Upper Woodcote

Upper Woodcote, Croydon

Also known as the Webb estate, this garden village in south-west Purley is a paradise for horticulturalists and tree lovers – if they can afford it


A lush garden and an expensive house
The vil­lage’s cre­ator let gar­dens mature before build­ing hous­es, result­ing in lush scenes like this

Char­tered sur­vey­or William Webb bought the 260-acre Fox­ley estate in 1888 and plant­ed trees, flow­ers and hedgerows that were allowed to mature before homes were built and offered for sale.

The com­ing of trams to Pur­ley in 1901 spurred him to make a start on con­struc­tion and the first dwelling to be com­plet­ed was Upper Wood­cote House, which Webb him­self moved into. Cot­tages were then stud­ded around a vil­lage green in the south-west cor­ner, orig­i­nal­ly for Webb’s work­men but soon snapped up by com­muters.

The out­er roads of the estate were most­ly built up with semi-detached prop­er­ties, and these have been the worst affect­ed by traf­fic and by alter­ations and infill­ing. Most of the inner roads were laid out from 1907 and the plots were devel­oped between 1912 and 1920.

Webb plant­ed Rose Walk with 6,000 rose bush­es, South Bor­der with herba­ceous plants and Sil­ver Lane with a dou­ble row of sil­ver birch and a host of bulbs and wild flow­ers.

The Prom­e­nade de Ver­dun came last, lined with an avenue of Lom­bardy poplars with their roots in soil brought from Armen­tières and sift­ed to remove shrap­nel. At the end of the avenue is a gran­ite obelisk ded­i­cat­ed to the mem­o­ry of French sol­diers who died in the First World War.

The estate was vir­tu­al­ly com­plete by 1925 and con­tains around 230 hous­es that are of vary­ing archi­tec­tur­al mer­it but in an incom­pa­ra­ble set­ting. Webb expound­ed his land­scap­ing the­o­ries in a short but well illus­trat­ed pub­li­ca­tion that is still avail­able from anti­quar­i­an book­sellers.

The coun­cil con­ferred con­ser­va­tion area sta­tus on Upper Wood­cote Vil­lage (which sur­rounds the vil­lage green) in 1973 and extend­ed this to cov­er the rest of the estate a decade lat­er. There is a blan­ket tree preser­va­tion order and no sub­di­vi­sion of plots is allowed.

Accord­ing to a Croy­don Adver­tis­er report in 2012, the estate’s res­i­dents are still the­o­ret­i­cal­ly bound by a list of rules drawn up by William Webb, includ­ing the fol­low­ing:

  • No clothes, except children’s gar­ments, shall be hung out to dry unless hid­den by a hedge or oth­er suit­able enclo­sure
  • No use of a lawn mow­er with­in nine inch­es of a tree stem, as the nut on the side of the machine is cer­tain to tear the bark off
  • No pur­chas­er should be seen emerg­ing from their abode wear­ing shorts

How­ev­er, for­mer Crys­tal Palace chair­man Ron Noad­es – who lived in Rose Walk until his death in 2013 – was quot­ed as say­ing: “Our wash­ing has been hung out­side for 20 years, and as for [not] wear­ing shorts – well it does­n’t even bear think­ing about if you are going to play golf.”

Upper Woodcote’s best known resident is Status Quo frontman Francis Rossi.

Postcode area: Purley, CR8
Further reading: William Webb, Garden First in Land Development, Longmans, 1919