Central Hill

Central Hill was once called Vicar's Oak Road because it runs the boundary of the boroughs of Lambeth and Croydon. At the bottom of Central Hill a pair of iron gates opened upon a carriage drive leading to a roomy mansion, the home of Mrs Mary Nesbitt. This was then owned by Mr John Crawley who turned it into the Park Hotel before it was purchased by Count Theodore D'Osseville whose daughter founded an orphanage for Irish children which became known as the Norwood Convent. Opposite to the Convent buildings where Lambeth Borough Council Bloomhall Estate now stands was Bloomfield Hall the residence of Mr R. Hamilton and then Sir Ernest Tritton M.P. for Norwood. Next to Broomfield Hall stood Ainsworth's school for young gentlemen, afterwards Pope's. From there to the top of Gipsy Hill was just open common. Walking up Central Hill from the Norwood Convent you would see Bernard Villa, a public house called the "Red Lion", Essex Lodge, said to have been the hunting lodge of the Earl of Essex, Effingham Lodge occupied by Madame Tussaud of Waxworks fame, Central Hill Lodge, , Rose Cottage, a young ladies' seminary, and Cedar Cottage, Scotland House, Central Hill Baptist Church erected in 1852, and a caretaker's cottage on the corner of Gatestone Road whose pastor was the Reverend S A Tipple. The 1851 census shows large Victorian villas being built on this side of Central Hill including one called Mount Pleasant. The 1881 census shows houses being built on the opposite side of the road where once common land stood. The new police station was opened in 1940. The Central Hill Estate was built in the 1970s replacing former Victorian villas on this side Central Hill.

Maps and Land Ownership
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Building of the street

Lambeth house renumbering. Central Hill House Names on Lambeth side of the road. Courtesy of Lambeth Archives.

Lambeth house renumbering. Central Hill house names on Lambeth side of the road. Courtesy of Lambeth Archives

Past Images of Central Hill Architecture and Buildings

Crawley’s Park Hotel, Central Hill – site of the Virgo Fidelis Convent

Virgo Fidelis Convent on Central Hill

Bloomfield House 1895 Central Hill

Baptist Church Central Hill – on the corner of Gatestone Road

80 or 89 Central Hill

82 Central Hill 1854

80 Central Hill Lyndhurst

Central Hill 1972

John Lee Bakery 1925

Talbots Cycle and Auto Stores Central Hill

Talbot Stores Leaflet

Present Images of Central Hill Architecture and Buildings

Formerly 71 Central Hill and home of Walter Whittard founder of the tea company- now 1 Essex Mews off Central Hill – double fronted Victorian house with recessed porch, dormer roof windows, London brick with alternate colours- courtesy of R. Hibberd February 2021

79 Central Hill – sash windows, decorated brickwork, recessed porch and stucco work – courtesy of R. Hibberd February 2021

73 and 75 Central Hill – the latter home of Alexander Bassano famous Victorian photographer – courtesy of R. Hibberd February 2021

67 and 69 Central Hill cottages – stucco, chimneys, sash windows – courtesy of R. Hibberd February 2021

57 Central Hill – former solicitor’s – courtesy of R. Hibberd February 2021

57 Central Hill – former solicitor’s – courtesy of R. Hibberd February 2021

99 Central Hill- wrought iron balustrades, balconies, metal awnings, decorated stone work, recessed porch – courtesy of R. Hibberd February 2021

55 Central Hill – Central Lodge – sash windows, chimney pots, stucco, recessed porch

49 and 51 Central Hill – recessed porch, sash windows, dormer roof windows, London brick and stucco, chimney pots – courtesy of R. Hibberd February 2021

41 Central Hill – recessed porch, sash windows , chimney pots, bargeboards – courtesy of R. Hibberd February 2021

Significant Street Buildings

    Virgo Fidelis Convent

    This Convent, after well over 100 years, still looks to the needs and attends to the well-being of children of all nationalities. The story of the foundation of the first Roman Catholic Orphanage in Great Britain since the Reformation is an interesting …

    The Baptist Chapel on Central Hill

    The 1863 Ordnance Survey map shows the Baptist Chapel on Central Hill prior to the creation of Gatestone Road which was built to the west of the chapel following the field boundary southwards. The Reverend Samuel Tipple started preaching in the Baptist …


    ABADAM, ALICE (1856 TO 1940)

    Lived at 97 Central Hill in 1907 and later 107 Central Hill Alice Abadam was born into a wealthy family in Carmathenshire in 1856 and died in St. John’s Wood, London, in 1940.  Alice Abadam, who was a prominent and formidable campaigner for Votes for W …

    Anthony Mario Ludovici MBE (8 January 1882 – 3 April 1971)

    Lived at 35 Central Hill after marriage in 1920 He was a British philosopher, sociologist, social critic and polygot.  He was known as someone who supported the aristocracy and was anti-egalitarianism.  He was a British conservative author writing on s …

    BASSANO, ALEXANDER (1829 to 1913)

    Lived at 75 Central Hill in 1901 Alexander Bassano was one of the most famous Victorian society photographers. He took portraits of many members of the royal family including Queen Victoria.  In an article published in 1901 he said that the Queen: I fo …

    Benjamin Osgood Peirce (1854 to 1914)

    Lived as a boarder at 77 Central Hill in 1901 Was born on 11 February 1854 in Beverley, Massachusetts, USA, the son of Benjamin Peirce and Rebecca Orme and died on 14 January 1914 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.  He was a mathematician who became an …

    Elsie Finnimore Buckley (1 August 1882 – 6 June 1959)

    Lived at 35 Central Hill in 1920 She was an English writer and translator and was born in Calcutta, the daughter of Robert Burton Buckley, a civil engineer, and Ada Marian Sarah Finnimore.  She attended Girton College, Cambridge and in March 1899 at th …

    MANNS, AUGUSTUS (1825 to 1901)

    Lived at 56 Central Hill in 1891 As Musical Director of the Crystal Palace from 1855 to 1901, August Manns made two very important contributions to English music. The Dictionary of National Biography describes him as ‘unrivalled in England as an orches …

    Rear Admiral George Palmer (1829 to 1917

    Lived at 79 Central Hill in 1901 aged 71 with his wife Ellen aged 70 His naval career extended over many years.  He entered the Royal Navy in 1845 and retired in 1873.  He served in the West Indies, the Pacific, the Mediterranean and the Stations.  His …

    Sir Arthur George Macpherson (1828-1921)

    Sir Arthur George Macpherson (1828-1921) Lived at 2 Bonnard Villa Central Hill in 1861 Arthur George was born on 26 September 26, 1828 at Old Machar, Aberdeen. He was the youngest son of Dr. Hugh Macpherson (1767-1854), professor of Greek and  the sub- …

    Sir Hugh Henry Gough VC (1833 to 1909)

    Lived at Sunny Side Central Hill in 1881 (not there on the night of the census but his wife Annie aged 42, his daughters Charlotte 16, May 15, Annie 8, Nora 7 and sons Frederick 13, William 3 and George were present) He was born into an Anglo-Irish ari …

    Sir Sidney Saunders (1809 to 1884)

    Lived at Gatestone House, Central Hill in 1881 He was appointed Consul in Albania in 1835.  He received the diploma of the Order of St Saviour, signed by King Otto (first modern king of Greece) in 1839.  He was appointed Consul in Alexandria in 1859 an …

    Sir Walter Peace K.C.M.G (1840 to 1917)

    Lived at 16 Central Hill in 1891 Was the well-known teacher of music who went out to South Africa in 1863 with Mr Charles North where he was Agent-General for the Colony at Westminster.  In 1880 he became Acting Emigration Officer for Natal and then to …

    Walter Henry Whittard (1861–1935) 

    Lived at 71 Central Hill in 1901 Walter was born on 4 February 1861.  His mother Catherine Totteridge (1832- 1904) married his father John Alfred Whittard (1825-1902) on 1 July 1857. He had one brother, John Charles Whittard (1858-1912) and nine sister …

    Walter William Hedgcock (1864 to 1932)

    Lived at 24 Central Hill in 1901 He was the new Musical Director at the Crystal Palace after August Manns.  He died from pneumonis at a Streatham nursing home at the age of 68.  He has been the musical director of the Crystal Palace for over 30 years.  …

    Wentworth, Lady Fannie (1853-1878)

    Lived in Essex Cottage on Central Hill at the time of her death on July 13th, 1878 She was the first wife of Lord Byron’s grandson Ralph Gordon Noel King-Milbanke, 13th Baron Wentworth, later 2nd Earl of Lovelace. Born Fannie Heriot in 1852, she was th …

    William Frederick Curtis (1810 – 1882)

    Lived at Rose Cottage, Central Hill in 1881 He was born on May 4th 1810 in Wanstead, Essex in England.  He was the son of Timothy Abraham Curtis and Harriet Margaret (Green) Curtis.  He Had five sisters and three brothers. He married Johanna Jacobina d …

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The Convent of the Faithful Virgin, Upper Norwood

The Convent, with its Presbytery, schools and Orphanage, had an adventurous experience. We gather from notes of the diary of Father Larkin, who has kindly allowed us to use them, that:September, 1939, the children were evacuated and an  A.R.P. post was established at the school, but the usual return came and, a month later in 1940, the A.R.P. post was given up and the school re-opened; but the orphanage was occupied by N.A.A.F.I.

In September, 1940, a bomb fell in the Convent quadrangle, doing no damage, but as a result the old and infirm nuns were evacuated. In November the Chapel windows were badly shaken. In May, 1941, bombs on both sides of the Church  did no serious damage. The Parish members now went down steadily, ” all young people gone-army or W.A.A.F.”

In 1942 the school was itself again, with 232 children, but on one occasion there was minor damage to Church and school. In 1944, after minor damage from bombs on Central Hill and Crown Dale on June 29th a Spitfire turned a flying bomb and caused it to fall between the Presbytery and the Convent, destroying the Presbytery and doing much damage to windows, doors, roof-timbers and slates, and in the Convent leaving only the walls of the east wing intact. But by the Sunday the Church interior had been sufficiently cleaned to allow Mass to be said; in fact Mass was said daily in spite of conditions; parishioners made the Church secure, with continuance of lighting, and window spaces filled; they” ,stuck it even when umbrellas had to be raised in Church.” At the worst time the numbers fell to 145, but the year’s average was 33.