Characterised by 3 and 4 storey Victorian houses built in the 1870s and 1880s on land from the Essex Lodge Estate on Central Hill. Later housing was erected in 1928, 1954, 1980 and 2013.
Maps and Land Ownership
Maps and LandownershipCroydon Enclosure Map The 1808 Croydon Enclosure Map shows the location of Central Hill that borders Lambeth Parish. The location of Mary Nesbitt’s land is now the site of Virgo Fidelis School and the parcel of land owned by the Whitgift ‘Hospital’ is likely to be the location of Rockmount and other roads descending from Central Hill.
From the 1800 Croydon Enclosure MapThe Croydon Tithe Map The 1837 Tithe Map and Award for Croydon show where Rockmount Road and Essex Grove were located in plot 3987. This was described as a pleasure ground and day office, owned by ‘Hospital’ – referring to the Whitgift Hospital and occupied by R. Hamilton. It can therefore be concluded that the land on which Rockmount Road was to be built was owned by the Archbishop of Canterbury at this time.
1837 Tithe Map for Croydon
Essex Lodge and the Truscott EstateBy 1852 Essex cottage and adjoining Lodge had been built. It was from the Essex Lodge estate that Rockmount and adjoining roads were to be built. Elizabeth Louisa Dee in ‘Memories of Norwood since 1852’ sent by her great-great-granddaughter to All Saints Church in June 1985 describes: “Two cottages called Central Hill Cottages, which have been enlarged, but are not much different in appearance abut a narrow lane, through which cows were driven down to their sheds. Fields again till you came to Essex Lodge, now altered into two houses, then occupied by Mr. Truscott, where we got milk before nine in the morning at one penny per quart. The site of Essex Grove and Rockmount Road were then fields, a portion of the Truscott Estate. Next was rough ground with a very high building, only outer walls and rafters, no floor boards or roof, standing upon it spoken of as ‘the old carcass’ (one of my brothers climbed up to the top rafter and fell to the bottom but did not hurt himself). All the boys in the neighbourhood used to make it a play place and see how they could best one another by jumping from the windows and doors. After a while it was finished and opened as a public house called “The Lion”, the landlord being a Mr. Bard and the builder Mr. Masters, who also built the Crystal Palace Hotel, at the corner of Church Road.i Another recollection of the area by W.T Phillips “Norwood in Days of Old. The Personal Recollections of an Old Inhabitant” reprinted from the Norwood Press in 1912 state: Without stepping too far out of bounds – it is not my intention nor is it within my knowledge, to speak of Upper Norwood (and the south side of Central Hill is therein embraced) – I may say that I remember nothing but meadows below Essex Lodge, and above were not more than three or four villas. The colony of New Town was not in existence and the recently formed Hermitage Road might be the habitation of a recluse.ii James Truscott (1804-1858) came from Cornwall to London in or around 1828. He had been an apprentice printer to Mr Carthew of Truro. He was extremely talented and worked his way up through the printing business to become the owner of one of the largest printing and book binding businesses. iii He started his business in Friar Street but as it expanded and moved to Great Surrey Street and then Fleet Street. His company eventually became the sole printer and stationer for the Royal Exchange Assurance.iv He became a Councillor of the City of London. In Norwood he acted as a churchwarden and was chairman of the Anerley National School board and was about to become a County Magistrate when he was taken ill. By 1851 the family had moved from Southwark to Essex Lodge and James, who had been described in 1841 as a printer, was now recorded in the census as a gentleman, an employer and a landowner of 10 acres. The family employed a governess for their three daughters who were living at home and a servant. He died in 1858. His widow, Louisa, and their daughters Emily, Charlotte and Louisa were still living in Essex Lodge in 1861. By 1881 Louisa (1805-1886) was living at Burton Dassett, a house near Tivoli Park on Knight’s Hill, West Norwood, the home where she died in 1886.
Sir Francis Wyatt Truscott (1824-1895), Lord Mayor of London (1879-1880)Sir Francis Wyatt Truscott (1824-1895), James’s son, was Lord Mayor of London (1879-1880). Sir Francis’s son, George (1857-1941), was also Lord Mayor from 1908 to 1909 and was the 1st Baronet Truscott of Oakleigh. The family firm merged with two other businesses and this firm Brown Knight & Truscott Ltd, still exists and is based in Tunbridge Wells. Other occupants of Essex Lodge On 22 February 1867 a son Samuel Montagu (1867-1929) was born at Essex Lodge to Commander John De Courcy Agnew (1819-1916) and his second wife, Patricia Elizabeth (1828-1870) nee Dowbiggin. Commander Agnew was the second son of the 7th Baronet Agnew of Lochnaw (1793-1849). The 7th baronet was a Scottish politician and drew the criticism of Charles Dickens because of his views on the observation of the Sabbath. In 1871 Essex Lodge was occupied by Walter John Reed a schoolmaster. He ran a boarding school on the site. The school had 26 pupils. The school was advertised as the Essex Lodge Collegiate School offering a first class education, a “most liberal table“ on moderate terms, occupying six acres and having “the advantage of town and country, home and school are here combined.”v
Essex Lodge Estate in June 1868 – from auction particulars issued by Mssrs. Blake, Son , & Haddock
The Essex Lodge 1868 sales particularsThe particulars offer a detailed description of layout. The ground floor had a hall, glazed corridor from the entrance, lofty dining room 26 feet by 14 feet with a bay window, a handsome and lofty drawing room 32 feet by 18 feet with a sculptured chimney piece and bay window with steps to the garden. A library 22 feet 3 inches by 10 feet 3 inches opening into a conservatory 30 feet in depth heated with hot water. A morning room with two marble chimney pieces. A footman’s pantry and a water closet. The basement had a bedroom, hall, larder, pantry, servants’ hall, coal and wine cellars, scullery, force pump, a kitchen opening onto a small enclosed yard where there was a slate cistern for rainwater, 2 water closets with an iron cistern over them. The enclosed yard had four stable stalls, a coach house, 3 rooms and loft with outbuildings for cows, poultry and garden purposes, forcing pit, a pump and well. The grounds had a garden, orchard and meadow land studded with ornamental timber and planted with choice fruit trees and shrubs. Did the Essex Lodge land belong to the Truscott Family who claimed this in a will or did it belong to the see of Canterbury? 18.2.1872 Ecclesiatical Commission/Sir Wyatt Truscott of Portland Place, London Edward Simons of Shoe Lane, London and Edward Trewbody Carlyon of Truso trustees of the will of James Truscott late of Essex Lodge in Parish of Croydon reciting will of 4.9.1858 proved 22.12.1858 and reciting that part of land to be conveyed is in ownership of trustees as part of Essex Lodge estate but Commissioners contend that it was conveyed to the See of Canterbury by conveyance of 10.8.52 between Charles Drummond/The Hon Emily Eden spinster and Rt, Hon and Rt. Rev. Lord Auckland Lord Bishop of Sodar and Man/Charles Drummon and the Honorary Mary Dulcibella Drummond his wife and said Robert John Lord Auckland and Hon. Emily Eden/Rt. Hon Henry Thomas Earl of Chichester John George Shaw Lefevre and R. Hon Henry Gouburn M. P. Church Estate Commissioners – conveyance to trustees “north-west portion of present school (Rockmount) site – plan shows water course between land conveyed and cottages belonging to Mr. Wood (present No 47 Eagle Hill. 22.3.1881 Croydon School Board/Ecclesiastical Commissioners conveyance to Comms of land on east side of Harold Road containing two rods, (site of present Nos 68, 70 and 72 Harold Road. 22.3.1881 Earle Bird of Park House Selhurst Road William Henry Miles Booty and Alfred Baycliffe both of Raymond Buildings Grays Inn/Croydon School Board – conveyance of land situated at Upper Norwood (lately pt. off Essex Lodge Estate) bounded north by Spa Road (present Eagle Hill) partly by a newly formed road called Orleans Road south-east partly by a new road called or intended to be called Rockmount Road and in part by end of Orleans Road subject to parties of the first part making roads within six months from Haynes Lane across and along Gatestone Road and road not yet named and part of Harold Road to point D on the plan (Bedwardine Road and part of Harold Road from Haynes Lane to Chevening Road) and along Orleans Road and part of Rockmount Road between points E and F (present Rockmount Road). Courtesy of B. Cheeseman (Whitgift Archives) Map showing houses built by 1894 in Rockmount Road Map showing the location of houses in Rockmount Road in 1933
- 1851 James Truscott and his family moved to Essex Lodge on Central Hill- includes land on which Rockmount Road is built
- 1861 Louisa wife of James Truscott and three daughters lived at Essex Lodge
- 1868 Truscott family sell Essex Lodge through auction
- 1871 Essex Lodge was occupied by Walter John Reed and run as a boarding school with 26 pupils known as Essex Lodge Collegiate School
- 1878 Mr Earle Bird, landowner of the former Essex Lodge Truscott Estate, was granted permission by the Croydon Board of Health to build Rockmount Road with sewers and drains. The Croydon Board of Heath, General Purpose Committee in May 1878, formally approved the building of the first group of houses, numbers 1 to 9.
- 1879 Numbers 1-13, 25-33, 2-36 were built by William Drown and John Dice built numbers 2-24 Houses began to be occupied.
- 1881 Occupants – 31% male, 69% female
- 1881 Von Bibra Family lived at 32 Rockmount Road – Franz was a tutor to the illegitimate children of William IV. Edward Moorhead lived at 2 Rockmount Road – won medals as army surgeon in Indian Mutiny. William David Finlayson lived at 14 Rockmount Road and served in the Royal Army Service Corps in the First World War. William W Cross lived at 17 Rockmount Road – won a British Star Medal for serving in the Royal Field Artillery Section in the First World War
- 1882 Rockmount Road Infants School was built on land owned by Mr Earle Bird
- 1883 – 4 Alfred Nixon lived at Bracondale, Rockmount Road – record breaking Land’s End to John O’Groats tricyclist
- 1884 William Drown buys Rockmount Road land from Earle Bird and was listed as the owner of houses he then leased or sold in the road
- 1891 Occupants – 34% male, 66% female
- 1891 – 4 Alfred Hollins lived at 3 Rockmount Road – world renowned blind organist. Ernest Edwin Buckland lived at 7 Rockmount Road – won the British Star Medal for his work in the Mechanical Transport Section of the Royal Army Service Corps in the First World War. Frederick George William Newbery lived at 21 Rockmount Road – was Lieutenant Naval Commander in the First World War
- 1900 -1903 Building and opening of St Margaret’s Church, Upper Norwood
- 1901 Occupants – 35% male, 65% female
- 1901 Reginald Victor Buckland lived at 10 Rockmount Road – won the British Star Medal in the Royal Army Service Corps in the First World War
- 1911 Occupants 39% male, 61% female
- 1911 Annie Louise Farmer lived at 21 Rockmount Road – Editor of the Norwood Review. Nathaniel Kettle lived at 22 Rockmount Road and was involved in a terrible accident on the North Kent Railway
- 1928 Numbers 35 – 41 houses added
- 1933 Mike Conrad lived at 6 Rockmount Road – local graphic artist
- 1940 The back of 19 Rockmount Road was wrecked due to bomb damage and similar damage to numbers 17 and 18
- 1941 The front of 40 Rockmount Road was damaged and the front of 30 Rockmount Road was unstable due to bomb damage. There was also window damage recorded for numbers 25 to 41 and 30 to 36.
- 1954 Numbers 15-23 five houses with garages added
- 1980 Numbers 38 and 40 were built
- 2013 1d new detached house built
Building of the street
Building started in 1878 and houses were being occupied from 1879. These Victorian houses remain today, on the east side from nos. 1 to 13 and 25 to 33, and on the western side uninterrupted from no. 2 to no. 36. A block of four houses, nos. 35 to 41 were added in 1928 at the end of the east side of the road. In the 1950s new houses, nos. 15 to 23, replaced those that had been demolished due to bomb damage. Two houses were added to the west side in the 1980s, nos. 38 and 40, on the site of former Victorian properties. The most recent house to be built in the road is no. 1d in 2013.
The development of Rockmount Road
|House number(s)||No. of houses||Builder||Permission to build|
|1 to 9||5||William Drown||30 April 1878|
|2 to 24||12||John Dice||15 August 1878|
|11 to 21||6||William Drown||15 January 1879|
|26 to 40||8||William Drown||4 July 1879|
|23 to 33||6||William Drown||24 July 1880|
|35 to 41||4 plus garage||Len Marriage||7 July 1928|
|Depot and ARP Centre||13 July 1939|
|15 to 23||5 with garages||8 October 1954|
|38 and 40||2||1981|
Construction of Rockmount Road and Sewers
In March 1878 the Croydon Board of Health Roads committee were discussing the layout of the road itself and the sewage arrangements. The surveyor reported to the meeting that:
Mr. E. Bird, of Selhurst, submits the level of three roads on the Essex-lodge estate, Central-hill, Upper Norwood, propose to be called Rockmount-road, Theban-road, and Troy-road, each 40-ft wide, with sewers and surface water drains shown to be laid. The application is an important one as it involves the alteration of the course of the Effra Valley Sewer in our district. This sewer crosses this estate in an awkward line for making a road over it, and Mr. Bird proposes re-laying it under a new road for which he will soon ask the Board to fix the levels, &c. The new sewer to be 15-in. instead of 12-in. as at present, and the present application asks for the sewer to be sanctioned from Spa-road to Rockmount-road. The surface water hitherto flowed down to the hollow of the land, and a 24-in. culvert is proposed on the line of the new road as for Rockmount-road.
The committee recommend that the consent of the Board to be given to the formation of the three roads in question.
The Croydon Board of Heath, General Purpose Committee in May 1878, formally approved the building of the first group of houses, numbers 1 to 9. The application for permission to build these was recorded on 30 April 1878.
Earle Bird (1828-1905)
Bird was involved in the construction of the road itself and the sewers. He was also a wealthy landowner and landlord and provided, at a cost, the land for Rockmount School. The school had originally been planned to be built on Harold Road but was not built there due to objections by local landowners.
In January 1881 Bird was involved in new roads in the area. The Road Surveyor reported that:
Messrs. R. B. Grantham and Son on behalf of Mr. E. Bird, submits plans and sections for four new roads proposed to be carried out between Rockmount-road, and Harold-road, Upper Norwood. These roads are all to be 40 feet in width, and are intended to be called Orleans-road, Rockmount–road, and Vernont-road respectively. The details of construction as regards the metal are in every way satisfactory. The steepest gradient, viz., 1 in 18, is unavoidable.
His role, seen from his viewpoint, in building the school is mention in his letter to the General Purpose Committee dated 11 March 1882:
I have already made great sacrifices to get rid of the school from one of these roads. I took their first proposed site at a high price, and then gave them a half acre of land free, and also a wall that cost me £130 building, so that I am out of pocket with expenses and one thing and another £1,200 to £1,400: besides this – since the School Board has come there, I am now losing a thousand a year in rents through houses that have fallen into by my hands, and the only means of now letting the houses is by lowering the rents £10 to £15 per house.
His letter generated a response sent to the Norwood News the following week from the landlord of a public house in the New Town district that borders Rockmount Road:
SIR _ I trust to your well-known sense of justice and fair play to give me an opportunity, as a leaseholder and ratepayer of the Newtown, of stating how that long suffering neighbourhood has been served by Mr. Bird and other speculative builders.
When I first commenced business in Newton, about 14 years ago, we had outlets to Beulah Hill and Central Hill, but an enterprising builder some six or seven years ago succeeded in depriving us of the right of way to Beulah Hill, and we had to be content with a vague promise that we should have another outlet in place of the one we had lost.
When Rockmount-road was made, at the ratepayers’ cost, we thought we had reached the end of our imprisonment, as the road was brought to within a dozen yards of our doors. But Mr. Bird soon dispelled our hopes, by building a concrete wall ten feet high across the end of the road, so as to shut off the humble cottages at the bottom of Newtown from the view of his tenants, and also to prevent the inhabitants of those cottages from profaning Rockmount-road by passing through it.
He then gave the School Board the piece of land next to the wall on which to build a school, thinking they would make the entrance into Newtown, but as by doing so they would be trespassing on freehold property, his little scheme has miscarried, and now the matter stands thus; – If Mr., Bird will allow the inhabitants of Newtown an outlet into Rockmount-road, the owners of the freehold will consent to the school entrances being made on to their property, and will be willing to put up with the nuisance it will occasion, but if Mr. Bird remains obstinate there is no other alternative but to make the entrances in to Rockmount-road.
Mr. Bird makes a whining appeal to the Local Board, and to the public for sympathy, but it seems to me that he is only reaping the reward of his own selfish conduct in shutting up the householders of Newtown in a kind of sack, putting them to great inconvenience, and seriously affecting business and property of all kinds.
By kindly inserting this you will give the public an opportunity of judging as to how the matter really stands.
I remain, dear Sir,
The Fox under the Hill
Newtown, Upper Norwood.
In May 1882 the Roads Committee confirmed that Rockmount Road be adopted as a parish road on the payment of £400 by Mr. Bird and on condition he provide the clay for the repair of the road.
In 1884 both Bird and Drown made substantial donations for a temporary church in nearby South Vale. Bird donated £50, and Drown £10, to the St. Michael and All Angels Removal and Enlargement Fund.
Bird was born in Langham, Norfolk and in 1881 was living at Park House, Selhurst Road. Bird died in Brighton in 1905. He was the founder of a south London gentleman’s club, The Brixton Club.
The houses in Rockmount Road were first occupied from 1879. An advertisement appeared in The Standard newspaper in April 1879 offering for sale by auction on Friday 16 May 1879 freehold and leasehold properties “four well built semi-detached houses in the best part of Central Hill, Upper Norwood, and two in Rockmount Road.”
In June 1879 another advertisement appears for a “very fine corner residence; contains six very fine bedrooms, three very fine reception, billiard, bath, &c, rent 90l: also smaller others at 45l, – apply on the Premises to W Drown, Rockmount Road, Central Hill, Upper Norwood.” Given the size of the first property advertised this might have been the present day 1 High View Road which stands at the corner of Rockmount Road.
William Drown (1839 -1932)
William Drown was the main builder of Rockmount Road, constructing all the houses on the east side of the road , numbers 1 to 33, and numbers 26 to 40 on the west side. He was advertising again in March 1880 houses in “Crystal Palace (close to and free from fogs)…apply on the premises, to W. Drown, builder, Rockmount Road, Upper Norwood.” William Drown was born in Brentor in September 1839, on the edge of Dartmoor, the son of a blacksmith. At 21 his profession was listed as a joiner and he moved to London on marrying Britannia Eliza Willmott on 17 October 1864 at St Martins in the Field. The family lived in north London before moving to Brixton where he was living when Rockmount Road was developed. The family by 1911 had moved to Carshalton and Drown was still employing people at the age of 71. He died in Epsom in 1932.
In 1882 Drown and the other local builders strongly opposed the erection of signs at the top of Rockmount Road advertising the existence of the Board School. He wrote the following letter to the Croydon Local Board of Health:
I understand that at your Board’s last committee meeting, it was proposed that two-sign posts should be put up at the top of Rockmount and Harold roads, with the way to the Board School written thereon. In these two roads I have between 40 and 50 houses, a great many of which are now empty. Before the Board School came there I could let my houses; now the only way I can let them is by reducing the rents. I am a hard working man with a large family, and if you allow these notices to be erected, it will prevent people from looking much more taking them. I have suffered enough already, and if you allow this to be done I am simply a ruined man. I am sure, gentlemen, there is no need for these as every child in the locality knows it already. If the school people have no consideration for me, I humbly beg to be protected by you.
I am, Gentlemen,
“ Your obedient servant,
John Dice (1839-1912)
John Dice was the builder of numbers 2 to 24 Rockmount Road on the west side of the road. Permission to build these houses was granted to him in the summer of 1878.
Dice was born in Bethnal Green on 27 February 1839, the son of a shoemaker. He married Margaret Lyndsay Mitchell on Boxing Day 1858 at the Church of St Mary, Newington.
At the time Dice built houses in Rockmount Road he was living in Brixton.
Croydon Council Planning Application, 3178, 1-9 Rockmount Road SE19, April 30, 1878
Croydon Council Planning Application 3176, 2-24 Rockmount Road SE19, August 15, 1878
Croydon Council Planning Application 3992, 11-21 Rockmount Road SE19, January 15, 1879
Croydon Council Planning Application 3993, 26-40 Rockmount Road, July 4, 1879
Croydon Council Planning Application 3785, 23-33 Rockmount Road, July 4, 1880
Croydon Council Planning Application 21453, 35-41 Rockmount Road, July 7, 1928
Croydon Council Planning Application 39/504, Combined Depot and A R P Centre, July 13, 1939
Croydon Council Planning Application 54/1134/54/1293, 15-23 Rockmount Road,
8 October 1954
Croydon Council Planning Application for Former Council Depot, Rockmount Road, SE19, 10 October, 1981
Harold Road Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan, Croydon Council, 2014
Norwood News, 18 May, 1878, P5
Norwood News, 18 May 1878, p5
Norwood News, 22 January 1881, p6
Here he is referring to Harold Road
Norwood News, 18 March 1882, p5
Norwood News, 25 March 1882, p5
Norwood News, 27 May 1882, p6
Norwood News, 26 April 1884, p4
South London Press ,19 March 1892, p7
The Standard 19, April 1879, p8
The Standard, 30 June 1879, p7
The Standard, 16 March 1880, p8
] Norwood News, 18 March 1882, p5
The Harold Road Conservation Plan
Refer to more general description in Norwood Area section of the website on the Geography/Topography and Architecture of this area
The buildings within Rockmount Road, Essex Grove and High View Road are of the same age as the buildings in the Harold Road Conservation Area and were constructed between 1868 and 1890. They have many features in common with the properties that lie within the Harold Road Conservation Area. They make a significant contribution towards the local character of the area in terms of their architectural features and also their layout and scale which have a high townscape value.
The architectural character of the Harold Road Conservation Area is defined by the strikingly well-preserved collection of late Victorian architecture that lines its streets. Houses are designed in a mix of Queen Anne, Classical, Domestic Revival, developed from the gothic Revival, and Arts and Crafts styles. They display a high level of craftsmanship and attention to detail
There are two main periods of architecture represented by groupings of buildings, mid-19th century buildings on Central Hill and South Vale, and the prominent collection of villas from the 1880s and 1890s on Harold Road and other streets such as Rockmount Road in the conservation area. These streets consist of groups of identical or similar buildings, likely to have been constructed by the same developers.
The side and rear elevations of buildings are often visible from streets within the conservation area and are often also carefully designed with distinctive detailing and features.
Rockmount Road is comprised of three-story semi-detached Victorian villas with basements, located on a hill. The properties have steeply pitched roofs, which contribute to the townscape by providing a pleasing rhythm of chevrons descending along the street. The majority of the properties include original architectural features including bargeboards, moulded window surrounds, decorative cast ironwork boundary treatments, arched windows and decorative brickwork.
Key architectural features listed in the Harold Road Conservation area include street-facing gables, London stock brick/red brick, prominent decorative chimney stacks with clay pots, prominent recessed arched doorways, hardwood timbered doors with glazing panels, decorative brickwork detailing, including soldier courses, bay windows, timber sash windows, intricate window frames of bespoke designs, stone/stucco detailing, natural slate roofs.
Only part of the eastern side of Rockmount Road is located within the conservation area. The layout of this section of the conservation area is distinctive with a number of plots being subdivided and developed. Number 1d Rockmount Road built in 2913 forms part of Essex Mews. The use of the plot does not preserve or enhance the conservation area, the materials and massing lacks uniformity and rhythm compared to the rest of the properties on Rockmount Road.
20th Century Buildings of Rockmount Road
21st Century buildings – 1d Rockmount Road
Only part of the eastern side of Rockmount Road is located within the conservation area. The layout of this section of the conservation area is distinctive with a number of plots being subdivided and developed. Number 1d Rockmount Road built in 2913 forms part of Essex Mews. The use of the plot does not preserve or enhance the conservation area, the materials and massing lacks uniformity and rhythm compared to the rest of the properties on Rockmount Road.
Essex Mews set back from Central Hill is a particularly fine example of a mews development that complements the conservation area with some high-quality contemporary architecture built of an appropriate scale using high quality materials. Numbers 1 and 2 Essex Mews both date to the late 19th century, the former being a converted stable block. Numbers 3 and 4 and 1d Rockmount Road are a modern infill and backland development of three detached dwellings.
5 Rockmount Road – pre modernisation in October 1999 Courtesy of R. Hibberd
Harold Road Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Plan. Draft Supplementary Planning Document. Croydon Council. Issued at Cabinet 17 November 2014 for public consultation from 26th January – 9 March. http://www.croydon.gov.uk/planningan-dregeneration/framework/conservation/ conservation-areas/
Harold Road Conservation Area Appraisal Management Plan Draft Supplementary Planning Document, Croydon Council, 17th November, 2014
Significant Street Buildings
On 28 December 1879 what was probably Rockmount Road’s first baby arrived at No. 8, Thomas Robert Allt, son of Louisa Jane Allt (1851-) and Charles E Allt (1834-1880). Thomas Robert was baptised at Christ Church, Gipsy Hill on 10 July 1880. He returned to Rockmount Road as no.8 was given, as his address on the granting of administration to his mother following is death on 10 February 1929.
The houses in Rockmount Road were first occupied from 1879. The 1880 Street Directory covers numbers 1 to 15 and 2 to 8 inclusive. The 1881 census show households at numbers 1 to 17 and 2 to 34. By 1882 the Street Directory gives residents at 1 to 27 and 2 to 40. By 1894 three further numbers have been added to the odd numbered houses, 29, 31 and 33.
Table 1 – Age profile of Rockmount Road residents from census returns
|Age profile||Under 5||7||10||8||14|
|5 to 15||9||27||28||36|
|16 to 21||13||18||31||22|
|22 to 30||21||20||28||23|
|31 to 40||12||32||25||22|
|41 to 50||20||9||26||23|
|51 to 60||6||14||17||19|
|61 to 70||3||10||8||14|
|71 to 80||4||5||8||3|
Of the 1881 residents 88% were born in the UK and Ireland. Three were born in France, two each in Australia and the East Indies and one each in Germany, Portugal, Spain and the West Indies.
Of the 96 residents one in four was a servant. Other occupations included an architect, a clergyman, an indigo merchant, an organist, and a professor of French, a publisher and a retired surgeon.
The UK and Ireland born had fallen to 82% of the total. Of these 98% were born in England of whom 48% were born in the London area. Five residents had been born in Gibraltar and Guyana respectively. Four were born in India, three in the East Indies and two in France. One each had started life in Switzerland, Spain, Germany and the West Indies. One person had been born at sea.
By 1891 the proportion of servants had fallen from 25% to 14% of the total residents. Occupations included the teachers at Rockmount School, a straw Plait importer, an amber merchant, a civil engineer, a confectioner, a solicitor’s clerk, a surgeon, a professor of French and a house decorator. Some of those who had retired had their former occupations recorded and these included a goldsmith, naval officer.
The UK and Ireland born portion increased from the 1891to the 87% mark, however the English portion was fewer at 88%. Four residents had been born in each of these countries or territories: Germany, Jamaica, and St Helena. Three had started life in Guernsey and India and one each in British Honduras, Italy, and France.
The portion of servants had fallen again, now twenty servants lived in the road, 11% of the total occupants. The occupations were beginning to take on a more artisan flavor and included a tailor, silk mercer, dairyman, milliner and plumber.
Table 2 – Census returns analysed by gender
The UK and Ireland born portion increased slightly from the 1901 to the 90% mark, and the English portion was also higher at 94% of whom 63% had been born in the London area. Five residents had been born in Burma, four in India, there in France, two in New Zealand and one in Jersey.
Only 10 servants worked in the homes of Rockmount Road by 1911, 6% of the total. A very new occupation appears on the list, a motor-car fitter. Other occupations included two chauffeurs, carpenters, a telephone engineer and a shorthand typist.
 The Pall Mall Gazette 31 December 1879 Issue 4635 p3
 Kelly’s Street Directory for Croydon, 1882
 1881 Census for Rockmount Road
 Kelly’s Street Directory for Croydon, 1882
 Ward’s Street Directory for Croydon, 1894
Mike Conrad (1933- )
Courtesy of Mike Conrad September 2018
The following extract is from Mike’s memoir of living at 4 and 6 Rockmount Road
I was born in 1933 in a nursing home on Knights Hill.
My parents lived at No 6 Rockmount Road. They rented the bottom half of the house. We lived on the ground floor and the hall floor. Bill and Freda Ware lived on the top two floors. There was no flat conversion as such. Bill and Freda came in the front door and went upstairs and we came in the front door and went along and down. We had two living rooms, one with a kitchen range, the other only used on special occasions. We had a kitchen/scullery, an outside loo and no bathroom. The sink in the scullery was used for preparing food, personal hygiene and drowning rats my father caught in cages. Wow, where was health and safety then? We had two good-sized bedrooms and one smaller (later converted to a bathroom). No 6 is still today the only house in Rockmount Road that is pebble dashed. The reason for this was many years later my father bought the house and decided if he was to one day sell it he had to hide the awful brickwork.
The recreation ground was one of my happiest play area (my teacher at school said “you do not call it the rec, there is no wreck”). The park had a bandstand, an elegant marble drinking fountain and many quite dense shrubberies where hide and seek could be played and was popular with courting couples. A tributary of the River Effra surfaced as small springs, which was great for creating dams and streams. At the Harold Road end of the park was a reservoir which was skated on in the winter. There was an annual fairground which ended when a serious incident occurred one year. Being at the bottom of my road it was a perfect adventure playground at a time when simple pleasures were all we knew.
My other great playground was at the top of Rockmount Road. The top fifty yards of the road stretching across to Essex Grove was a completely wild area, densely wooded and quite dark in the centre. There were just the remains of an arched stone gate suggesting a sizeable residence at one stage. Here we formed a gang called the ‘Bengal Lancers’, someone must have been inspired by some adventure story I guess. Our lances sported little pennants made from school football shirts (How did we get those I wonder?) and we paraded in a very dignified manner. All a bit ridiculous really as the terrain was not suited to such a regiment. There was a rival gang in New Town and they raided us one day and overran our camp. We retreated to the other side of Central Hill, hiding behind the hedges of the big houses there. This area at the top of Rockmount now sports two blocks of flats.
I was evacuated to Kettering but a surprise visit from my father resulted in my being brought home as he considered I was in more danger in Kettering. So I returned to the excitement of the doodlebugs and V2 rockets. One day out with the lads I was pushed down the cellar stairs of a demolished house. I was quite scared and could see nothing until one of the boys removed the coalhole cover. Then as I climbed the stairs I saw a fencing foil hanging on the wall. I came up triumphant brandishing the foil (later swopped for a new invention the biro). Naturally all the boys were now keen to explore the cellar. There were no more treasures but a great bunch of wires hung from the ceiling and when poked with a broom handle produced an amazing firework display. We quite regularly returned to the cellar to show off our display to new recruits. These visits always coincided with power cuts in the area. I don’t think we realized how near to death we all were.
After the war my father worked as a journeyman at Smithfield Market. He often took me to work with him at 5 a.m. in the morning where we started our day at the Cock Inn drinking tea. I struggled pushing barrows with crates of rabbits etc and think I was really a disappointment to my Dad. At home my Dad kept rabbits and chickens in the garden and he also took over the bombsites in Rockmount Road to further his poultry interests. He fenced where three houses had been and kept one hundred cockerels there. The neighbours complained to the council about the potential noise and we had to caponize the beasts to stop them crowing. This was done with a syringe with a steel hollow needle being put in the neck of each bird and a capsule being injected. They then settled for a quiet, but lack-lustre life and got fat. It didn’t end there. I also had to sit with Dad and ring their necks when duly fattened. His next move was to take over another vacant plot at the bottom of Rockmount Road next to the council yard, again at a peppercorn rent. Here he succeeded in getting the chickens to sit on and hatch turkey eggs. They flourished and grew to a great size making their foster parents look rather inadequate. In the 18th century barbers were also surgeons and I always thought Dad was both a butcher and vet. When one of his garden chickens stopped laying he discovered it had a blocked crop. With me holding the bird he cut open the bird’s crop with a razor blade and removed the blockage. He then stitched up the wound with a needle and thread. Fortunately for the bird it started laying again otherwise it would have been for the pot.
Aged 18 I moved from No 6 Rockmount Road to No 4. It was a one-bedroom maisonette with my own front door and back door and exclusive use of the garden and it cost 12 and 6 pence a week. It had a lounge, a room with a kitchen range, a scullery and an outside loo. In fact it was a replica of the ground floor in No 6 bathroom. The staircase to the floor above was boarded over at the ceiling height so we look down the staircase and built bathroom, well not really a bathroom, really an enclosure round the bath with a sliding door. I painted three life size mermaids on the wall, one blond, one brunette and one red head. There was a bend in the hall and cupboard there. I cut the door in half and put a counter on to make a bar. A Venetian blind with lighting behind was fashioned out of scored cartridge paper, the walls were covered in beer mats and the bar stocked with homemade wine bought from a church jumble sale. The homemade wine had been given to the church by Roger’s mother who enjoyed making it but didn’t drink. Funny some people. I was helping at the jumble sale and when asked where the wine came from I said I didn’t know. Nobody was prepared to give money for wine of unknown origins so I took it all off their hands at the end of the day – mea culpa.
I asked the interior design students from the college to give me ideas on what to do with the kitchen range. They suggested painting it orange, so we demolished it. I keep saying ‘we’. My father was a great DIY man and a wonderful help in my flat conversion. Here was the perfect set up, I went next door to No 6 for my meals, took in my dirty washing and maintained an immaculate flat. The magazines were aligned perfectly. This all changed some years later when Paula as my wife moved in.
My landlady lived in a very grand house on Central Hill (no longer there) and when I paid my rent she sat at a roll top desk and wrote out a receipt over a newly applied stamp taken from a drawer in the desk. I was always fascinated, as the stamps were of King George V who had long gone. The landlady had a man-made cave in her garden that looked very realistic. Another form of Victorian folly I guess. There were big houses including a home for nurses on the Lambeth side of Central Hill, all the way from Roman Rise to the police station.
On return from two years sort of serving Queen and country I wrote to the West Norwood young Conservatives asking what they got up to. They replied they had a balanced programme of politics and social. I wrote back and said I would take the social. It was at the West Norwood Young Conservatives that the best thing ever happened to me. I met Paula. We married in 1960 and moved into my flat (our flat). Then out of the blue the owner announced she wanted to sell the property. The asking price was £750.00. I hopefully looked at my insurance policy to see if it was possible to get a mortgage. The mortgage companies wanted too much work done and I could not afford it. My father came to the rescue and scraped the money together to buy the house. We worked on it for 2 years and then sold it to me for £2500. I still couldn’t get a mortgage so Dad arranged a private mortgage and I paid him 6% interest.
Rosalind White (born 1943) 7 Rockmount Road
Courtesy of Rosalind White, October,2019
This was my childhood home. A Victorian semi-detached on four floors including the basement. It had a small back garden in which was a large shed cum workshop the width of the garden. We had a little greenhouse with a grape vine in it attached to the back of the house.
My father Arthur Dyer bought the house just after the end of the First World War. He was born 1897 in Paddington London the youngest of 9 children. He used his inheritance from his parents to purchase the house. He married his first wife in 1918 and they lived at number 7 in the basement and ground floor rooms. She died in 1926. My father rented out the upper floors as separate flat. My mother, Jean Baird her sisters and my grandfather took it on. They had moved from Palmers Green in north London after the death of my grandmother and the failure of my grandfather’s business. They lived in Hawke Road to begin with. They found out number 7 was available through the family living at number 5 whom they had got to know. They were a Welsh family named Mawer. I don’t know what year this was. I think it must have been the early 1930s.
Time moved on and my father and the Baird family became good friends. By the start of the Second World War my grandfather Baird had moved out, two of the Baird sisters had married and left just leaving my mother and her eldest sister Katharine. Katharine, a qualified elocution teacher, worked at the Air Ministry in London for the duration of the war. My mother who had worked in the bookshop at Dulwich College and later at a newsagents in Crystal Palace looked after the house. My father was an electrical engineer and did contract work between the wars in Ireland and other parts of the UK. During my childhood he worked for Johnson and Philips in Charlton.
They remembered watching the drama of the Crystal Palace burning down in 1936.
My parents married in 1943 and I was born in the November in a Streatham nursing home. From then on the whole house became their home.
My father had reinforced the front room of the basement and put in a Morrison shelter. This was where they slept. My mother took me out of London in 1944 away from the bombing to live in Cornwall with my father’s sister where we remained until the end of the war.
The house did suffer some war damage. I can remember workmen repairing the wall between our kitchen which was at the back on the first floor and the sitting room at the front. The original wall was made of lathe and plaster. I can still see it in my mind’s eye. I was allowed to eat my Marmite sandwich sitting on the floor with the workmen while they had a break.
I remember seeing the bomb damage further down Rockmount on our side of the street and the damage in Troy Road. We walked across this area in Troy Road as an alternative route to Central Hill.
My father was keen on “do it yourself “and made improvements and alterations over the years.
My sister Anna born in 1947 and I shared the back room on the top floor and my parents had the front room. There was a tiny bathroom on a half landing between this floor and the first floor. The only toilets were on the ground floor and in the basement.
We were taken to the “rec” as we called it to walk and play ball games on the grass. I remember the drinking fountain and the tennis courts. To use the courts we had to find the park keeper to unlock the gate and I think we paid by the hour. Collecting sticks to burn on the open fire was something we did. No central heating then. We relied on the open fire and Aladdin paraffin heaters. There was a large coal cellar at the back of the house. Coal was delivered and poured into it from an access in the side wall in the passage between us and number 5. We used coke as well and this was stored in the cellar under the front steps. When it was built the house had a fireplace in each room. Over time some had been blocked off.
Next to the “rec” and about half the size was an area of allotments. A path ran through the park beside the allotments between Chevening Road and Eversley Road. It passed in front of a large shelter which as children we were warned not to go near.
Mr and Mrs Mawer from number 5 retired and moved to Whiteparish near Salisbury in the late 1940s. Their daughters had married and left but their son Ronald continued to rent part of number 5. He ran a mobile library from his van and also sold fruit and vegetables that he grew in his parents’ garden in Wiltshire.
The family that then took number 5 were called Wing. Charlie and Josie and their son and daughter with the same Christian names. I remember them being there throughout my childhood. They presented my sister and me with tins of Sharps toffees at Christmas.
In number 9 our neighbours the other side were a family named Laming. They had a married daughter living elsewhere and a much younger son living at home with them.
Our rear garden backed on to the garden of a house in High View Road number 3 I think. Mr and Mrs Hogan and their daughter Ann Marie lived in the ground floor of this house. Ann Marie like my sister and I attended the Virgo Fidelis convent school in Central Hill. There were pupils living in several of the nearby roads. We used to gather together to walk to school.
I used to climb over the large shed at the back of our garden which ran along the boundary fence in order to play with Ann Marie in her garden. Before the war this same shed had been partly an aviary for canaries. During the war it became difficult to obtain food for the birds so they had to be put down and they were never replaced. Another loss in the war were the iron railings at the front of the house. They were given up to be melted down for armaments.
My parents would not allow me to have a bicycle even though I dearly wanted one as they thought Rockmount Road was too steep a hill. I did have a scooter though. I used to take it to the corner of High View Road and speed down to the bottom of Rockmount.
In the years I lived there very few people had cars. We got about locally on foot or by bus.
My aunt Katharine remained living with my parents after they married.
When I was 15 and fed up with sharing a bedroom with my sister my father redecorated the front basement room so I could have a space of my own. In the early 1950s this room had been a sitting room. At Christmas it was where we had our Christmas tree and put up streamers and other decorations. The back basement room which had been the kitchen when my father first lived there became a workshop. He had a bench with a vice and a great many other tools. The back door led to a flight of steps passed the coal cellar up to the garden. There was a meat safe built into the wall beside the steps. Used in earlier times for its proper purpose no doubt but in later days to store homemade wine.
The lower part of the side wall of the house was a cavity wall. There were some holes in the wall meant for ventilation which should have been covered with a grating. On one occasion a cat belonging to a neighbour further down the road explored and fell into the cavity unknown to us. Sleeping in the basement front room I could hear meowing and was convinced a cat was in the wall. My father broke into the cavity through the wall in my room and out ran a terrified cat. The neighbours were relieved to have him back.
I was married in St Margaret’s Church in Chevening Road in 1967 by the priest in charge. It was a daughter church to All Saints. It was closed in 2003 and later demolished. I left the area to live in Berkshire where I still am.
Being interested in family history I looked up the census records for number 7.
In 1881 the head of the house John Fyfe was an inspector at the Crystal Palace exhibition. His wife, daughter, cousin and a servant made up his household. There was also a widow Mary Lock and her young son Steven who was born in India.
In 1891 George Buckland a house decorator his wife and seven children lived there.
In 1901 Richard Morgan a master printer and his family were in residence.
In 1911 Richard Morgan his son Ernest and daughter Mary were still living there.
World War One (1914-1918)
A number of residents and former residents of Rockmount Road served in the armed forces in World War One.
Wilfred David Finlayson (1878 -1948)
Lived at 14 Rockmount Road in 1881 having been born in Kidderpore, West Bengal, India. His father was a merchant in the East Indies Company He served in the Royal Army Service Corps as 2nd Lieutenant and then Captain having arrived in France on 5th April 1915. He was in the Labour Corps. He died on 5th April 1948 in Cape Town South Africa. [i]
Ernest Edwin Buckland (1877-1941)
Lived at 7 Rockmount Road in 1891. He enlisted in the Army Service Corps in the Mechanical Transport section at the age of 40. He won a Victory British Star Medal. He deserted on 4th November 1919. [ii]
Reginald Victor Buckland (1897- 1977)
Lived at 10 Rockmount Road in 1901. He enlisted in the Army Service Corps at the age of 20. He won the Victory British Star Medal for service from 21st May 1915 to 15th July 1918 when he was discharged due to sickness. [iii]
Frederick George William Newbery (1878-1938)
Lived at 21 Rockmount Road in 1891. He qualified as a Second Mate of a foreign going ship in the Merchant Navy on April 27 1900. He was on the Admiralty Navy List in 1909. He was shown as a Lieutenant Commander on the list of Royal Naval Reserve Lieutenants from 1914 to 1917. He continued to serve in the navy until 1933.[i]
UK and Ireland: Masters and Mates Certificates 1850 to 1927
UK, Navy Lists 1888-1970, April 1914
Second World War 1939 to 1945
War Damage from aerial bombardment recorded in Rockmount Road
Croydon records war damage affecting Rockmount Road. On 7th to 8th November 1940 the back of house number 19 was wrecked and the remainder of the house was badly damaged. There was slight damage to numbers 17 and 18. On 19th to 20th January 1941 the front of number 40 was wrecked and the remainder of the building and front of number 30 were regarded as unstable. There was window damage to numbers 25 to 41 and 30 to 36. [i]
[i] Country Borough of Croydon Second World War Air Raid Reports 79 and 101
[i] https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=uki1891&indiv=try&h=19202333 accessed 2 December 2018