ABOUT CROFTON PARK HISTORY
Crofton Park History tells the story of Crofton Park through documents, postcards, photos, and the memories of people living here. Crofton Park History is run by us, Carol Harris and Mike Brown, historians who have lived in the area for 40 years.
Crofton Park -- A brief introduction
The earliest reference we have found to the name ‘Crofton Park’’ is 1881, in an advert for the Crofton Park Estate. For centuries before that, the area was the centre of Brockley. We will probably never know who Brocca was, but the middle of Brockley was a clearing in the Great North Wood, and some believe that name ‘Brockley’came from 'Brocca’s clearing'. This wood was part of the enormous forests north of Croydon which supplied timber primarily for ships throughout the medieval period and up until the 18th century.
For centuries, Brockley changed little. It was a rural Kentish hamlet; a popular stopping point on the road from London to Croydon, with a village green and a pub where the Brockley Jack is today.
Old maps of the area show how, in the late 18th and 19th centuries, the woods were cleared, and replaced by farms, market gardens and brickfields.
FROM RURAL KENT TO LONDON SUBURB
Later, it was the railways that brought rapid change to the landscape. In the 1870s, local stations opened at Brockley, and Brockley Lane (near Brockley station, and closed in 1917). The station in the old centre of Brockley did not open until 1892 and was named Crofton Park. The first use of the name 'Crofton Park' we have found dates back to 1881, when it was probably used to avoid confusion with the area known around the two existing Brockley railway stations .
We have a large collection of postcards of the locality, dating from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, when Crofton Park was a new London suburb. Using those postcards and taking photos of the same sites today, we created ‘Crofton Park -- Then and Now’, which we show during our sessions in the library. The most noticeable differences are the trees – spindly saplings 100 years ago -- and the traffic; inevitably, there are many more cars on the roads now and, of course, vans and lorries have completely replaced deliveries by horse and cart. Buses have replaced the trams that go along the Brockley Road.
SHOPS AND BUSINESSES
The shops in Crofton Park are particularly interesting. Some were obviously thriving businesses, selling the same sorts of goods from the time they opened in the 1890s until quite late in the twentieth century. For example, the bank on the corner of Darfield Road has been a bank since 1897. There has been a wine merchant’s at 391, where Mr Lawrence now is, since 1897, and the Post Office has been at 395 since 1912.
Other shops, especially confectioners, seem less successful, changing hands annually in the early years.
There were many local industries. One of our contributors told us about Alfred Graham and Co., manufacturers of ‘loud-speaking naval telephones’ for use on ships. The company opened a new factory in Crofton Park Road in the 1920s, making loudspeakers for radios and was one of the founding shareholders of the British Broadcasting Company, later the BBC.
We also found out about a fireworks factory at Honor Oak Park. The factory was the Albert Works, run by Albert Wells, who lived in Crofton Park with his wife Florence, in Hazeldon Road.
TELL US YOUR STORY
We have collected some wonderful stories about life in the area, such as the school located in St Hilda’s church hall, the first people in Crofton Park to own a car, and about local businesses such as the bottling factory that introduced South African wine to the area in the 1940s. We shall be publishing them on the website soon.
If you’d like to contribute your memories of life in Crofton Park, we’d love to hear from you.
We are espeically interested in
-- recording interviews (either in the library or by visiting people at home,)
-- scanning old photos (we return these very quickly).
FIND OUT MORE
We are on facebook (@CroftonParkhistory) or you'll find us at one of our regular, informal meetings. We are in Crofton Park community library on the first Saturday of the month, 11am-12pm.
You can also contact us on this website or telephone us on 07891 646455.
Crofton Park History in the library at Croftfest 2017.
Picture: Jane Martin