Norwood Timeline

The Great North Wood gave Norwood its name. Woodlands around London began to be coppiced for charcoal burning. This was a local rural industry and Grimme the Collier of Croydon is mentioned in plays and skits from the 16th century onwards.

Timber was the chief constructional material for ships, carts, carriages and buildings in pre-industrial Surrey and Kent. The oaks of the Great North Wood formed the timbers of the British Navy over the centuries including Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind.

The Lords of the Manor, of whom the chief was the Archbishop of Canterbury, had the rights to hunting and felling useful timber trees. The acorns and roots provided grazing for all sorts of animals both wild and domesticated.

The district was famous for its gypsies, a fact remembered in the names of many local roads.

Until the 19th century the woods provided cover and comfort for outlaws and a haunt for smugglers.


Key Dates

1085 The Domesday Book refers to: “that part of the Great North Wood within the parish of Croindene, and a peculiar to Canterbury, given for the Archbishop’s pleasure, for his hunting, for fuel and pannage (pasturage) for 200 swine”.

1594-1733 Windmill at the top of Knight’s Hill, Crown Point, served local farms.

1746 Rocque’s Survey published, showing the Great North Wood, Bewley’s Farm, Croxted Lane, Sydenham Wells and other areas.

1772 Lord Thurlow acquired Knight’s Hill Farm for his mistress, Polly Humpreys and thus started the acquisition of the extensive Thurlow estate.

1773 The Enclosure Act to secure adequate food supplies.

1775 Augustus Hervey, Earl of Bristol, set up home with Mary Nesbitt at a ‘cottage’ on the wooded slopes of Central Hill.  They had many influential friends including William Pitt and the house developed into a substantial mansion called Norwood House.

1778 The Gypsy House, an inn near the habitual camping places of the Gypsy Queen using her portrait as its inn sign, was first mentioned in records. It was where Margaret Finch had lived until her death in 1740.

1780 Houses on Beulah Hill were erected.

1781 Norwood first described as a village scattered around an extensive wild common.

1797 The wastelands of Norwood enclosed and leased to Dr. Moor and others.

1801 Croydon Enclosure Act:  Ecclesiastical Commissioners confirmed as great landowners in the district.

In the later 18th century better roads meant more reliable transport and Norwood Heights became a place of refreshment and recreation, particularly to weary travellers.

1806 Lord Thurlow died and the Lambeth Manor Enclosure Act was passed.

1808 Norwood Common Enclosure Act passed.

1809 Croydon Canal opened.  This ran from West Croydon, through South Norwood, Anerley, Forest Hill and soon to the Grand Surrey Canal.

1809 South Norwood Lake created as a reservoir for the Croydon Canal.

1810 Enclosure roads (Elder Road, Gipsy Road, Gipsy Hill and Salters Hill) driven through Norwood Common to open up the area for development.  The House of Industry for the Infant Poor (Workhouse) set up in Elder Road.  It was eventually extended to become Elderwood and Norwood House.  Portions of Norwood Common were allocated to existing landowners in proportion to their existing holdings.

1818 830 acres of ‘waste land’ enclosed at Norwood.  1,000 inhabitants, 160 houses.

1820 A chapel in Chapel Road, Lower Norwood built on land donated by Mr. Salter was opened.  The Lower Norwood Nonconformist Day School was opened.  A Dr. Leese held pastures in Upper and Lower Norwood.

1822 Parish church of St. Luke’s, Lower Norwood, built.

1831 Beulah Spa designed and landscaped by Decimus Burton and opened for the public by John Davidson Smith.

1833 Knight’s Hill Methodist Church opened.

1835 The Park Hotel opened in premises which had been the home of the Mary Nesbitt.  All Saints’ School opened.

1837 West Norwood Cemetery opened.

1839 London and Croydon Railway opened.

1840 Norwood New Town, home to Crystal Palace workers, built to separate working classes from upper class houses.

1841 Anerley Tea Gardens opened.

1845 All Saints’ Church enlarged and made a Parish Church.

1848 Roman Catholic Orphanage of Our Lady, Central Hill, opened in premises of former Park Hotel.

1849 St Aubyn’s School became the Central London District Industrial School training boys to become mariners.

1850  Harefield, a large house on Anerley Hill, built. It is now a listed building

1851  The Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park provided the reason for the development of Crystal Palace by Paxton and Fox Henderson and Partners.

1852 Rockhills, home of Joseph Paxton and of successive managers of the Crystal Palace, was built at the top of Westwood Hill.  The first column of the new Crystal Palace and Central Hill Baptist Church erected.

1854 Crystal Palace opened and the Low Level Station of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway was opened on Gipsy Hill.

1856 Opening of West End and Crystal Palace Railway (Lower Norwood and Gipsy Hill stations).    Norwood Junction Station opened. Larger houses in Lower Norwood demolished and replaced by more modest housing.

1857 Construction of the Queen’s Hotel in Church Road completed, in grounds which originally stretched down to where Eversley Road now runs.    The first of many Handel festivals was held at the Palace.

1860 All Saints’ Church completed with a spire.  Further additions to complete the Queen’s Hotel.

1862 Iron Church set up on Gipsy Hill to serve the new district of Christ Church, part of the Parish of St Luke’s, Lower Norwood.  Jewish Orphanage was built in West Norwood.

1865 Crystal Palace (Upper Level) station and the ‘Italian’ subway linking it with the Palace opened as a terminus of the London Chatham and Dover Railway.

1867 Christ Church, Gipsy Hill consecrated.  The first local bank, a branch of Barclay’s, opened in Westow Hill.  The first archery competition at the Palace took place followed by annual competitions.

1868 The First Station opened at Crystal Palace.  The Loop Line connecting Crystal Palace with Victoria was completed.

1870 Crystal Palace Gas Works opened.

1871 Land forming part of the Crystal Palace grounds sold for housing development to help balance the books.  The United Land Company started laying out roads around Gipsy Hill, ‘Little Menlo’, and Beulah Hill.

1872 Crystal Palace School of Practical Engineering opened by J W Wilson.  A maze was opened in the Crystal Palace grounds.

1874 Upper Norwood Methodist Church opened in Westow Hill by Joseph Tritton.

1875 The first building of St. John the Evangelist Church assembled at Auckland Road.

1877 Royal Normal College and Academy of Music for the Blind opened at Westow Street.  Baptist Chapel, Chatsworth Way opened.  Charter of the Crystal Palace Company annulled and the company reorganised.

1878 New wing and cloisters for the Convent of our Lady, Central Hill. Foundation stone for the present Church of St John the Evangelist laid.  St Andrew’s Presbyterian church, Westow Street opened.  Villas built in Westow Hill.

1881-82 Gipsy Road Baptist Church built and dedicated.  Development of Auckland Road and Norwood Cottage Hospital, Hermitage Road opened to deal with accidents arising at the Crystal Palace.

1884 International Exhibition at the Crystal Palace.  Houses built near the Lower Level Station on land sold off by the Crystal Palace Company.

1887 Woodland Road (later Paxton) School opened.

1900 Upper Norwood Library officially opened.

1903 Stanley Halls in South Norwood opened, with a clock tower and second hall added in 1904 and a Technical Trade School in 1907.

1906 South Metropolitan Electric Tramcar and Lighting Company started Route No 5 between West Croydon and Crystal Palace.

1911 Opening of Norwood Park, Elder Road.  First electric trains to Crystal Palace via Sydenham for the Festival of Empire.

1913 The Palace was acquired for the nation and the Trustees appointed.

1920 The Palace reopened by George V who inaugurated the Imperial War Museum, which had its home here until 1924.

1925 Woolworths, the first of the multi-nationals, came to Westow Hill.

1929 The Albany Cinema opened in Church Road.

1930 The Forester’s Hall in Westow Street opened.

1933 London Transport took over the tram and bus routes.

1936 Destruction of the Crystal Palace by fire.

1944 Many local buildings destroyed by V1 and V2 rockets.

1940s and 50s Council housing constructed in West Norwood.

1953 Children’s Zoo opened at Crystal Palace Park.

1954 Crystal Palace High Level Station closed.

1961 Crystal Palace Upper Level station demolished.

1964 Methodist Church, Westow Hill replaced by a new church. National Sports Centre opened by the Duke of Edinburgh.