diamond geezer

 Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Postcards from Overground South

Penge - High Street
Penge TriangleI had, somehow, never been to Penge before. I'd got as far as Crystal Palace Park at the top of the town, but never ducked below the railway viaduct to explore the main drag. Many a preconception of Penge is conjured up by its unattractive name, Celtic in origin, even though nothing round here older than Victorian. Homebase is rather more recent than that. It took a quarter of a mile before I bumped into anything remotely photogenic, in this case the elegant Tudor-style almshouses in Waterman's Square. Alongside is the Penge Triangle - nothing paranormal but a three sided road junction with an perspex-winged clocktower in the centre. Sorry, I've made that sound far more interesting than it actually is (think more bleak bus-stand in the middle of a cobbled roundabout). Ditto the Crooked Billet nextdoor, allegedly Penge's oldest pub but rebuilt postwar with no redeeming heritage features whatsoever. And then a lot of shops, making this the kind of High Street where there used to be an Art Deco cinema but now there's a McDonalds. I could have continued as far as Beckenham, but I didn't feel I'd uncover anything any more exciting. I wonder what I missed.
Penge photo: Sorry, I cheated and went back to the Penge end of Crystal Palace Park to snap some fake geology instead.
Penge by Brendan: yesterday's location report from Londonist

Anerley - South Norwood Lake
Yes, I know, South Norwood Lake is really in South Norwood. But the water's edge is closer to Anerley station than to South Norwood, as the crow flies if not on foot, so I'm referencing it here.
The Croydon Canal needed two reservoirs to keep its waters topped up, and one of these was dug on Norwood Common. When the canal closed, and most of the rest disappeared under the railway, this reservoir survived as a place for angling and picknicking. 160 years later, not much has changed. There's even a heritage sign by the Woodvale entrance reminding fishermen that a season ticket costs thirty shillings, and that bronze bream shorter than twelve inches must be returned to the water. The latest leisure opportunity at the lake is sailing, even if only smaller yachts can be accommodated. The Croydon Sailing Club meet here - a friendly-looking amateur bunch who on Sunday could be found lounging outside their hut-like HQ because the waters were becalmed. Further round the reservoir I watched as a Dad and his two small kids trampled across the shrubbery to get a closer view of some waterfowl. And throughout my visit, it being Pentecost, the sound of joyful singing echoed across the lake from the evangelists holed up in the Clubhouse. A charming spot and, I suspect, a bit of a local secret.
Anerley photo: Yachts reflecting on the lake
Anerley fact: Anerley allegedly got its name because, when the railways came, there was 'anerley' one house here.

South Norwood - Clock Tower
Whilst South Norwood was once home to such luminaries as DH Lawrence and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the town chooses instead to bring to prominence a rather less well-known former resident. Walk out of the railway station and a plaque welcomes you to "South Norwood, home of inventor, engineer and philanthropist William Stanley (1829-1909)". No, me neither. A few hundred yards further on is the town's ornate iron clocktower, topped off with a gleaming weather vane, which was erected to commemorate Mr Stanley's Golden Wedding. I had to look him up when I got home to find out why he's so much loved around these parts. It turns out that William was very big in the world of technical drawing, back in the days when you couldn't get a computer to design your buildings and artefacts in milliseconds. He made his fortune as an engineer creating mathematical instruments such as beam compasses and proportional dividers, later diversifying into pantographs and surveying instruments. Pinpoint accuracy in a wooden box, essentially, and all churned out from a factory in Belgrave Road. William was generous with his money, back in the days when even a five-figure sum made you look magnanimous, and the community looked upon him with gratitude. Alas history's not been kind to his legacy over the last few years. His company went bust in 1999. His self-built house was knocked down in 2006 before English Heritage could list it. And his Stanley Technical School was rebranded as an academy in 2007 and renamed after a completely different local philanthropist. Thank goodness his cast-iron clocktower survives, no doubt lovingly constructed using the great man's finest precision instruments.
South Norwood photo: The clocktower (obviously)
South Norwood website: Virtual Norwood

West Croydon
Both of Croydon's tourist information centres close on Sundays.
And if they can't be bothered, then neither can I.

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