Norwood New Town

Norwood New Town, Croydon

‘The world’s first new town’ (according to some) as we understand the term today, now demolished but still named on Ordnance Survey maps

Hidden London: Rockmount Road, Norwood New Town, by Christopher Hilton

In the late 18th cen­tu­ry Augus­tus Her­vey, Earl of Bris­tol, bought a wood­side cot­tage on Knight’s Hill Com­mon and acquired sev­er­al acres of sur­round­ing land from the arch­bish­op of Can­ter­bury. Like many wealthy aris­to­crats he want­ed to estab­lish a Lon­don retreat to com­ple­ment his City base and his coun­try estate.

Her­vey great­ly enlarged the cot­tage to cre­ate Nor­wood House, a man­sion that is now the Vir­go Fidelis con­vent senior school. After his death, Hervey’s mis­tress Mary Nes­bitt lived on at Nor­wood House, play­ing a shad­owy role in Euro­pean polit­i­cal affairs as an agent of the British gov­ern­ment.

In the 1850s, fol­low­ing the deci­sion to rebuild the Crys­tal Palace at near­by Syden­ham, the exhibition’s man­age­ment com­pa­ny laid out a hous­ing estate to the south-east of Nor­wood House and rows of ter­raced cot­tages with tiny gar­dens were packed into a 9‑acre area bor­dered by Rock­mount Road and Oxford Road. Some of the prop­er­ties were occu­pied by builders work­ing on the Crys­tal Palace project.

The new town was endowed with three pub­lic hous­es and enclosed by a high brick wall, which was main­ly intend­ed to pre­vent res­i­dents from dis­turb­ing the neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ty after pay­day carous­ing.

Croy­don coun­cil began to com­pul­so­ri­ly pur­chase run-down prop­er­ties from 1955 and by 1967 Nor­wood New Town had been entire­ly bull­dozed. It was sub­se­quent­ly recon­struct­ed with hous­ing of less char­ac­ter and few ameni­ties, on a land­scape of soft­ened gra­di­ents.

Postal district: SE19
Further reading: Beryl Cheeseman, Treetops and Terraces, Theban Publishing, 1994


* The picture of Rockmount Road at the top of this page is cropped from an original photograph, copyright Christopher Hilton, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Mr Hilton comments: “The dip in the road at the bend represents the course of the River Effra, one of London’s ‘lost’ (largely-culverted) rivers.” The main branch of the Effra rises just to the south-east, approximately where Westow Park stands today – according to Diamond Geezer.