Smitham, Croydon

The former name of Coulsdon Town station

Hidden London: A pleasing looking house on Smitham Downs Road

Smitham’s name was first recorded in 1331 as Smetheden, and derives from words meaning ‘smooth valley’. The floor of the valley was known as Smitham Bottom and was a desolate area in the 18th century, a haunt of high­waymen and a place of encamp­ment for gypsies.

The Red Lion inn was in existence by 1735 and cricket matches and prize fights were later held on Lion Green. To the south-west Portnalls Farm was acquired in 1878 as the site for the New Surrey Lunatic Asylum, subse­quently known as Cane Hill, and a few houses were built at Smitham soon afterwards.

When a station opens in a thinly populated place it usually bestows its name on the settle­ment that grows up around it. But when the railway arrived here in 1904 the ensuing township borrowed the identity of the estab­lished village of Coulsdon, which now calls itself Old Coulsdon, and yet the station stayed as Smitham until 2011, when the Depart­ment of Transport asked Southern Railway to change the name to Coulsdon Town to ‘reinforce the identity’ of the district, in response to lobbying by Croydon council and with the support of local residents.

The principal remaining user of the Smitham name is the well-regarded Smitham primary school on Portnalls Road. The photo­graph at the top of this article shows a house on Smitham Downs Road.

Postcode area: Coulsdon CR5
Station: Southern (Coulsdon Town, zone 6)