South Vale is a short, narrow street with a mix of architectural styles from different periods: the original farming cottages on the even side (some dating back to the 1840’s); three-storey family Victorian dwellings (3 to 19, and 32 and 34); a late Victorian cottage (19); and more recent additions from the 1960’s and 1970’s (17a, 17b, 25,27, 44 to 52, 26 to 26d, Barrington Walk and Courtney Close). The more recent additions reflect infilling and building on the space that was once occupied by Bedwardine Lodge and the Stables at 1 South Vale.
Maps and Land Ownership
1841 census establishes the existence of distinct dwellings on South Vale consisting of: the Stables, Bedward Lodge (inhabited by the Bedward family) and four or so labourers’ cottages.
1841 census, just 17 people living on South Vale.
1851 census, Bedward Lodge has been turned into a small-scale boarding school with 22 pupils.
1883 the Grey Hound Public House in Croydon witnessed the public sale of substantial properties on South Vale, consisting of the Coach House, the Stables, closed cattle sheds and land for the further construction of additional buildings.
1886 the church of SS Michael & All Angels, constructed in corrugated iron, temporarily established on South Vale.
1875 to 1901, large three-storey Victorian semi-detached dwellings added to South Vale (numbers 3 to 17, and 36 and 38); and a late Victorian cottage (number 19).
1901 census, 57 people living on South Vale.
1945 to mark the end of World War II, VE Day (8 May) street party held at Bedward Lodge.
1959 Bedward Lodge demolished.
1960’s new properties built on brown space at 17a, 17b, 25 and 27.
1970’s modern terraced houses (numbers 44 to 52) were built on the space vacated by Bedward Lodge. The Stables at 1 South Vale was demolished and replaced with Barrington Walk (numbers 1 to 4). South Vale was also extended by the addition of a small close (numbers 26 to 26d South Vale).
1975 Courtney Close was constructed.
2009, 4 May, street party in South Vale.
2015, 7 June, the “Big Lunch” street Party in South Vale.
2020 17 March, South Vale residents organize “South Vale covid19 Support” on WhatsApp.
Building of the street
Victorian buildings on South Vale are notable in their variety, and include a striking terrace of brick buildings with bay windows and multi-coloured brickwork detailing (numbers 3-17) as well as a series of semi-detached cottages (16-18 and 28-36) and a small detached stucco-faced house (number 10 – locally listed), on the west side of the street that recall the character of Upper Norwood prior to the massive expansion from the 1850s. These are predominantly two storeys in height and of modest scale and proportions.
Barrington Walk is an attractive post-war terrace of brick and timber-faced buildings, which complements the varied character of the street. There are two cul-de-sacs located off the street: Courtney Close and 20-26 and 26a-d South Vale. These do not impact on the character of the street as they are at the rear and are hardly visible due to their small scale and surrounding landscaping.
The southern end of the street is wider and development is predominantly post-War, with the exception of number 19, which is a small 1880s cottage with deep eaves supported by timber brackets.
Significant Street Buildings
Looking at the occupations listed in the census returns, South Vale was a mixture of labourers, skilled workers, professionals and small business owners. For example, in 1876, 9 South Vale was purchased by John Bowyer and his two sons. They ran a small building partnership and specialized in fine stone cuttings for local churches and had a shop or yard in Westow Street. But the family harmony did not last; in 1877 the partnership of Thomas Bowyer and Sons was dissolved and William Bowyer left the partnership (source, the London Gazette 17/4/1877) perhaps a family disagreement. . Members of the Bowyer family remained connected to South Vale, living at 8 South Vale in the 1891 census and 15 South Vale in the 1901 and 1911 censuses.
For my part I of course have memories but not quite as far back as Mum can go.
I was born in 1954 in Greenwich. My father Donald Smith and mother Georgina Smith eventually lived at 32 South Vale, a cottage my Great Grandfather and Mother rented.
Great Grandfather died when I was about five months old but we shared the house with my Great Grandmother Edith Hurrell.
The family were Salvation Army’ists and my Great Grandmothers family were part of a large group formed early down in Sussex.
Edith was a lovely Great Grandma, she seemed to always wear black but it was covered by a colourful pinny. Back then the house had an inside toilet and a glass lean-to through which there was the scullery. I would imagine it would have had neither when built.
Edith wore a full wig fashioned into a bun, she didn’t want us to see her without it. I believe she lost all her hair at the shock of her daughter passing away at the age of 12.
Edith did a lot of cooking and she also made a medicine from onions and brown sugar, letting them steep in a large china mixing bowl. She also gave us children a daily dose of malt with codliver oil. Veg was grown in the garden and a roast was had on a Sunday.
There was an open fire in the back room and on bath night the tin tub was hauled in from the garden. As small children we were bathed in the scullery in the Belfast sink. The back room had wooden floorboards, a huge wooden table and the blackout shutters and curtains were still up.
We listened to the radio until Dad finally got a television in one of those big old wooden cabinets. Most of the time was spent in the back room, probably because of the fire, but there was a ‘middle room’ and then the front room. Only used and heated if we had visitors. On the mantlepiece was a Napoleon clock with a Westminster chime….I still love to hear one.
32 South Vale was decorated rather Victorianly with the back room having a typical fitted dresser next to the fire with little hooks for the cups. The place was generally cold and I hated needing the toilet at night as the walls were of horsehair and plaster and bits had fallen off making it look like spiders….I hate spiders even now.
I’m sure I can remember the lights being gas mantles when I was very young. I also remember there being a pianola in the front room. In the scary cupboards were china headed dolls, a piece of barrage balloon and some wooden mandolins.
32 South Vale had once been number 12…..and at a guess, when first built it was probably an even lower number. As far as I know it was one of three similar houses built by Burton although I am not sure if it was THE Burton. I am unsure who the house was rented from but by the early 60’s the owner had died leaving it to, I believe, three children. It had been rented to us for so long the rent was very little. My father was asked if he would like to buy the place and so he did.
In the 60’s the house was then modernised, tile was put on the floor in the back room, the lean-to was tiled and concrete steps put in and the scullery became the bathroom…I think that is when a gas boiler was put in and electrics renewed. fireplaces were hauled out and electric ones put in. No central heating though so it was still a cold journey to the toilet!
Everybody seemed to know each other in the street and all the kids played in the road, although traffic was getting busier. Dad had had a Motorcycle and combination when I was young, he progressed to a car later, with the number plate ANH 58 and later still he had a mini van.
Back in my childhood there were garages opposite and a bit up the road from 32….there was a cobbled yard and they had once been stables.
The row of houses opposite 32 were tall and rather grim looking, single families lived in them then. Down the road on the same side as 32 was the grounds of a large house….I am unsure if I remember the house or if it’s just that I know it was there. Modern houses were built there eventually, some were built at the bottom as were the flats in Bedwardine Road.
I don’t think you take much notice of the world around you at that age. I know it felt safe to go out to play all day and we went to the park at the bottom of the road or to the Recreation ground opposite Rockmount Juniors.
I went to school at Rockmount infants, housed in the original old building. After lunch we had to all lay on the floor to ‘let our dinner go down’ and classical music was played to us, Beethovan’s 5th and The ride of the Valkyries.
I then went on up to the Juniors…..a building I thought was 60’s but Mum says was built in the 30’s It must have been very modern for it’s time, a simple ‘H’ shape, the hall at one end and dinner hall at the other. We were segregated in the playground, boys at the top end, girls at the bottom. Sports days were held over on the Rec.
Milk was dished out daily and we all had school dinners.
I enjoyed my school days, we didn’t get homework and all the Mums came to collect us so they all had a daily natter.
The Salvation Army was a big memory, we went to the hall that was in Westow Street, down a little ally. I am not sure if my Great Grandparents met through the SA, as I said, Ediths family were from Aldingbourne and somewhere I have a copy of a photo of the gathering of the SA group in Aldingbourne. Edith came up to London to be in Service and was with a family in Beckenham.
My Great Grandad Arthur was from Boreham in Essex. The family moved down from there to The Norwood area. They lived in a street off Westow street, Carberry road. I believe Arthur’s mother, once widowed, was caretaker to the Salvation Army Hall…..So both sides of the family were in the Salvation Army. Arthur, and/or his sons were in the Band.
We enjoyed Sunday school when we were young but as we got older I have to say that we went on time, hid and played behind the hall, then walked out with the others when it finished!
As we approached our teens the ‘no alcohol’ rule seemed a bit harsh. As a grown up I can understand the reasoning behind the whole group.
When I was young the park at the bottom of South Vale was less fenced in. There was a tin hut down there that the Mum’s used as a clinic. Above that was waste ground with arches round the edge, where the plant nursery is now, always a mystical place to play. Across the top towards Church road was a derelict house, it was a ghostly mansion to us and loved playing in it. Next to that was a fenced in house and children were behind the fence. We chatted and played but felt so sorry for the children ‘prisoners’.
The lower part of Westow park (we called College green) had a children’s play park in it and a hut where a lady would sit knitting while she kept an eye on us. It was a plain park but had a path all round so no end of games and races could be played. There were conkers to be had in the trees and we enjoyed watching the squirrels.
As we got older we explored further and went down to the Rec, it’s crazy paving path and trees to climb gave us plenty to play with, there were also tennis courts, conkers and a lot to walk around!
South Vale itself was a steep hill slightly curving up towards central hill.
32 South vale was on the flat piece and then it went down hill towards College Green park. A couple of doors towards Central hill was an ally and down there were houses above garages, formerly stables I think and at the bottom was a garage. I still dream of being in the garden and shouting over to the people above the garages….strange eh!
As children we played with the neighbours children, we weren’t allowed in the houses so played in the street. On the cusp of the hill was a modern house and the lady there had a child with Downs syndrome, he never went to school so was always a child even though he was older than us. We played with him a lot, we played ‘shops’, he would be the shopkeeper and we would ‘buy’ things over the wall. Down a bit from that was a very dark looking house, very spooky, never saw who lived in it but I liked it’s character and was on my list of places to buy when I grew up!
I can remember seeing the rag and bone man come down the road with his horse and cart, always loved seeing the horse. The ice cream man came down too and Mum would go out with her pudding basin to fill up with the new soft ice cream.
Back then there was also the bagwash man….your heavy cotton sheets were put in a bag and sent off to be washed at the laundry, they came back damp so they needed a line dry. A baker also called….and the insurance man.
In the early days the washing was done in a boiler and a ‘blue bag’ and/or washing soda was put in and we liked to bash it about with a wooden bat like a rounders bat. Then the clothes were put through the mangle….and that was another source of fun…putting our fingers in to see how far we’d get before it hurt too much!
Other games played in the garden were mud pies (of course!) making dens, climbing on the shed and jumping off…..and when Dad wanted a greenhouse and was digging foundations we joined in and dug a huge hole! In it we found all sorts of treasures, lead soldiers, old toys, broken plates….it was wonderful and I think that is what made me interested in programs like Time Team and History and in recent years my family tree.
In all the street was quiet and safe from the bustle of Central Hill, we were in our own little world.
More about 32 South Vale : My Great Grandparents came to rent the house in 1912 so it has been in the family since then, 107 years. My Sister owns it now so I can always say I am ‘going back home’ when I visit.
My father was manager of The International Stores and my mother did various jobs, at one time worked in Virgo Fidelis school.
We were probably considered quite ‘well off’ as Dad was in management and we owned our own house…..but times were tough, there were five of us kids and wearing ‘hand-me-downs’ or clothes from a jumble sale was quite normal.
When very young we shared a bed, me and two sisters. I often told them stories that I made up as I went along…..we often fell asleep way before I ever got to the end.
Five children in the household meant we got into lots of trouble. My brother got away with lots as ‘he was the oldest’ and I got a lot of scivvying jobs as I was the oldest girl. I think I felt life was a bit unfair at the time. We must have been a handful but you never realise how tough being a Mum is until you get there yourself ( I am a Grandma to three and Great-Grandma to four now)
We were very naughty at times, I can remember sneaking into Great Grandma’s bedroom, it was supposed to be out of bounds, but it was like going into Aladins cave. She had a dressing table with all the beautiful combs and brushes typical of a more Victorian era……so pretty for us girls. The telephone was next to her bed, a big old black one, I am unsure why it was in her room or even if it actually worked! We once found a little bottle with little white balls in green fluid….smelling salts….we sniffed…we regretted it instantly!!
Pillow fights were another delight…….until the pillows burst and feathers were everywhere! Bed bouncing was another…..until we went through the springs….it was Mum and Dads bed…they were not amused! I can recall my brother annoying me one day and in anger I tipped the table up…..it was fully laden with plates, cups, saucers and teapot…..I thought I would die when the tablecloth slid slowly off the table with all the china going the same way!……I was lucky that only the teapot lid broke…..but I was in deep trouble and probably got a smacked bottom for that!! I can also recall my brother getting hold of a reel of cotton which he wrapped around the bed legs then threw out of the window…..unsure why! Smacked bottom for him that day!
Whilst we were lucky to have a garden in the house, most of it was used for growing veg and Dad had Rhubarb, currants, logan berries, plums and greengage tree’s and of course rows of onions, carrots, beans and peas etc.
One job I loved to do was shucking peas or stringing beans…..and polishing shoes!
We lived next door to Mr and Mrs Crooks, they had a Pekingese dog called Teddy and we had a cat called snowy, both used to sit on top of the old beehive. Mr Crooks used to let us come in his house and polish his silver and in return he would take us out on trips to Tatsfield, where we would walk through fields of corn for hours and then sit in the cafe for a ginger ale. Or we would go out to Royal Tunbridge Wells, he would watch the cricket on the green and we would climb the rocks there.
Dad took us out on Sundays too, in those days Shirley Hills was far far away! We often went down to see his Mum and her husband who had a tiny cottage in Washington Sussex.
Dad worked long hours and when he came home he would get us to tickle his feet and comb his hair. His hair was bryl creamed, as most men’s were at the time, so we used to do all sorts of styles on him.
I mentioned the various tradesmen that called…..many a time Mum had no money to pay them and we had to hide and be quiet until they had gone.
I liked the street we lived in and it always felt like home….but it has changed and houses are filling all the gaps. Neighbours are not so friendly. When I go back now it all seems so small and full, cars fill the road, children don’t play out, mothers don’t chat over the fence.
I left home when I was 16 and have seen a lot of the World…..Sadly I am not sure I really like South London any more.
Courtesy of Georgina Gregg during several interviews in 2019 – formerly of 32 South Vale (1936 to 1952 and1954 to 1971):
At the end of World War I, Crystal Palace was used at a “demob” centre for the returning British troops. From this, Arthur Hurrell of 12 (now 32) South Vale received a welcome boost to his barber shop in the Upper Norwood triangle, as returning troops wanted a decent hair-cut before returning home to waiting family and friends.
Georgina, then a young girl, recalled the ‘night that a stick of bombs came down during World War II. These hit the chapel at the top of Gatestone Road/Central Hill, houses in High View, Chevning Road, Harold Road and one landed in South Vale’. An incendiary bomb was a large bomb filled with small sticks of incendiary devices, the casing was designed to open at altitude, scattering the bomblets over a wide area. An explosive charge would then ignite the incendiary material, designed to start a raging fire. Georgina also described how a barrage balloon was tethered in the Upper Norwood Recreation Ground, next to the band stand and the war time allotments at the Hermitage Road end. Further, a small rail track was built in the grounds of the College for the Blind, mounted on which was a pom-pom gun (a rapid firing anti-aircraft gun).
Georgina also recalled that her grandfather was an ARP Warden during World War II, going out at night to check that every house conformed with the blackout and reporting the extent of bomb damage. One of his jobs was to spot and report the number and direction of the V-1 flying bombs from a look out at the top of the library on Westow Hill, heading onwards to central London and the East End.
The population of London continued to increase during this period, reflected in the prices of land and housing. In South Vale this meant the demolition of certain old properties and infilling with new houses into all the available space.
The odd side of South Vale were infilled with new houses; 17a and 17b were built in the 1960’s and the flats at 25 and 27 were also added in the 1960’s.
Bedward Lodge was probably demolished in the 1960’s having stood for over a 120 years. On this site a set of modern terraced houses (numbers 44 to 52) were built in the 1970’s, each with very long gardens, reflecting the original scale of Bedward Lodge . The Stables (number 1 South Vale) was demolished in the 1980’s, which was then a metal panel business. On this site, Barrington Walk (numbers 1 to 4)) were constructed in the 1980’s.
Courtney Close was built in 1975 and South Vale was extended in a small close (numbers 20 to 26d) in the late 1980s.
In the 21st century, South Vale has been closed on several recent occasions for street parties, events which have been reported favorably by the Croydon Advertiser. Stories on the street go back to a children’s party given at Bedward Lodge after World War II and perhaps this continues that happy tradition.
BOND Albert George Private Age 17 The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment 2nd/4th Btn. Fishmonger’s assistant. Born 2 Albion Mews SN 7 Jan 1898. Son of Albert George and Amy Louisa Bond, 2 brothers and 3 sisters, of 3 South Vale. Fell Dardanelles 9.8.1915 II G 10 Green Hill Cemetery;
EDGCOMBE John Ernest Boy Mechanic Age 16. RAF School of Technical Training (Halton). Son of James and Annie A W Edgcombe of 1 South Vale; and
LEWCOCK William John Rifleman 32090 Age 28. London Regiment (City of London Rifles) 2nd/6th Btn. Husband of the late Esther Lewcock. Son of William and Elizabeth Lewcock 16 South Vale. Died 21.5.1917. Bay 9 and 10 Arras Memorial;
In South Vale most residents would have known these young men and experienced some of the sadness and heartache inflicted. This was a war – like others before and after – fought by teenager boys and young men for reasons which were at best contentious. And the World War I settlement would lay the foundation for World War II.
Second World War 1939 to 1945
Georgina Gregg (resident of South Vale) recalled the names of the following residents who saw active duty during the World War II:
WILLIAMS, in the Navy, 16 South Vale;
BEATTIE T, pilot in the Royal Air Force, killed in action, 20 South Vale;
BEATTIE W, pilot in the Royal Air Force, 20 South Vale;
WATE, Policeman, 40 South Vale; and
ENDECOT T, Policeman, 42 South Vale.
At the end of World War II there were mass relief, mass celebrations and mass optimism for the future. The picture below shows VE celebrations in South Vale in the gardens of Bedward Lodge.
Left to right, back row: Donald Kerr (28 South Vale), Mr Kerr (28 South Vale), Mrs Taylor (18 South Vale), Mrs Taken (11 South Vale), Roy Lack, Mrs Tapp (10 South Vale), Mr Ford (9 South Vale), Mrs Ford (9 South Vale), Mrs Cartwright (5 South Vale), Mr Crampton & Daughter, Mrs Cramption, Au pere, Mrs Williams (16 South Vale), Jean, Miss Garnham (10 South Vale), Au Pere, Mrs Kerr (28 South Vale), Mrs Parnell (22 South Vale).
Children, left to right: Olive Sharp (7 South Vale), Peter, John Pay, Ann Taken (11 South Vale), John Sharp (7 South Vale), Eileen Fitch (34 South Vale), Len Sharp (South Vale), Georgina Hurrell (32 South Vale), Ann Parnell, Zelma Ford (9 South Vale), Alan Parnell, Michael Cartwright, Joan Sharp (7 South Vale), Small Girl ?, Mother Marcel ? Michael Crampton, Donna Taken (11 South Vale), John Cornish (1 Stables), Mrs Ford’s mother.
The tradition of South Vale street parties has survived into current times.
1911 South Vale Census
1911 South Vale Census
1901 South Vale Census
1901 South Vale Census
1891 South Vale Census
1891 South Vale Census
1881 South Vale Census
1881 South Vale Census
1871 South Vale Census
1871 South Vale Census
1861 South Vale Census
1861 South Vale Census
1851 South Vale Census
1851 South Vale Census
1841 South Vale Census
1841 South Vale Census
1922 South Vale Street Directory
1914 South Vale Street Directory
1908 South Vale Street Directory 2
1908 South Vale Street Directory
1904 South Vale Street Directory
1898 South Vale Street Directory 2
1898 South Vale Street Directory
1894 South Vale Street Directory 2
1894 South Vale Street Directory
1892 South Vale Street Directory 2
1892 South Vale Street Directory
1889 South Vale Street Directory
1886 South Vale Street Directory
1885 South Vale Street Directory
1882 South Vale Street Directory