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A Straight Line Walk Across London
by Paul K Lyons
20 - From Pollards Hill to NatWest's playground via Norbury Cross and an Amis sneer
I head up Pollards Hill itself (thereby crossing into Croydon again), a small area of grass and trees which, prior to the 1980s, was used for allotments. The views behind me, to the west, look out across the large flat expanse of what once would have been called the Wandle flood plain, but is now an urban sprawl. Today, though, with a covering of white, a bright blue sky and the sun shining, it's an attractive view. At the top, I find that another part of the Hill is fenced off, and, although a London Borough of Croydon notice-board tells me that in January it should be open until 4:30pm, the gate remains firmly locked (presumably because of the weather). There are good views over South London (including of the Ikea chimneys). Pollards Hill is not very high, with a peak at 210ft, but, as the highest point around, served once as a celtic fort. A 13th century survey shows that Pollards Hill was attached to the ancient Manor of Benchesham or Bensham. In 1913, Sir Frederick Edridge, five times Mayor of Croydon, gave Pollards Hill to the Council. A shelter here commemorates the late Dr. W. A. MacWilliam a local doctor who was well respected by his patients.
I walk round Pollards Crescent, which looks a pleasant place to live, to Pollards Hill North. Further along this road, there used to be a 'splendid Methodist Church' according to one local history but it was demolished in 1977 to be replaced by an 'indistinguished-looking health centre'. Turning down Pollards Wood Road, on my right Ena Road drops away so quickly that I can see right over the houses below across parts of Norbury as far as the Crystal Palace communications tower and beyond. Directly along this line of sight, and less than a mile away, lies Buckingham Gardens, where the novelist Kingsley Amis spent part of his youth. In his writing, he described the area, which 'like half the places south of the river, were never proper places at all, just collections of assorted buildings filling up gaps and named after railway stations and bus garages'. Perhaps he should have spent some time walking along the 300 easting, or any other easting for that matter.
Bizarrely (and ironically given the snow covering), Norbury Court Road has a fridge lying on its side blocking the pavement. I walk on along Norbury Cross and then to Darcy Road which is as close to the 300 easting as I could wish to be. The southern end of Darcy Road forms part of the Norbury Estate 'Local Area of Special Character' or LASC. Such LASCs are predominantly older areas 'which, although unlikely to meet the criteria for designation as Conservation Areas, possess sufficient architectural, townscape and environmental quality to make them of significant local value'. These areas may be important because of the age or quality of buildings, homogeneity, architectural style, landscape and layout. The Norbury Estate was one of the earliest London County Council (LCC) cottage estates to be built outside the county boundary. The site of the estate was purchased in 1901 and construction was completed in 1921. It was considered an important part of the LCC's pioneering efforts to alleviate the poor living conditions of many city dwellers.
Some of the country's best architects were working for the LCC at this time. Although in Norbury they could not, for cost reasons, reproduce the gardens and tree planting being employed at Letchworth and Hampstead, they did nevertheless use their ingenuity to design and build tasteful and varied exteriors. One of the Norbury Estate architects, by the name of Peter Frederick Binnie, had previously worked on a large mansion block of flats called D'Arcy House in Hackney.
An LASC designation means that the Borough of Croydon provides additional supplementary planning guidance to encourage private owners to maintain and retain the original architectural features. In Norbury, these include prominent chimney stacks, projecting timber porches, decorative ceramic house numbers, red clay tile garden paths, low walls and wrought iron railings.
Darcy Road leads me into Stanford Road. According to the Norbury-online website there used to be secondary schools along here: 'In 1913, the Stanford Road schools were built, but before they could open war broke out so the buildings were used as a temporary hospital. The schools eventually opened after the war as Norbury Manor secondary schools. In 1958 the girls school relocated to a new site in the south west corner of Norbury Park. The original school buildings in Stanford Road were demolished in 1987 and replaced by sheltered housing for the elderly . . . and the area between Stanford Road and Woodmansterne Road which was originally part of Norbury Golf course, and for many years the NatWest sports ground, has now been lost to the developers.'
Once again, I must make a diversion to work my way round a large sports grounds, which my map says belongs to the National Westminster Bank. There is an an impressive club house, floodlit tennis courts, and playing fields. To one side, the Norbury Bowls Club, founded in 1900, has a green on the edge of these grounds - but, given the snow cover, I doubt anyone will be playing today.
Three primary schools, though, still ring the sports ground, all in different boroughs: Norbury Manor Primary in Croydon, Stanford Middle in Merton, and Woodmansterne Primary in Wandsworth. Only Norbury Manor lies on my route. Among its modern buildings, this school still has an older three-storey construction. A sign on the school fence says: 'Warning your careless parking could kill a child please do not stop on the zig-zag lines.' In the early 1960s, Leslie Crowther, then the star of the children's programme 'Crackerjack', attended at least one fete here, and judged the fancy dress competition.
My route takes me left into Isham Road, right to Turle Road, left to
Abingdon Road which, after a pinch point, becomes Cole Road, left into Bishops
Road and Bishops Park Ro
A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting
by Paul K Lyons
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