diamond geezer

 Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Croydon Canal / London Overground South

The southern extension of the East London Line, which reopens today, has an unexpected ancestor. Two centuries before yellow-fronted Class 378s made their way from West Croydon to New Cross Gate, a completely different form of transport followed almost exactly the same route. Narrowboats pulled by horses passed this way, weaving through long-gone fields to the southeast of London. This was the Croydon Canal, opened in 1809, and whose nine miles are now mostly railtrack and housing. People of Brockley, Sydenham and Penge, your suburban dreams owe everything to the failure of this rural waterway. Now conveniently marked on the tube map in orange for all to see.

New Cross Gate stationThe Croydon Canal branched off from the Grand Surrey Canal roughly where the East London line crosses Surrey Canal Road today. Let's hope money is finally found to erect a station here, as it would be only right and proper for the canal to earn a namecheck on the railway's destination boards. From here it headed through the new ELL depot towards New Cross Gate station (platforms 4 and 5), back in the days when this area was known as the village of Hatcham [map]. An astonishing flight of locks kicked off here, 26 of them in total, gradually raising the level of the channel as it passed south beyond the New Cross road. The greatest concentration of locks was between Brockley and Honor Oak Park - sixteen of them in the short distance now travelled from one station to the next. They weren't big locks either, which rather restricted the size of the boats which could pass this way, and ultimately led to the canal's unprofitability.

Once elevated to the 161 foot contour, the Croydon Canal became a leisurely meander with impressive views across the surrounding countryside. One surviving patch of canalside woodland is the Garthorne Road Nature Reserve (alas firmly locked by Lewisham Council to keep out pestilent homo sapiens). The canal wiggled rather more than the current railway, so in Forest Hill for example it passed to the west of the station. David's Road has an elevated pavement, said to be the height of the original towpath, on the wall of which is a modern tiled mural depicting a barge beneath a hump-backed bridge [photo]. Halfway between Forest Hill and Sydenham a tiny scrap of the Croydon Canal survives. It's in Dacres Wood, on the bend of Dacres Road, and is again locked away in a nature reserve where only schoolkids with clipboards get to pond-dip in the marshy waters.

Further south, past Sydenham Bridge, boats used to tie up at Penge Wharf. Don't go looking for either today. Rather more glamorous were the Anerley Tea Gardens, to which middle class Londoners once came for a Sunday cuppa. The railway had overtaken the canal by this point, but an old section remained allowing visitors to go pleasure boating. The tearooms were replaced by a rather-too-big pub called the Anerley Arms, and middle-class Londoners no longer have to be trained in, they live here.

Croydon Canal in Betts ParkAnd it's in Anerley that the Croydon Canal absolutely definitely still exists. Alongside Betts Park are a couple of hundred metres of artificial water which have somehow never quite been swallowed up. But they were, alas, 'modernised' in the 1930s from a characterful reedy stretch to a bland concrete channel. A blocky housing development on the western bank merely drags the tone down further. At least the flats can be obscured by looking down from the Anerley Road, where there's also a plaque with a map which reveals how the canal carved its way through the area. Squint carefully, and ignore the ducks waddling in stagnant sludge below, and you could almost be back in the 19th century. [view SW] [view NE]

Onward. South Norwood Lake, now an anglers' haunt, used to be a reservoir to keep the Croydon Canal topped up. Towpath Way, east of the Selhurst railway depot, is a very modern row of houses along the line of the old canal. And West Croydon station was built on the site of the goods basin where the canal terminated. Because, like I said, it wasn't a very good canal. Within three decades of opening it had sold out to the fledgling London & Croydon Railway Company, who filled and chopped and straightened the old waterway to create commuter-friendly tracks from New Cross to Croydon. Tracks which are, as of this morning, rebranded under the London Overground banner. Take the train, and follow the canal.

If you'd like to find out lots more about the Croydon Canal, look here...
20 pages of then and now, from London Canals (really, everything you could possibly need to know) (plus maps)
A 34-slide presentation from a talk you'll wish you'd heard (isn't the internet great?)
The Forest Hill Society have written a brief history
Lots of pictures and illustrations on the Sydenham Town Forum
Will Greenwood's put together an annotated Google map which tracks the canal's precise route (what more could you need?)

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards