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A History of the Croydon Canal by Steve Grindlay
In the beginning… “ The Times” , in perhaps its first reference to the canal, announced that the proprietors had accepted the plans of John Rennie for a canal linking Croydon with Rotherhithe. They also agreed to seek the necessary Act of Parliament. By 1803, in “A General History of Inland Navigation”, doubts are already being expressed about the feasibility of the project. “ The Times” (10 Oct 1800)
The building the canal “ Monthly Magazine” (1 Sept 1807) This article mentions the bridge over the canal at Sydenham, and the reservoir on Sydenham Common, “more like a lake than a pond”.
The opening of the canal Cuttings from the “The Times” (27 Oct 1809) describing the opening of the canal on the previous Monday, 23 October 1809.
The 160’ contour is marked in red, the route of the canal in blue The route of the canal This map of 1833 shows the last few of the 26 locks that barges had to pass through to climb the 160 feet to Forest Hill. From “Bradshaw’s Canals” (1833)
Honor Oak Park “ View towards Deptford from the lock-keeper’s house” (1815) The track across the swing-bridge at the bottom right is now Honor Oak Park. This is the last of the 26 locks between New Cross Gate and Forest Hill.
“ View of Forest Hill and the lock-keeper’s house” (1815) Houses on Honor Oak Road can be seen in the distance. Honor Oak Park
Honor Oak Park One of the buildings shown is almost certainly the surviving Forest Hill House. Back of the Manor House
Honor Oak Park Barges on the canal were restricted to 60 feet long by 9 feet wide, shorter and narrower than on almost any other canal in the country. This was another factor that contributed to the canal’s unprofitability “ Canal near Norwood”, George Scharf (1828) Despite its title this is believed to show the locks at Honor Oak Park
Boveney Road There is still a distinct line of mature trees along the back gardens of houses on the west side of Boveney Road, with perhaps a hint of the canal bank by garages off Hengrave Road. OS map 1894 OS map 1914
Devonshire Road and Garthorne Road nature reserves The canal passed through both nature reserves. At this point the railway runs through a deep cutting, 30 feet below the bed of the canal.
Ewelme Road to Woodcombe Crescent At this point, the line of the canal crosses Woodcombe Crescent towards Davids Road/ Manor Mount, just beyond the flats. Garages between Woodcombe Crescent and Devonshire Road.
Davids Road The canal widened at the site now bordered by Pearcefield Avenue, Davids Road and Manor Mount. This pool may have been connected with the wharf, or somewhere for the bargemen to park while taking refreshment in the Dartmouth Arms.It was drained in 1867. Stanford, 1862
Havelock Walk & Davids Road The pavement along Davids Road is a surviving part of the tow-path. When this part of the canal was drained in 1864 the buildings were erected over the canal bed. Those in Havelock Walk were built on the western bank. From the mid-1860s Havelock Walk (originally Havelock Street) has been used as light industrial premises; blacksmiths, coachbuilders, stables, wheelwrights and a slaughterhouse.
The swing bridge There were 39 swing bridges and seven road bridges over the canal. This view is north, with possibly Sydenham Hill in the background. The betting shop was built over the bed of the canal, just beyond the swing bridge. The enclosure map (1819) shows how property boundaries were constrained by the line of the canal.
The Dartmouth Arms was first licensed in 1815, and was, until the arrival of the railway in 1839, the only building in the area. Eliza Place, on Stanstead Road, was built about 1837. The Dartmouth Arms to Clyde Vale Opening of the L&C Railway, 1839. OS map, 1868 In the late1830s Henry Mihill was living with his widowed mother in Eliza Place. William and Elizabeth Hall were running the Dartmouth Arms on the other side of the railway line. William died in 1840 and in 1842 Henry and Elizabeth married. Henry moved across the railway line to become the landlord of the Dartmouth Arms.
Dartmouth Arms The Dartmouth Arms was built about 1815, specifically to take advantage of passing trade from the canal. It was rebuilt in 1865, together with the terrace of shops beyond. Early last century the single storey shops were built on the garden of the Dartmouth Arms. Drainage plan 1865
Remains of the canal About 8 years ago, for a brief period while the wall at the bottom of the Dartmouth Arms was rebuilt, part of the canal wall was exposed.
Clyde Vale The top photograph shows the alley between the Edwardian terrace on the left and part of the new Printworks development on the right. Even modern developments are forced to follow the line of the canal. The bottom photograph shows the side of Foresters’ Hall in Clyde Vale. Raglan Street (now Clyde Vale) Dartmouth Place
The Sydenham reservoir From “A view of Sydenham Common” (1812) 1819 Enclosure map Dacres Wood
Dacres Wood The canal in 1811 The tithe map, 1843 After the building of the railway line this small section of the canal was isolated on the edge of farmland. In 1883 it became part of the back garden of a house called “Irongates” where it was clearly regarded as an ornamental feature. Irongates was demolished in about 1962 and the site became derelict. In 1985 Lewisham took over responsibility for the site, and decided it should become a nature reserve. It was opened as such in 1989. Irongates
Dacres Wood The black and white pictures were probably taken in the early 1980’s, the coloured one late 1980s.
Dacres Wood Looking south, with the tow path on the left. One source suggests that this engraving might show the section of canal in Dacres Wood. The Croydon Canal near Sydenham, 1815
Sydenham Bridge Doo’s Wharf is not shown although records show he was operating by 1817.
Doo’s Wharf Sydenham Bridge in 1836, looking south. This sketch shows Henry Doo’s wharf apparently thriving, although within months the closure of the canal would put him out of business. By 1843, 321 and 323 Kirkdale had been built by Doo’s son, also Henry, who operated as a coal merchant at 323 from 1843-1860.
Sydenham Bridge This painting, bought by an ex-Sydenham resident earlier this year, is by Henry Gastineau, who lived in Camberwell. It was painted in 1836, shortly before the canal closed. This coloured drawing was probably a preliminary sketch for the finished painting. Doo’s Wharf is on the right. The Cottage, on the left, was built about the same time as the canal. It was demolished in 1870 to make way for Sydenham Station.
Sydenham Bridge Three versions of the same original. The building on the left is The Bridge, (built before 1754, demolished 1870s). Two of the pictures show Doo’s Wharf beyond the bridge.
Accidents and suicides The Times 26 Sept 1815 The Times, 9 Jun 1829 The Times, 6 Jun 1831
Sport & leisure From Sydenham , written in 1878 by Mayow Wynell Adams (1808-1898). Angler’s Guide, 1815
The canal in literature Thomas Love Peacock in his Memoirs of Shelley , 1860 Jorrocks’ Jaunts & Jollities: The Swell and the Surrey
The canal in literature A poem was written to celebrate the opening of the canal, and another poem mourned its passing. This poem was written in 1840, a year after the opening of the L&C railway.
Dispelling myths It is often suggested that this building, in Stanstead Road, is connected with the canal, perhaps as a stable for barge horses. This cannot be so as it was built after 1843, and the canal was some 200 yards away, crossing Woodcombe Crescent.
The end of the canal After 27 years of failing to make money for its investors, the Croydon Canal closed on 22 August 1836. Its assets were acquired by the London & Croydon Railway Company who opened their line in June 1839 Although the Croydon Canal was a failure, its impact on our area was profound. From 1809 both Sydenham and Forest Hill were divided into two distinct areas, each area connected by a bridge. The canal also enabled the L&C Railway to give us the second oldest passenger railway in London.