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)