The pictures showing a horse grazing as the canal makes a very tight loop at Penge is a somewhat romanctised view of the canal. Maps of the canal show that the bends at Penge weren’t even acute. The artist who did the paintings had been drinking too much!
The section beyond Sydenham through Penge is difficult, as traces of this section do not exist. There may be some slight evidence of the canal seen by train observing the spur towards Crystal Palace Low Level immediately south of Sydenham Station. There is absolutely no trace of it on the east side of the railway south of Penge. Luckily some houses in Trenholme Close indicate the route of the canal after its is bisected by the railway. From Trenholme Close towards Betts Park several traces remain. Anyone looking for the site of well known picture of the time featuring the canal at Penge (where the horse is grazing on a slope above the canal in a somewhat exagerated line drawing) would discover instead an industrial estate.
In the left hand view (looking from the London end of the down platform at Penge West station) this train from Victoria, having just emerged from Penge tunnel, is passing under the two railway bridges that carry the London – Brighton and Crystal Palace lines. The canal was at a height well above the route of the line from Victoria in between these two railway bridges, just behind where the double yellow aspect signal can be seen. The higher (brick arched) bridge carries the Crystal Palace (down) line and this is the branch coming off the main Brighton route at Sydenham Station, which utilises part of the canal’s route. This view of the railway bridge (above middle) at the top of Penge High Street is where the canal bridge and wharf stood. Its level was about mid-way between the rail bridge and road. The wharf had distinctive buildings whose design have been copied for the outbuildings at Penge West railway station itself (far right.)
Below: Meaford Way Industrial estate. The well known drawing featuring the canal at Penge was sited here but there is of course nothing left to see. The canal stood considerably higher that the current elevation here, seen at the rear of Homebase, which fronts onto Penge High Street. The trees in the background mark the railway line and Penge station itself. The canal curved to the east and then turned back towards the railway behind the trees (below right.) The railway bisects the old canal route diagonally and on the far side are cottages in what is known as Trenholme Close. Fortunately these cottages sit on the old canal alignment and help to mark out the canal route more clearly in the next section: Anerley Tea Rooms.
Anerley Tea Rooms and Gardens were a popular tourist destination in Victorian times. A great day out for all was had with a boat trip on the canal, a walk through the gardens, beverages in the tea rooms, then a trip up to Crystal Palace to round off the day This stretch of canal was part of the Anerley Tea Rooms leisure gardens which survived into the late part of the Victorian era and so it has not suffered so much obliteration in terms of tracing the alignment.
After the industrial estate at Meaford Way, south of Penge West station, these properties in what is known as Trenholme Close (above left) reflect the canal’s alignment. The route of the canal passed to the right where Trenholme Terrace is. In the picture (above right), where the red car is parked, the canal’s route passed left to right towards Croydon. In the picture below left, the red car is actually parked behind these large bushes. The canal’s alignment ran along here towards Castledine Road (which is behind the photographer.)
Turning 90 degrees to view Castledine Road (above right.) The Croydon Canal emerged from the bottom left corner and passed roughly where the red brick house is on the right. Back in the 1860’s, the whole section looking from this point to the end of Castledine Road would have been a vista right down the centre of Anerley Tea Gardens with its bandstand in the centre. On the left would have been the popular maze, and round the hillside would have been the canal itself – used for boating and fishing. Despite the whole area having been built upon with newer properties of the second half of the 20th Century, in places remains of the canal can be seen such as at the rear of properties on the west side of Castledine Road (below.) It ran between two schools, again on the west side of Castledine Road, and the boundary between the schools is clearly the canal’s boundary.
Just past this point, to the left and behind the photographer, the route of the canal curved round towards the Anerley Arms, located in Risdale Road. The route of the canal along here dramatically followed the contours. Past the Anerley Arms it took yet another loop round the hillside towards Betts Park. The only remaining feature that has any links to Tea Gardens days, is the building on the right (below.) This is the Anerley Arms. Inside one can find plenty of pictures and other memorabilia linking it to the Croydon canal and ‘Tea Rooms’ days. The houses on the left opposite the pub are built on the far side of the canal’s alignment, and here the canal’s course can be envisaged as one observes the broad sweep that the houses form.
– RH view by permission Croydon Local Studies Library –
The photograph (left) is taken from the railway footbridge at Anerley station. The old painting of the Anerley Tea Rooms section (right) cannot do justice to modern day perspectives as the railway from London to Croydon actually crosses at this point, and some artistic licence has clearly been used in the painting because the railway is omitted! The public house is in the same location in both pictures (though it has been rebuilt.) As can be seen in the painting the former Crystal Palace stood on the hill. The parked red vehicle on the right would have been a boat moored outside the inn, awaiting day trippers looking for an afternoon of idyllic pleasure. Note how the alignment of the upper floors of the latter day public house matches that of the original building.
Inside the pub is a poster advertising the Anerley Gardens by train from London or Croydon. Beyond the pub, the railway bisects the old canal alignment at Anerley station and then round Anerley Hill.
Circumnavigating Anerley Hill
Though the canal was bisected by the London – Croydon Railway, a section on the Croydon side remained in water long after closure. Like the Tea Rooms section it was used for boating and fishing. Looking from the footbridge (below) across the down platfrom, the canal went diagonally from right to the left edge, before sweeping round to enter Betts Park cutting. Note at the centre top of the picture a squat building behind the superstore…
Here the squat building can be seen with its retaining wall (below left) but what is more important is the view looking up this slope. When the canal existed, one would have looked up to the canal as it traversed the hillside. The flat section at the top of this slope is certainly the former level of the canal.
This view on the other side of the superstore, shows the parking lot which serves the Methodist Church nearby (above right.) It seems quite convienently placed but this is actually the level of the canal. Beyond the canal swept round the hillside to enter Betts Park cutting.
Looking through a gap in the fence on the far side of the Methodist Church car park (above left) the car parked in the far distance is approximately where the canal was sited as it swept round into a cutting. Behind the car can be seen houses in the distance. These house flank the road opposite Betts Park. Looking south from near where this car is parked (above right) we are standing on the course of of the canal. In the centre is approximately where the cutting is. The modern building is a block of flats for people with special needs. Its ground floor is actually the first floor in this view here, and the large windows are in the basement flat at the rear. If one were to take the exact centre of the picture, this is the level of the canal in Betts Park behind these houses and on the far side of the main road.
Next: Betts Park.
THE CROYDON CANAL PAGES:
hatcham / new cross / barriedale / shardeloes rd / brockley & honor oak / forest wood / davids rd / forest hill & sydenham / dacres wood & venner rd / penge & anerley / betts park & norwood / towpath way / spurgeons br / west croydon / route maps