Today Grange Road stretches from the High Street Thornton Heath to Beulah Hill but originally it was only the part north of Grange Road that had this name, the section in Upper Norwood. In the middle of the C19th most of the slopes of Beulah Hill were still wooded and the area west of this road was part of the grounds of Beulah Spa.
After the Spa closed it was put up for auction in May 1858 and bought by Frederick Horne. At the time of the sale the northern end of Grange Road was gated at its junction with Beulah Hill. Horne had the Lawns, a grand villa, built for his family in 1860 in the grounds of the estate. He then parcelled up and leased out, on 100 year leases, the higher ground to the east of Sylvan Road along the margins of Beulah Hill and to the west of Grange Road. With panoramic views over Croydon it is not surprising that these building plots would be attractive to prospective house-builders and building began almost at once with Grange Lodge in 1861, now number 361 Grange Road but then number two. Grange Mount, at the junction of Grange Road and Beulah Hill, was not built until 1868 from which time it was occupied by John Simms Reeves until he was forced to sell up and retire to the coast in 1895.
Maps and Land Ownership
Sadly all but one of the original 10 Victorian Villas built on Grange Road have been destroyed. Even that one, The Roses originally number 8 and now renamed Grange Court 255 has been drastically altered so that even those occupants of the flats it has been converted into are unaware of its origins. Its roof has been removed and external doors and windows replaced. In its hey day it would probably have looked like Mavis Bank.
Significant Street Buildings
THE IMPACT OF WW2 BOMB DAMAGE ON GRANGE ROAD AND SURROUNDING ROADS
The attack on Croydon Aerodrome 15 August 1940 heralded the beginning of the Blitz on Britain. During the Blitz over 2,700 high explosive bombs fell on Croydon, including 44 weighing over 500lbs, nine landmines and 94 oil bombs. Together they destroyed 1,200 dwellings. The bombing was its most intense during the period September 1940 till March 1941 after which time the Luftwaffe switched targets from London to the major ports in an effort to stop the import of food..
During the blitz on London delayed action bombs fell in the gardens of 349 Grange Road, 18 Kingslyn Crescent, and 128 Beauchamp Road. High explosive devices fell on number 32 Grangecliffe Gardens, wrecking it and damaging surrounding houses. On the nursery gardens in Grangewood damaging green houses. On 347 Grange Road wrecking it and damaging numbers 312 to 350, 349 to 353 and the windows of the shops numbers 292 to 300. An oil bomb fell at the junction of Spa Hill and Beulah Hill.
High explosive bombs falling in one night in one night in 1940.
During one night in November 1940 a German aeroplane was thought to have been hit by anti aircraft fire as it flew over the northern end of Grangewood Park as a result dropping its bombs randomly across the area. Four fell on houses in Annsworthy Crescent wrecking six houses, numbers 30 to 35 a further one made a direct hit on an Anderson shelter in the garden of number 35 and several others fell nearby in the roadway damaging gas, water and electricity supplies leaving craters in the road Further bombs fell outside of number 234 Mersham Road damaging the houses to either side and on number 47 Lenham Road.
As the war dragged on and Britain stood undefeated Hitler gave top priority to a long range weapon project. A few days after the D-Day landings the first V-weapons, known in German as Vergeltungswaffen “retaliatory weapons”, were launched on 13 June 1944 from northern France.
Croydon was badly hit by flying bombs ‘Vengeance’ weapons falling during 1944 and 1945. More fell on the borough of Croydon than any other borough in the country. The bombs killed 211 people, seriously injured 697 and slightly injured 1,277. More than 54,000 houses received damage, almost three quarters of the housing stock of the borough, of which 1,400 were completely destroyed. (V1 and V2 Statistics).
A V1 rocket, number 83, fell 12 July 1944 at 21.18 on houses at the northern end of Grange Road. The Borough Engineer filed the following report:
- Flying (83)
- Direct hit on no. 341 Grange Road, demolishing this property and Nos. 337, 339 and 343. 335, Grange Road unstable.
- Flats – Hilltop Court, and No. 288, Grange Road are partially unstable.
- 278 to 284 (even) and Nos. 290 to 300 (even) Grange Road; Nos. 1 and 3, Kingslyn Crescent, and Nos. 20 to 28 (even) Beauchamp Road are seriously damaged.
- Blast damage to houses within 400 yards radius.
C E Boast, Borough Engineer (Boast, Report on Air Raid, 1944).
Overall the lower density of housing in Upper Norwood, such as the area of villas in the north of Grange Road meant that fewer deaths resulted from V1 rockets than in the surrounding areas of Thornton Heath and South Norwood. A total of 18 people died in London SE19 and Grange Road had more than its share of death and destruction! No V2s fell on this part of Croydon.
After the war most of the houses that had been only constructed just before the war were repaired or rebuilt in the same form. Now it is very difficult to spot any differences between them and their less or undamaged neighbours. Roof tiles can be indicative as undamaged ones were often reused and thus stood out among the newer ones. However as roofs are replaced even these clues are vanishing. See, for example the photographs of 288 Grange Road taken July 1944 and May 2018.
The earlier Edwardian houses, even those not totally destroyed were replaced with more modern designs and stand out in an inharmonious way, such as 232 – 236 Mersham Road.
Hillthorp was the only Victorian Villa badly damaged and was replaced with three blocks of flats in keeping in style with the 1930s terraced houses nearby and renamed Hill Top Court.
Boast, C. E. (1944, August 4). Air Raid Report. Croydon, UK: Croydon Borough Council.
Boast, C. E. (1944, July 12). Report on Air Raid. Borough Air Raid reports . Croydon, UK: Croydon Borough Council.
V1 and V2 Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2018, from Flying Bombs and Rockets: http://www.flyingbombsandrockets.com/stats_summary.html