Upper Norwood

Upper Norwood, Croydon

The central part of the huge Victorian suburb of Norwood, situated west of Crystal Palace (the two identities overlap and many residents of the east side of Upper Norwood refer to the area as Crystal Palace)

Queen's Hotel

Dur­ing the first half of the 19th cen­tu­ry grand hous­es with large grounds filled much of Upper Nor­wood. Only in the Wood­land Road area and the tri­an­gle formed by West­ow Hill, Church Road and West­ow Street was hous­ing built for the work­ing class­es. By 1845 Upper Nor­wood had a pop­u­la­tion of over 3,000.

The recon­struc­tion of the Crys­tal Palace on Syden­ham Hill in 1854 cat­a­pult­ed Upper Nor­wood to the height of fash­ion as a place of res­i­dence. Var­ied ameni­ties were built to serve tourists, includ­ing the Queen’s Hotel, shown in the pho­to­graph above.* The French nov­el­ist Émile Zola lived at the hotel at the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry. His pho­tographs of the local area have been col­lect­ed into a book pub­lished by the Nor­wood Soci­ety.

Suc­ces­sive­ly more impos­ing man­sions were built, often with osten­ta­tious orna­men­ta­tion, espe­cial­ly on Beu­lah Hill. A vari­ety of facil­i­ties met the needs of the more diverse pop­u­la­tion in the north-east of the dis­trict. West­ow Street mar­ket grew up in the 1880s and oper­at­ed for around 70 years. Shown in the pho­to below,* Upper Nor­wood recre­ation ground was opened to pop­u­lar acclaim in 1890.

geograph-4889641-by-Christopher-Hilton - Upper Norwood Recreation Ground 664x385

Upper Nor­wood library opened in 1900 and is joint­ly owned by Croy­don and Lam­beth coun­cils but oper­ates inde­pen­dent­ly of both – a unique arrange­ment for a British pub­lic library today (but not one that has shield­ed it from the effects of 21st-cen­tu­ry aus­ter­i­ty).

As the pop­u­lar­i­ty of the Crys­tal Palace waned, so did Upper Norwood’s appeal to the wealthy, and pri­vate devel­op­ers and Croy­don coun­cil began to buy up some of the largest hous­es. Most of the prop­er­ties were still in good con­di­tion but chang­ing socio-eco­nom­ic con­di­tions had left few­er peo­ple able to afford them. Some were con­vert­ed into flats but builders gen­er­al­ly found it more cost-effec­tive to build a whole new street in place of the house and its for­mer grounds.

Despite a cen­tu­ry of rebuild­ing, many of the orig­i­nal vil­las of Upper Nor­wood have sur­vived and are pro­tect­ed by a large con­ser­va­tion area. The Nor­wood Heights shop­ping cen­tre was built in 1984 on the site of Barker’s piano store and fac­to­ry and a Sal­va­tion Army citadel.

Accord­ing to a Dai­ly Mail arti­cle pub­lished in Sep­tem­ber 2014, the Queen’s Hotel was at that time block-booked to accom­mo­date asy­lum seek­ers who had arrived at Gatwick air­port, with “600 migrants crammed into 98 rooms.”

The Upper Nor­wood ward has a broad spread of eth­nic minori­ties, of which the three largest are of white British, black Caribbean and black African her­itage. Around two-thirds of homes are own­er-occu­pied.

Towards the end of 1870 Camille Pissarro and his family took refuge in England from the Franco-Prussian war. He stayed in Upper Norwood until June 1871 and painted several views of the locality, including a snowscape at Fox Hill, Upper Norwood, which hangs in the National Gallery.

In Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of (the) Four, Sherlock Holmes solves the mystery behind the murder of Bartholomew Sholto of Pondicherry Lodge, Upper Norwood.

Postal district: SE19
Population: 16,082 (2011 census)
See also: Sydenham
* The picture of the Queen’s Hotel at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright SheffGruff, at Wikimedia Commons, made available under the Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence. The picture of Upper Norwood recreation ground is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Christopher Hilton, 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 those licences.