CROYDON’S HIGH SOCIETY DAYS

By 10th June 2015Uncategorised

Croydon and its surrounding hills attracted the rich and famous in the 18th century for reasons good and bad. Croydon Palace was the summer retreat of the Archbishops of Canterbury. Government ministers found Croydon a convenient place to reside where they could entertain their colleagues, friends and neighbours.

Members of the royal family such as the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cumberland looked to Croydon’s countryside for opportunities for hunting stags. Purley was a convenient place to start a hunt. Haling house was put on sale as a hunting lodge. Croydon offered other sports: horse-racing and cock-fighting at Broad Green and bare-knuckle fighting at Smitham, now called Coulsdon. These attracted all classes of society. For one such fight at Smitham 531 horsemen, 90 coaches with two or four horses and a further 182 single horse vehicles passed through Croydon.
Croydon was famous for its fair and attracted sightseers, the most remarkable being an Indian prince who arrived in a coach and four. He was sumptuously entertained at the George Inn and then treated to wine and walnuts as was the custom at the fair.

Business fortunes could be made in the City of London and at Southwark, better known then as the Borough, but living in smoke-filled London was less attractive than living in healthy Croydon. Those still in business could take the stage coach to London but many merchants chose to retire at Croydon. Their families sometimes inherited great wealth and young ladies or widows of considerable fortune were reported in the London newspapers as marrying in Croydon.

A school for young ladies at Mint Walk, where they could be genteely boarded, offered them every useful and polite branch of education such as French, Geography, Drawing, Music and Dancing.
Brick-built houses in Croydon were advertised in the early part of the century when most houses were made of wood. They could be substantial as was Blunt House, at the southern end of the mile long High Street, advertised as having seventy acres of land and being suitable for a family of fashion. One house at South End, as that part of the High Street came to be called, was offered for sale with its butler’s pantry, servant’s hall, two wine vaults, six-stall stable and a double coach house with accommodation above for a manservant.