Riddlesdown, Croydon

Chalk downland in north Kenley, and its neighbouring residential locality

geograph-1763084-by-Brett-Oliver - Riddlesdown Common

Part of Rid­dles­down is a sched­uled ancient mon­u­ment con­tain­ing Neolith­ic remains. Sax­on graves have been dis­cov­ered on Rid­dles­down Road and their align­ment sug­gests that the route was in use in the sev­enth cen­tu­ry.

Rid­dles­down was first men­tioned by name in 1277 and derives from Old Eng­lish and Mid­dle Eng­lish words mean­ing ‘cleared wood­land on a hill’. The wood­land is believed to have con­sist­ed of beech trees, which flour­ish on chalky soil. A quar­ry that pro­duced lime from the chalk deposits was in exis­tence by the late 18th cen­tu­ry.

The Cor­po­ra­tion of Lon­don acquired the major­i­ty of Rid­dles­down in 1883, pre­serv­ing it as open space. The acqui­si­tion resolved a dis­pute between the own­er of near­by Lit­tle Roke House and the lord of the manor, who had been attempt­ing to encroach on the com­mon land.

The com­mon’s Met­ro­pol­i­tan drink­ing foun­tain and cat­tle trough is vis­i­ble in the mid­dle dis­tance in the pho­to­graph at the top.*

Rid­dles­down nation­al school catered for chil­dren from Pur­ley and Ken­ley in the years when the ham­lets were first evolv­ing into sub­urbs. Gardner’s plea­sure resort was estab­lished in 1892 at the foot of Rid­dles­down, and for a while drew day-trip­pers in their thou­sands.

Rid­dles­down sta­tion opened in 1927 and a tun­nel car­ries the rail­way line south­wards beneath the down. The neigh­bour­ing area soon filled with some pleas­ing hous­es and small parades of shops were built near the sta­tion, although only one was occu­pied ten years lat­er. Devel­op­ers nev­er­the­less per­sist­ed and built anoth­er parade in 1939, which proved equal­ly dif­fi­cult to let.

Hidden London: Riddlesdown is a 104-acre area of chalk scrub and grassland lying within the London green belt
Rid­dles­down Com­mon

St Edmund’s church was built on Mitch­ley Avenue in 1955. It is a hall church, i.e one that is used as a com­mu­ni­ty resource dur­ing the week – for activ­i­ties such as play­groups, bad­minton and Brown­ies – but con­verts into a church when ser­vices are to be held.

In 1962 Rid­dles­down Res­i­dents’ Asso­ci­a­tion suc­cess­ful­ly defeat­ed an attempt to build six three-storey blocks of flats near the sta­tion but the sites were even­tu­al­ly devel­oped in the 1980s.

Locat­ed at the south-east­ern end of the com­mon, Rid­dles­down Quar­ry closed in the 1960s and is now of region­al impor­tance for its geo­log­i­cal inter­est. Access to the quar­ry is restrict­ed (but not for goats, which roam freely here).

Rid­dles­down Col­le­giate is a vol­un­tary-aid­ed mixed com­pre­hen­sive and has been accred­it­ed as a spe­cial­ist sci­ence col­lege since 2004.

Postcode area: Purley CR8
Station: Southern (zone 6)
Website: Riddlesdown Residents’ Association


* The picture of Riddlesdown Common at sunrise in winter at the top of this page is reformatted from an original photograph, copyright Brett Oliver, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence. Click here for a closer view of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough.