I'd arrived with the best part of an hour and a half to get to Waddon and find somewhere for breakfast. I left the station through a side exit and the vicinity immediately outside was devoid of much except for a Co-op so I kept going towards the main road (A12). Croydon is well known as being a place festooned with 60s office blocks which featured in abundance. Among these I noticed a particularly tall purplish skyscraper, a far more recent building called Saffron Square, a new residential development. It's had it's critics for it's design and for being marketed to overseas investors rather than providing much need homes for normal people (just for a change). But the height of it (43 storeys) and garish colour makes it visible from most of the rest of Croydon and probably beyond so at least it was a handy reference point.
I walked up the main road and passed Lunar House, a large white building housing the Home Office immigration/visa centre where people wanting to apply for a visa in person have to come. Similar I guess to going to Peterborough for getting a passport but probably an even longer and more costly process. Last time I came to Croydon it reminded me a bit of Peterborough, particularly the shopping centre area. Both places are ones that are often derided. Both have been developed extensively in the 60s and 70s although Croydon much more impressively if you like brutalist architecture. Lunar House was built in 1970, along with nearby Apollo House, the names inspired by the 60s space programme. Apollo House is also the name used for the block of flats the main characters in the sitcom 'Peepshow' lived in. The actual block of flats used in filming for the exterior of their abode is Zodiac House. The green plastic looking interpretations of the signs of the zodiac above the entrance are bizarre. I don't remember seeing them in the TV show and I didn't pass Zodiac House while in Croydon which was a shame.
I'd mentioned the idea of mapping TV sitcoms based in London in a previous post and have since discovered, unsurprisingly, that i've been beaten to it. So hat's off to whoever plotted the google map. Purley, just up the road from central Croydon, was the setting for Terry and June in the 70s. More recently Croydon been the setting for a BBC 3 sitcom about the staff working in a Fried Chicken takeaway ('Fried') and for Jo Brand's comedy 'Going Forward'.
Further up the road I went past a sign for West Croydon and it felt like I was heading the wrong way out from the centre. A quick map check confirmed that so I doubled back down a parallel road.
Croydon Lodge of Freedom, a masonic hall.
I walked on, heading to what was referred to as the Old Town, and fairly soon came to a main road that I needed to cross to get to Waddon Road. I'd somehow managed to miss the Town bit of the Old Town or at least the bits with anywhere that sold breakfast so pressed on to the Waddon Cafe, a decent grease cafe in the proper tradition. On a corner along with a handful of other shops/takeaways that are facing a Morrisons over the road (not one that sells breakfast).
Meeting over, I headed back to East Croydon through suburbs after turning off at random somewhere on Purley Way. I followed a road alongside Duppas Hill, Croydon's first recreation ground and previously site of the Croydon workhouse. I was tempted to walk across it but this would probably have taken me in the wrong direction..not normally something that would worry me too much but I was a bit restricted on time.
I was quite taken with Croydon as a place to explore, something I would do a bit more of when I had to return to Waddon a couple of weeks later. It is obviously a place in the grip of gentrification but still has plenty of so far unaffected areas in the centre. As well as the 60s architecture and older buildings there are plenty of regular shops catering to the 'ordinary' person. A Lidl on the main drag and a Wetherspoon (I passed one - there may be more) as well as plenty of independent shops selling things that are useful shops. It hasn't been heavily populated by Nathan Barley types or beardy-man-bun clones just yet. Maybe worse, that phase of gentrification may be bypassed or fast tracked- straight to the really weatlhy, most of which invest in their flats- rather than live in them.
|The 50p building|
|View from the Boxpark|
One of the outlets, selling meaty products and bourbon, had artwork depicting people with animal and skull heads. I'm not sure what this was supposed to signify, if anything. Maybe the skull in the suit is meant to represent something about cultural death with the coming of wealth. But it's probably just supposed to look cool - and it did I suppose.
Turnpike House date from 1965, part of the Kings Square Estate built on behalf of Finsbury Council. The estate is currently undergoing development to include 70% 'affordable' housing at 'social rent'. Judging by the number of hits for estate agents adverts a search for 'Turnpike House' produces I doubt that many of the original flats still fall into that category.
Across the road is Shepherdess Walk Park. I'd never walked across it and decided I ought to. I was drawn towards the mosaics in one corner of the park which depicted the seasons. One is labelled 'Hackney 2012'. The first mosaic in the park was created that year in celebration of life in Hackney's parks during the the olympics. Here, nearer to the border between Islington and Hackney it is four and a half miles from the actual Olympic Park but it feels a world away.