginning “SALE ON MONDAY NEXT.—Under distraint for Rent” and advertising “Capital Household Furniture, and the Stock-in-trade of a Stationery, Toy, and Fancy Business, and Shop Fixtures” for sale “by Auction, upon the premises, 6, Kidderminster Terrace, on MONDAY NEXT, 22nd instant, at One o’clock precisely”.
Announcement on the front page of the 20 December 1873 Croydon Advertiser advertising the auction of Thomas Liddell’s household goods and shop stock and fittings. Image © The British Library Board. All Rights Reserved. Reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive.

It seems likely that Thomas was also the “Mr. Thomas Liddell” who was dismissed as Secretary of the Croydon Building Benefit Society around September 1873, with notices placed in local newspapers urging members of the Society to “forward their pass books without delay, to Mr. E. Winscom, Accountant, 11, Katherine-street, Croydon, that they may be examined.” This strong suggestion that Thomas was involved in financial irregularities might partly explain why he put his fancy repository up for sale the next month at a “very low” price.[4]

By the end of the year, the contents of both shop and house had been seized due to the Liddells’ non-payment of rent, and were auctioned off on the premises, including “all the household furniture” as well as the “Stock-in-trade of toys, stationery, Berlin-wools, and the shop fixtures, comprising 18-ft. mahogany-top counter, glazed show cases, and other effects.”[5]

1870s: Miss Fennell

The next documented proprietor of the fancy repository at 204 London Road was a Miss Fennell, in place by the start of 1876. It seems possible that this was Clara Fennell, proprietor of the Selhurst Bazaar on Selhurst Road; perhaps seeing Thomas’ shop fittings advertised for sale had given her the idea of opening a second branch closer to the centre of Croydon. In any case, our Miss Fennell remained only a couple of years at most.[6]

1870s–1880s: Charles Frederick Allbon, artist, designer, writer, and decorator

Miss Fennell was replaced by Charles Frederick Allbon, who not only advertised himself as an artist, designer, writer, and decorator, but also professed expertise in gas-fitting and plumbing.[7]

Advertisement for Charles Frederick Allbon’s many professions, taken from Worth’s 1878 directory.

It’s unclear whether Charles had very strong expertise in any of these skills, or whether their broad range suggests rather a man whose interest in any one field was only ever brief. Certainly up until the early-mid 1870s he worked as a shoemaker — “Employing 1 Boy” in the 1861 census, but a mere “Journeyman” (i.e. a worker for someone else) in 1871.

Etching showing several people standing or walking on a beach at low tide with large tidal pools.  Most of them are carrying baskets of what might be fish.  Two sailboats are drawn up on the beach in the background, and another is sailing in the distance.  A monogram of “CFA” is in the bottom right-hand corner.
“Fisher Folk on the Dutch coast” by Charles Frederick Allbon junior, from the frontispiece of the September 1901 Pall Mall Magazine.

Charles and his wife Laura also seem to have moved house rather a lot. By the end of the 1860s, they had four children born in Dalston, Croydon, Brixton, and Woolwich, respectively, and in the following decade they moved at least four more times.[8]

The oldest of these children, named Charles Frederick like his father, was a little steadier in his pursuits. Born in Dalston in 1856, he was studying at the Croydon School of Art by 1870 and went on to become a reasonably well-regarded watercolourist and engraver specialising in landscapes. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers, and exhibited at least half a dozen paintings at the Royal Academy of Arts.[9]

By April 1881, Charles senior and Laura had left London Road and moved to Newington along with Charles junior and his younger sister Henrietta. These four family members continued as one household for the rest of their lives, moving first to Clapham and finally to 3 Station Road, Chingford. Charles senior died in 1915, Charles junior in 1926, Laura in 1929, and Henrietta in 1937. They were all buried in the same grave plot in Chingford Mount Cemetery.[10]

1880s–1890s: Tobacco, gilding, picture frames, and wood turning

Following the Allbons’ departure, tobacconist Peter Thomas Shonfield put in a short appearance around 1882–1883 but was gone again by 1884. A few years of vacancy followed, interrupted only by carver, gilder, and frame maker William Alfred Baker, in occupation from around 1887 to around 1889.[11]

Next to arrive was Thomas Blackton, in place by 1893 and engaged in much the same business as his predecessor William. By 1895 Thomas had been replaced by wood turner John Ackworth, who himself was gone by 1899, thus ending the era of woodwork at 204 London Road.[12]

1900s: The Croydon Sanitary Steam Laundry

Around 1901, the premises became a laundry receiving depot for the Croydon Sanitary Steam Laundry. This business, which had its main premises a short distance away on Strathmore Road, had itself been set up just a couple of years before. Indeed, its proprietor, Charles Burleigh, informed the editor of the Croydon Guardian via a letter in February 1903 that he had built the laundry’s premises himself.[13]

Advertisement for the Croydon Sanitary Steam Laundry, including a drawing of its Strathmore Road premises, taken from Ward’s 1903 directory.

The depot remained at 204 London Road until around 1906, when it moved just up the road to number 224. It remained there until at least the end of the 1930s, and so the Croydon Sanitary Steam Laundry will be discussed at greater length in the relevant article.

1910s: A ladies’ outfitter, a servants’ registry office, a toy shop, a sweet shop, and an estate agency

Number 204 remained vacant for a few years after the departure of the laundry depot, and although it was reoccupied by the start of 1910, none of the next several occupants remained long. Ladies’ outfitter Annie East was in place by early 1910, but by the end of the year had been replaced by Alice Alford.

Advertisement for Alice Alford’s registry office and Toy Bazaar on page 24 of the 10 December 1910 Croydon Chronicle. Image © The British Library Board. All Rights Reserved. Reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive. The “Croydon Hospital” mentioned here was Croydon General Hospital.

Alice ran both a toy shop and a registry office for servants that likely operated along similar lines to the registry office run by Janet Liddell four decades earlier. Another similarity with Janet was the short length of time Alice remained here; both toy shop and registry office were gone by the end of 1911.[14]

A confectioner named Edward (or possibly Egbert) Eames was in place by 1913 but gone again by 1915, and estate agent E A Holden was in occupation from around 1915 to around 1918. Neither left much impact on the documentary record.[15]

1910s–1920s: Albert Joseph Smith

The next person to try their luck at number 204 was Albert Joseph Smith, trading here as a second-hand furniture dealer by mid-1919.

Born in Croydon in the late 1880s, by 1911 Albert was working as an ironmongery assistant at Bentall’s, a large department store in Kingston-upon-Thames. In June 1914 he married decorator’s daughter Grace Edith Chapman, and by 1921 the couple were living on Mayday Road, a side road off London Road around 750 metres north of Albert’s shop.

Advertisement for Albert Smith’s second-hand furniture business on page 3 of the 26 July 1919 Croydon Times, found as a clipping in the firms files at the Museum of Croydon.

Despite his claim to sell furniture that was both cheap and reliable, by the start of 1922 Albert had pivoted to confectionery — a profession also pursued by his father — and a year later he had left London Road entirely.[16]

1920s–1960s: Drapery and tailoring

The next occupant of 204 London Road was one Madame Brookler, a “fancy draper” whose full identity remains a mystery. However, her choice of profession seems to have been the perfect fit for the premises; although she remained only a few years, her successor was also a draper, and one which continued to trade at number 204 until the early 1960s.[17]

Born in Stranraer, Scotland, on 16 April 1881, by the age of 20 Thomas Hamilton was lodging in Penge and working as a draper’s assistant, likely for either his landlord, James Mitchell, or James’ brother Archie. Ten years later, in 1911, he was still working as a draper, but now as a master draper — that is, with employees of his own. He operated his business from his home at 108 Anerley Park, which he shared with his wife Elizabeth and baby son Walter.[18]

A detached house with brown pebbledash finish and large bay windows on both floors.  A PVC-framed garage has been added on the right, and a loft extension with mathematical tiles (brick-effect) juts from the roof.  A small porch at the front may also be a later addition; for some reason it has two entrance doors.
30 Crystal Palace Park Road, May 2019. Thomas Hamilton lived here in the 1920s–1940s, though clearly there have been several more recent additions to the house. Photo: author’s own.

Around 1927, Thomas and Elizabeth moved from Anerley Park to 30 Crystal Palace Park Road, and Thomas opened a shop at 204 London Road.

The reason for the move may have been that Thomas, now in his mid-40s, was now doing fairly well for himself and felt it time to separate his work life from his home life a little more. Another possibility is that the move was in order to allow the demolition of 108 Anerley Park to make way for the building of Blakewood Court, “a fabulous 1930s mansion block” of “purpose built” flats which still stands today.[19]

In any case, Thomas continued to live on Crystal Palace Park Road and trade from 204 London Road until his death on 22 November 1948. Elizabeth, now a widow, remained in their house for just a short while before moving around the corner to Sydenham Avenue.[20]

Thomas’ death did not mean the end of his business, as T Hamilton Ltd continued to trade on London Road, possibly under the stewardship of one of his sons. His oldest son Walter, who had trained in medicine and become chief gynaecologist at the Anglo-American Hospital in Cairo, was unlikely to have been interested in running a small draper’s shop in West Croydon.[21] However, Thomas appears to have had a younger son, also named Thomas, who had gone into the same trade as his father, and perhaps it was he who took over the shop on London Road. In any case, the business remained at 204 London Road until the early 1960s.[22]

1960s–1970s: John Cooper Lampshades

Next to arrive after the departure of T Hamilton was John Cooper (Lampshades) Ltd, in place by mid-1963 and remaining until around the start of 1979. Although it lasted a decade and a half at this address, I have been unable to find any references to the company aside from phone book entries, a single planning application for a shop sign, and a notice of dissolution published in the London Gazette half a decade after it left London Road.[23]

1970s–1980s: Abbot Travel & Export

By April 1979 the lampshade shop was gone, replaced by a travel agent and exporter known as Abbot Travel. Run by a Mr Abbot, this specialised in “Electronic Goods, Fancy Goods, Gift Items and Personal Export”, and remained here until the mid-1980s.[24]

1980s: London Security Services

Around 1986 the premises were taken over by London Security Services, a franchise of the Chubb Lock Company that also appears to have gone under the name of 0.1. Area Services (though this was almost certainly just a clever ploy to appear first in the phone book). It remained here only a few years, having moved to 312 Croydon High Street by 1990.[25]

The hands of a dark-skinned person applying henna in intricate patterns to the palm of another person.  A tub of henna with a spoon in it is on the table next to them.
An example of mehndi, at a Croydon Neighbourhood Care Association relaxation therapy session in June 2013. This has no connection with Gentle Touch salon, and is included simply to show how the technique works. Photo: author’s own.

2000s: Gentle Touch Hair & Beauty

It’s unclear what 204 London Road was used for during the 1990s and much of the 2000s, but by July 2008 the premises were occupied by a hair and beauty salon known as Gentle Touch.

As well as the usual hair and makeup services, it offered mehndi (henna painting) and ear piercing, and it seems to have also sold accessories such as handbags. However, it was gone again by the end of 2010.[26]

2010s: Wibi Stores

In November 2010, Keralan-born Binu Mathew opened an off-licence and convenience shop, Wibi Stores, at 204 London Road. Binu had moved to Britain from Saudi Arabia around five years previously, along with his wife, Lisy George. The couple used their savings to finance the opening of the shop, which advertised Asian, African, English, and Keralan groceries and stocked day-to-day basics such as custard powder and rice as well as fresh produce including coconuts. Binu worked in the shop from 7am to 5pm most days, while Lisy was a senior nurse at Croydon University Hospital.[27]

The evening of 8 August 2011 saw widespread public disorder across London, triggered by a police shooting in Tottenham two days before. In Croydon, London Road bore the brunt of the vandalism and looting, as police gathered at its southern end to protect the chain business of North End, forcing the looters back northwards to vent their frustrations on the small businesses of London Road.

Binu departed work at his usual time that day, leaving the shop in the hands of his assistant Anish John while he went home to collect Lisy and drive her to work at the hospital. They were still en route when Anish phoned to warn Binu about crowds gathering in London Road. Despite deciding to divert to the shop in order to secure it, they were not quite in time.

Around 6:30pm, looters poured in to Wibi Stores, grabbing alcohol and cigarettes from the shelves, smashing the till, and physically attacking Anish. When Binu pulled up outside in his van, he saw “hundreds of people coming and going, taking goods from my shop and breaking fixtures and fitting”. He ran over to the shop but was grabbed, pushed up against the front of the shop, and punched repeatedly.

Binu and Lisy managed to pull down the shutters after the looters moved on, hoping to protect the shop from further damage while they continued to the hospital. However, they were attacked again further up the street, pulled from their van as they waited at a traffic light. The assailants stole nearly £1,000 of shop takings from Binu’s pockets. With her means of transport taken from her — the van was later found torched — Lisy abandoned her attempt to get to work. The couple found shelter in a neighbour’s flat across the road from the shop, where Binu watched as the shop was broken into for a second time.[28]

London Road on the day after the looting. Image © George Rex, used under Creative Commons cc-by-sa. This shows an impressively long stretch of the road, from the distinctive window frames of number 60–62 in the foreground to the 14-storey Philips Building in the far distance. Wibi Stores is around the centre of the image, though not individually visible.

Binu had suffered massive losses — around £50,000 in stock and premises damage — and so it seems not unreasonable that in the immediate aftermath of the attack he considered returning to India, telling The Telegraph that he and Lisy were “thinking of giving up and going back to Kerala because this is not what we expected in England.” Nevertheless, he reopened Wibi Stores just under a month later. The Croydon Guardian described him as having “refused to be beaten”, stating that “We had only opened for eight months before so it was a new store anyway. Now we must start again.”[29]

Binu Mathew inside Wibi Stores after the reopening. Image provided by the Croydon Guardian and used by permission of editor Will Harrison.

2010s: Vismaya Supermarket and Ellalan Convenience Store

Despite all this determination, by January 2012 Wibi Stores had been replaced by Vismaya Supermarket. Although superficially similar, with a frontage advertising Asian, African, and English foods, this had more of a focus on food and less on alcohol.[30]

Vismaya Supermarket, January 2012. Photo: author’s own.

Around the end of 2013, Vismaya Supermarket was taken over by the owner of Ellalan Supermarket just up the road at number 234–236, and renamed to Ellalan Convenience Store. It operated as part of the Premier Stores symbol group, a type of retail franchise in which shops are owned and operated by individuals but receive marketing and business development support from the parent group. In return, the shop owner agrees to conditions such as a minimum spend on the group’s products for a fixed period of time.[31]

Ellalan Convenience Store, March 2014. Photo: author’s own.

An informant who went to check it out for me a couple of months after the changeover reported that the new incarnation sold storecupboard products, loo roll, cleaning products, sweets, soft drinks, and so on, with most of the stock being nothing particularly out of the ordinary, though there were a few South Indian products (parathas, vadai) in one of the freezers and the off licence selection included a few relatively interesting bottled real ales.

Ellalan Convenience Store continued to operate until at least March 2018, but by the middle of the year had closed for good. The premises remain vacant today.[32]

Thanks to: Carole Roberts; Nicola Fisher, for research assistance; Prem at Ellalan Supermarket; Suzanne North at Bromley Historic Collections; Will Harrison of the Croydon Guardian; the Planning Technical Support Team at Croydon Council; the staff, volunteers, and patrons at the Museum of Croydon; and my beta-readers bob and Kat. Monetary conversions performed using the Bank of England inflation calculator (prices < £100 given to the nearest penny, prices from £100 to < £100,000 to the nearest pound, prices from £100,000 to < £1 million to the nearest £1,000, prices from £1 million to < £100 million to the nearest £100,000, prices ≥ £100 million to the nearest million).

Special note: Nicola Fisher, who helped with research for this article, is the great granddaughter of George Fisher, who ran the now-demolished Southbridge Arms pub. Nicola is researching her family history and would be very interested in hearing from any of George’s descendants she isn’t already in touch with.

Footnotes and references

  1. Wilkins’ 1872–3 directory lists T Liddell, Berlin wool and fancy repository, Board of Health Office, on Kidderminster Terrace, though without a number. However, the 1874 Surrey electoral register is more specific, placing Thomas Liddell at 6 Kidderminster Terrace. Confirmation of Thomas’s full first name and additional details about his shop are taken from an advert in Wilkins’ 1872–3 directory (reproduced here), and confirmation that he was at Kidderminster Terrace by 4 January 1873 is taken from an announcement on page 2 of the 4 January 1873 Croydon Advertiser that tickets for the Anniversary Meeting of St George’s Presbyterian Church, Oakfield Road, could be obtained from sources including “Mr. T. Liddell, Bookseller, Kidderminster Terrace, London Road”.
  2. For more information on Berlin wool, see my article on 25 London Road.
  3. Information on Janet’s registry office is taken from adverts on page 2 of the 18 January 1873 Croydon Advertiser and page 4 of the 18 October 1873 Croydon Advertiser (the quotations are from the latter). These adverts describe her only as “Mrs. Liddell”, but the 1871 census (at which point the family were living at 6 Ebenezer Villas, Waddon New Road, and Thomas was employed as a “Bookseller’s Manager”) gives her first name as Janet. This census is also the source of information on her children.
  4. Quotations regarding the Croydon Building Benefit Society are taken from an announcement on page 4 of the 13 September 1873 Croydon Chronicle; an identical announcement appeared on page 4 of the Croydon Advertiser of the same date. Quotation and information regarding the sale of Thomas’ fancy repository are taken from an advert on page 4 of the 18 October 1873 Croydon Chronicle.
  5. Quotations taken from announcement of auction of goods “Under distraint for Rent” by Podmore & Martin on 22 December 1873, published on the front page of the 20 December 1873 Croydon Advertiser and reproduced here.
  6. Ward’s 1874 directory has a blank space against 6 Kidderminster Terrace, which is unusual; other entries in this directory (and later editions) explicitly state when a property was unoccupied. Perhaps the distraint-related activities at the premises made it difficult for the compilers of the directory to decide whether the property was occupied or not. This directory was published in early 1874, so the data would have been being finalised around the time that Podmore & Martin were auctioning off the Liddells’ seized belongings.

    There is no Ward’s directory for 1875, but the 1876 edition lists Miss Fennell, fancy repository, at 6 Kidderminster Terrace. I have no direct evidence that Clara Fennell of Selhurst Road and Miss Fennell of London Road are the same person, but the spelling of the surname is suggestive, and according to the 1881 census Clara Fennell was unmarried. Ward’s 1878 directory lists Charles Allbon, house decorator, in place of Miss Fennell.

  7. Ward’s 1878 and 1880 directories list Charles Allbon, house decorator; Atwood’s 1878 directory lists Charles F Allbon, writer and decorator; the 1878 Post Office Surrey directory lists Charles Frederick Allbon, decorator (albeit at the non-specific address of “London road”); and the Surrey electoral registers list Charles Allbon in 1879 and Charles Frederick Allbon in 1880 and 1881. Other information is taken from an advert on page 37 of Worth’s 1878 directory, reproduced here.
  8. The 1871 census lists Charles and Laura at 3 Handcroft Cottages, Handcroft Road, with children Charles F (14, born in Dalston), Walter G (10, born in Croydon), [unreadable, possibly “Newman”] (8, born in Brixton), and Hetty (2, born in Woolwich). The 1881 census lists Charles, Laura, Charles junior, and Hetty as one of four households at 52 Holyoak Road, Newington. Street directories show Charles Allbon, boot and shoe maker, on Sumner Road in Gray & Warren’s 1861–62; Charles Allbon, writer, at 3 Canterbury Cottages, Canterbury Road, in Ward’s 1874 and 1876; and Charles Allbon, house decorator, on London Road in Ward’s 1878 and 1880. So between Hetty’s birth and the 1881 census the family must have moved at least four times: from Woolwich, from Handcroft Road, from Canterbury Road, and from London Road.

    It’s worth noting the possibility that the Charles Allbon of the censuses might have been a different person from the Charles Allbon of the street directories, as I haven’t managed to establish an explicit link between them. There is no Charles Allbon listed at Handcroft Cottages in Warren’s 1869 directory (3 Handcroft Cottages is occupied by Edwin Winks, constable), and the next directory available chronologically, Wilkins’ 1872–73, seems to completely omit the part of Handcroft Road where I believe Handcroft Cottages to have been. However, during the years when Charles does appear in the Croydon street directories, he is the only Charles Allbon to do so. Moreover, the 1881 census lists the census-Charles as a “Traveller Decorating”, which fits with directory-Charles’ occupation when on London Road.

  9. Charles junior’s place of birth is taken from the 1871 census, which gives his age as 14. The 1911 census shows him living in Chingford, still with his parents, and working as an artist. This strongly suggests that he was the Charles Frederick Allbon listed in the Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon as being born in 1856, studying at the Croydon School of Art by 1870, and dying in Chingford Green on 14 June 1926. The Benezit Dictionary of Artists describes him as a “Painter, watercolourist, engraver” working with “Landscapes with figures, landscapes”, and states that his best-known engraved work is Evening Near Harrow. The third edition of Algernon Graves’ Dictionary of Artists who have Exhibited Works in the Principal London Exhibitions confirms that he specialised in landscapes, and adds that he was an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and exhibited six times at the Royal Academy and another six at Suffolk Street between 1874 and 1892. (According to Denys Brook-Hart’s British 19th Century Marine Painting, Suffolk Street Galleries was the headquarters of the Society of British Artists, which later became the Royal Society of British Artists.)
  10. Moves to Newington, Clapham, and Chingford, as well as the composition of the household at these times, are from the 1881, 1891, 1901, and 1911 censuses. Dates of death and place of burial are taken from the entry for grave plot 1841 in the Chingford Mount Cemetery burial register. This entry gives Charles senior’s address as 3 Station Road, Chingford, and describes Charles junior and Henrietta as “as above”, almost certainly referring to their address (which matches their address in the 1911 census).
  11. Ward’s directories list the property as unoccupied in 1882, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1890, 1891, and 1892. Purnell’s 1882 directory lists Peter T Shonfield, tobacconist, and the 1883 Surrey electoral register lists Peter Thomas Shonfield. W A Baker is listed as a gilder & frame maker in Ward’s 1887, 1888, and 1889 directories, and as a carver & gilder in Kelly’s 1889 directory. Kelly’s 1887 directory of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex lists William Alfred Baker, gilder & picture framer.
  12. Ward’s directories list Thomas Blackton, picture frame maker, in 1893 and 1894; John Ackworth, wood turner, from 1895 to 1898 inclusive; and “Unoccupied” in 1899. The 1900 and 1901 editions list the Edison Engraving Company at 70–72 London Road (later renumbered to 202–204), but I’m a little sceptical of whether this company was actually at both addresses or just at number 70 (the 1902 edition lists it only at number 70).
  13. Ward’s directories list a Croydon Sanitary Steam Laundry depot at 72 London Road (later renumbered to 204) from 1902 to 1906 inclusive and at 6 Royal Parade (later renumbered to 224 London Road) from 1907 onwards. They also list the Croydon Sanitary Steam Laundry itself on the south side of Strathmore Road from 1899 onwards. Charles’ letter appears on page 2 of the 14 February 1903 Croydon Guardian

    Charles’ claim of having built the laundry himself (or, at least, having had it built for him) looks quite plausible; in Ward’s directories, this side of Strathmore Road ends at 62 in 1898, the laundry appears after 62 in 1899, “Six houses building” appear after the laundry in 1900, and from 1901 onwards the road continues to number 98, with the laundry un-numbered but in the position that would be occupied by number 64. Hence it does seem that the area was in the process of being developed at the time. It has since undergone even more development; Strathmore Road today is a short stub of a cul-de-sac, less than half the length it was in the days of the Croydon Sanitary Steam Laundry (see, for example, the National Library of Scotland side-by-side comparison of the 1953–4 Ordnance Survey map with OpenStreetMap today), and everything on it is new-build, with no traces left of its past.

  14. Ward’s directories list “Unoccupied” in 1907, 1908, and 1909; Mrs East, Ladies’ Outfitters, in 1910; Miss Alford, Registry Office for Servants, in 1911; and “Unoccupied” again in 1912. Annie’s first name is taken from Kelly’s 1910 directory, and Alice’s is taken from Kelly’s 1911 directory and confirmed by the 1911 census, which lists her as a 43-year-old “Shopkeeper, Toy Bazaar” working “At Home” on her “Own acc[ount]”. Note that the 1911 census was filled in by the householders themselves, so this is Alice’s own description of her business.
  15. Ward’s directories list “Unoccupied” in 1912; E T Eames, Confectioner, in 1913 and 1914; “Shop unoccupied” in 1915; E A Holden, House and Estate Agent, in 1916, 1917, and 1918; and “Shop unoccupied” again in 1919. Regarding E T Eames’ first name, Kelly’s 1913 Directory of Surrey lists Edward Thomas Eames as the confectioner at 72 London Road (later renumbered to 204), while the 1915 electoral register lists Egbert Eames (whose residence is 184 Frant Road) as qualifying to vote by virtue of having a shop at this address.
  16. Ward’s directories list A J Smith, house furnisher, in 1920 and 1921; A J Smith, confectioner, in 1922; and “Unoccupied” in 1923. Kelly’s 1922 directory confirms the pivot to confectionery and also gives Albert’s full first name. The Spring 1921 electoral register lists Albert Joseph Smith as eligible to vote due to having business premises at 72 London Road (later renumbered to 204), and also gives his residence as 21 Mayday Road.

    The 1928 electoral register lists Albert still at 21 Mayday Road, along with one Grace Edith Smith, eligible to vote by virtue of her husband’s occupation of the premises. This then links our Albert to the 25-year-old Albert Joseph Smith (son of Richard James Thomas Smith) who according to Church of England parish registers married 23-year-old Grace Edith Chapman (daughter of a decorator and resident on Parson’s Mead) at Croydon Parish Church (now Croydon Minster) on 1 June 1914. The 1891 census, in which Richard, his wife Lizzie, and children including Albert are living at 11 Sheldon Street, confirms that Albert was born in Croydon.

    Richard is listed as a confectioner in the 1881 census, a barman in the 1891 census, a sweet manufacturer in the 1901 census, and a caterer and marquee builder in the 1911 census, while the record of Albert’s baptism on 28 September 1890 lists him as a confectioner. According to historian Carole Roberts, Richard’s stepfather James William Newman was also a confectioner, and Richard may well have been the “boy” working in James’ confectioner’s shop in the 1871 census.

    Details of Albert’s situation as of 1911 are taken from the 1911 census, which shows him living at the premises of “Messrs. Bentall”, Clarence House, Kingston-upon-Thames, along with over fifty other employees, primarily drapery workers but also including a china packer, a boot assistant, and a nightwatchman.

    The date of mid-1919 for Albert’s presence on London Road and his claims of cheapness and reliability both come from the July 1919 Croydon Times advert reproduced here.

  17. Ward’s directories list Mdme Brooker [sic], fancy draper, in 1924; Mdme Brookler, fancy draper, in 1925, 1926, and 1927; and T Hamilton, fancy draper, in 1928. It seems possible that “Madame Brookler” may have been a business name rather than the name of the proprietor. If so, the actual proprietor might have been Lilian Schofield, listed in the Autumn 1926 electoral register as being entitled to vote due to occupation of 72 London Road but with her actual “abode” (residence) at 35 Ranelagh Grove, Pimlico.
  18. Thomas’ date and place of birth, his profession, the fact that he worked “At Home”, and details of his family (28-year-old Elizabeth Jane Hamilton and 3-month-old Walter Hodes Hamilton) are taken from the 1911 census. Information on his status at the age of 20 is taken from the 1901 census (which lists him as being aged 19 but was conducted on the night of 31 March 1901, just over two weeks before his 20th birthday). This latter census lists both James and Archie as “Draper” and “Employer”, and Thomas as “Drapers Assistant” and “Worker”. James, Archie, and James’ wife Jessie were also all born in Scotland.
  19. London phone books list T Hamilton, tailor and draper, at 108 Anerley Park up to and including October 1926, and then at 72 London Road and Glenapp, Crystal Palace Park Road from April 1927 onwards; from the 1931 edition, Thomas’ residential address is given a number (30) rather than the name “Glenapp”. The replacement of 108 Anerley Park with Blakewood Court can be seen in the National Library of Scotland side-by-side comparison of Ordnance Survey Maps from 1894 and 1952. Quotations regarding Blakewood Court are taken from a present-day advert placed online by estate agency Penge Lettings. The block itself is quite hard to photograph, but I have made a couple of attempts: half of it, unobscured and the whole of it, partly obscured by trees and fence.
  20. Thomas’ date of death and address at death are taken from his entry in the National Probate Calendar. London phone books list E J Hamilton at 30 Crystal Palace Park Road in June 1949 and at “4/2” Sydenham Avenue in July 1950. It’s unclear whether “4/2” is meant to indicate something along the lines of “Flat 4, 2 Sydenham Avenue”, or perhaps “Flat 2, 4 Sydenham Avenue”. The size and shape of 4 Sydenham Avenue on the 1952 Ordnance Survey map suggest that it could well have been flats at that point. However, see later footnote regarding Walter Hodes Hamilton and 2 Sydenham Avenue.
  21. Board of Trade passenger lists from August 1950 show Mr Walter Hodes Hamilton, 39, surgeon, and his wife Ines Hayat Hamilton, both of whose “Country of last Permanent Residence” was Egypt, inbound from Port Said to London, planning to stay at 2 Sydenham Avenue — his mother Elizabeth’s residence — before travelling onward to their “Intended Future Permanent Residence” in an unspecified “Foreign Countr[y]”. The unusual middle name, the profession as a surgeon, and the residence in Egypt all strongly suggest that Walter was the same Walter Hodes Hamilton described in Samir Raafat’s Egyptian Mail essay on the Anglo-American Hospital as “chief gynecologist, Doctor Walter Hodes Hamilton”. Notes on the Noel Thomas Collection at St Anthony’s College, Oxford (PDF) include mention of an April 1952 medical report “by Dr. Walter Hamilton which describes the injuries sustained by Noel Thomas during the ‘Black Saturday’ riots”, suggesting that Walter remained in Egypt up to and perhaps beyond the Egyptian revolution of 1952.
  22. The 1911 census, which as previously noted shows Thomas senior with wife and baby son at 108 Anerley Park, also lists Thomas’ mother-in-law, Elizabeth Walker, which suggests that Thomas’s wife’s maiden name was likely Walker. The FreeBMD Birth Index for April–June 1914 includes a Thomas Hamilton born in Croydon to a mother with the maiden name of Walker, and the 1939 Register of England & Wales lists Thomas Hamilton, credit draper and tailor, born on 6 April 1914, living on Winchester Road in Beckenham. It should however be noted that I haven’t managed to definitively tie these two Thomases together — “Thomas”, “Hamilton”, and “Walker” are all very common names. (I checked the Croydon Advertiser, Croydon Express, Croydon Guardian, Croydon Times, Penge & Anerley Press, Beckenham & Penge Advertiser, and Beckenham & District Times for April 1914 and none of them had a relevant birth announcement.)

    London phone books list T Hamilton, draper, at 204 London Road up to and including April 1962. Moreover, a 1962 planning application for a new shop sign at this address (ref 62/1800, viewed on microfiche at Croydon Council offices) includes a drawing of the existing shop sign, which reads “T. HAMILTON”. Kent’s 1955 and 1956 directories describe the business as “T Hamilton (Croydon) Ltd—Credit Drapers”.

  23. A planning application (ref 62/1800) for a sign reading “John Cooper (Lampshades) Ltd” at number 204 is marked completed as of 22 August 1963. Croydon phone books then list the company at 204 London Road from 1963 to January 1979 inclusive. Another planning application (ref A79/20), relating to the travel agency that took over after John Cooper, confirms that the travel agency was in residence by April 1979. The notice of dissolution appears on page 17809 of the 19 December 1985 London Gazette.
  24. Abbot Travel is listed in phone books from the October 1980 Bromley/Orpington edition to the 1984 Caterham/Reigate edition inclusive. It also appears (as “Abbot Travel Agent”) in Brian Gittings’ 1980 survey of central Croydon retail. Quotation is taken from a compliment slip included in the records of a planning application for a sign reading “Abbot Travels” (ref A79/29, submitted on 15 February 1979 and granted on 12 June 1979); these records also include letters from the London Borough of Croydon to Mr Abbot (one of them mis-spelt as “Mr Abbott”).
  25. London Security Services, locksmith, appears at 204 London Road in the 1987 and 1988 Croydon phone books, as does 0.1. Area Services. The 1990 edition places both at 312 Croydon High Street. A planning application (ref 86/1367/A) deposited on 19 May 1986 and approved on 31 July for a sign reading “Chubb Centre” at “L.S.S. London Road Croydon” describes the Chubb Lock Company’s interest in the land as “Franchise”.

    Estate agents Paul Meakin & Co were granted planning permission (ref 88/3172/P) on 12 January 1989 for “use of ground floor as estate agents office”, but I haven’t been able to find evidence that this permission was taken up. The 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, and 1995 Croydon phone books all list the company only at various combinations of 216 Addington Road, 221 Lower Addiscombe Road, and 14 Central Parade, New Addington. Moreover, a planning application for “use of ground floor for sale of take away hot food”, deposited on 13 August 1990 (ref 90/1961/P), describes the “Present use” as “Retail shop”. (The records of this application note that the council filed it as “Not determined” in December 1990, due to a lack of response from the applicant to a request for more information.)

  26. Gentle Touch Hair & Beauty can be seen in Google Street View imagery from July 2008, with various handbags in the right-hand side of the shop window. It also appears in the 2007–2008 Croydon phone book. Information on mehndi and ear piercing is taken from Google Street View imagery from July 2009, in which lettering offering these services is just visible at the bottom of the shop door. Finally, Google Street View imagery from November 2010 instead shows signage for Wibi Stores.
  27. The opening date of Wibi Stores, the name and origin of its owner and his wife, the duration of their time in Britain, and the fact that the shop sold custard powder, rice, and coconuts, are all taken from “Nurse and husband carjacked and beaten by looters”, The Telegraph, 14 August 2011. Their having moved to Britain from Saudi Arabia, use of their savings to open the shop, Binu’s hours of work, and Lisy’s position as a senior nurse are taken from “Human cost of couple’s night of terror”, Gareth Davies, Croydon Advertiser, 3 August 2012, page 6. Information on grocery nationalities is taken from Google Street View imagery from November 2010, which shows a shop sign for Wibi Stores with “Asian · African · English · Kera[...] Foods” below (as well as papered-over windows and a sign reading “Opening Shortly”).
  28. Information about the evening of 8 August 2011 is taken from “Counting the cost of the riots”, The Telegraph, 14 August 2011, “London Road businesses begin recovery following the riots”, Croydon Guardian, 7 September 2011 (also on page 6 of that day’s print edition under the headline “‘We will not be beaten’”), and “Human cost of couple’s night of terror” (see earlier footnote). Some of these sources contradict each other, and in these cases I’ve generally assumed that Gareth’s article is the most accurate, since it’s based on in-depth interviews with Binu and Lisy, and the author has a track record of diligence in local reporting.
  29. Monetary loss taken from “Human cost of couple’s night of terror”, as above. Quotations regarding return to Kerala are from “Nurse and husband carjacked and beaten by looters”, as above. Reopening of Wibi Stores and quotations regarding starting again are from “London Road businesses begin recovery following the riots”, as above.
  30. Presence of Vismaya Supermarket by January 2012 is from personal observation (see photo in main article), as is the comparison with Wibi Stores. Note that I never went in Wibi Stores myself, as it closed shortly after I moved to West Croydon, so am gathering my impression of it from the Croydon Guardian photo reproduced here. According to “Human cost of couple’s night of terror” (see earlier footnote), Binu Mathew sold his share of Wibi Stores to his business partner some time before August 2012; this could well have been the trigger for the relaunch as Vismaya Supermarket.
  31. Rename to Ellalan Convenience Store is from personal observation. More information on the relationship between Premier Stores and the shops operating under its aegis can be found on its website. The actual branding on the façade read “Premier Express”, which according to “The draw of the small store”, Convenience Store, 14 August 2017, is the Premier branding used for stores up to 800 sq ft (around 75 square metres).
  32. Google Street View imagery from March 2018 shows the shop open. In June 2018, realising I hadn’t seen it open for a while, I asked the staff in Peri Pizza next door at number 202 if they knew what was going on, and they told me they thought it had closed down for good. Prem, a long-term employee at Ellalan Supermarket, told me in May 2019 that the convenience store had been closed for about a year at that point, and that the reason for closure was lack of business (in-person conversation, 7 May 2019).
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« 202 London Road: Peri Pizza
For the past decade, 202 London Road has been home to Peri Pizza, a small independent pizza and grill cafe. Previous occupants include the Edison Engraving Company, Cook’s Domestic Stores, and eighty years of newsagents.
185 London Road: Vistec House (part 1) »
Vistec House at 185 London Road was built in the 1960s on the site of what was once a semi-detached pair of houses. In this article I describe the construction of these houses and the occupants of the southernmost one up until the point when its last residential users departed.