A Straight Line Walk Across London

by Paul K Lyons

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Brighton Cross

Kip Fenn
A novel about
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7 - From Coulsdon's Lion Green and Red Lion to the Grove, Wend and Ridge

Turning into Marlpit Lane (marl, the dictionary tells me, is a chalky kind of clay, once often used for fertiliser), there's a park across the other side, with a war memorial, tennis courts and a bowling green. The Lane leads me under two railway bridges (Coulsdon South station is very close by) and into the A23, the London-Brighton Road. Here I am back again with the roar of incessant traffic. Across the road, there's a field with a large number of hens and a few geese. A sign says that free range eggs are for sale. They may be free range, but living so close to such a busy road, I'm not sure how free of stress they are.

Coulsdon centre is a mass of traffic and shops, partly focused around a small triangle of roads. Running north along the east side of this triangle is my route, the Brighton Road (the A23). Lion Green Road and Chipstead Valley Road make up the other two sides. Until a little over a 100 years ago, this area was once open land, and known as Lion Green. Highwayman were executed here. In 1749, for example, one was hung for murdering a groom. The green was also used for cricket, the Coulsdon Cricket Club having been founded in 1762, until 1880 when the land was cleared for housing. The Chudleigh Villas, dated 1895, can still be seen on the Brighton Road side of the triangle, surviving well, but somewhat awkwardly, between more modern houses and shops.

A local studies pack, put together by Croydon Libraries, lists the shops along Brighton Road in 1939, thus allowing a rough and ready comparison with the modern outlets. Starting at the south end and walking north, Dejanew comes first, a shop full of reproduction ornaments and antiques, followed by an angling centre and Coulsdon Pets (numbers 234-226). In 1939, there was a furniture store, a photographer, a cycle/motorcycle shop and a hairdresser here. Next comes a garage, and this was also garage before the war. A lampshade store and Bob's bikes, in 1939, were an optician and a builder's merchant respectively. The shop at number 214 was a corn merchants and is now a food and wine store. Further along, at 194, is one of the few buildings not yet turned into a shop. It proclaims itself as the 'Comrades Club' and has a stone plaque, laid by Admiral Sir William Edmund Goodenough on 23 September 1933 'to commemorate the rebuilding of the Coulsdon Comrades Club in remembrance of those who fell in the Great War and as an inspiration to all true patriots'. Goodenough was a naval commander in World War One, remembered for his role at the Battle of Jutland, and President of the Royal Geographic Society between 1930 and 1933.

After a Chinese restaurant, which was a grocer in 1939, comes Chudleigh Villas. At 184, somewhat astonishingly, the Hair Machine trades today in the same spot where a hairdresser was in 1939. Further along at 170, the one-time pram depot is now a print shop, and the one-time draper is a pet's parlour. At 158, the watchmaker is now a 'tasty grill', and at 156 the tailor is a computer shop. On the corner of Brighton Road and Chipstead Valley Road, there is an insurance broker in a building that once housed the National Provincial Bank.

On the east side of Brighton Road is the fenced off Red Lion pub, modern red brick toilets, and the 1930s semicircular Coulsdon Library. The Red Lion stands derelict, while its managers Scottish & Newcastle wait to pull it down and build a new three/four-storey 86 bedroom hotel with ground floor bar. The current building dates from 1927, although it was much altered in 1972 and in the 1980s. A further refurbishment in 1991 did not give it much extra life. An inn is known to have existed on this site since 1680, and, as recently at 1868, the Red Lion was shown on maps as the only large building in the area. As for the toilets, Scottish & Newcastle has agreed to meet the cost of their future demolition and to make a contribution toward the provision of new facilities elsewhere within the town centre. The library, designed by Gold and Aldridge, has a kind of municipal Art Deco look. It contains a small local history collections and is a pleasant place to read.

I pass Malcolm Road, where, on Easter Monday 1914, the Palladium Cinema was opened with 350 seats. But, in less than a year, it closed down. Then, after a law suit in 1919, it seems to have reopened, and was variously called The Plaza and The Bijou until the early 1930s. Today, the old building, opposite a Waitrose car park, serves as a showroom for tiles, and is partly painted in shocking pink.

The Brighton Road, running northeast at this point, leads me back towards the 300 easting. To stay closest to my route, though, I veer left into The Avenue, thus turning my back on Mexican and Italian eating establishments, Speedy Gonzalez and Luigi's. I head up the hill towards St Andrews Church, a church that was consecrated in 1915, and right into The Grove. These roads (with such highly original names!) are lined with semi-detached houses, but the ones on the left have rockery gardens and steps leading up to a front door. Almost every building has modern metal or PVC window frames, and about a third of the houses have roof conversions. I wiggle left into The Wend. An old street sign says: 'The Wend leading to the Ridge'. Opposite, on the other side of the road, stands a green salt box. Almost immediately, I wiggle right into The Ridge, past a twee wooden garage with a hanging flower basket and elaborate weather vane. It looks like something that could have been transported from the Black Forest in Germany, or a heritage museum. Turning left into The Vale, I pass more semi-detached houses with bay windows and hanging tiles. On the corner of the Vale and Woodcote Grove Road, stands an exceptionally good-looking white house, with no less than three full bay windows, each one of which has the upper third portion fitted with stained glass.

 A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting

by Paul K Lyons
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