Pitlake is where the Surrey Iron Railway’s terminus depot was sited. From here deliveries were made to other parts of Croydon, or perhaps goods forwarded to/transferred from the continuation along the CMG, especially aggregates quarried from Merstham.
Note: SiR = Surrey Iron Railway. CMG = Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Iron Railway. CCR = Croydon Canal Railway
Cornwall Road, with SiR alignment in red towards the houses on left. The Pitlake Arms is ringed for easy identification
The alignment of the SiR leaves the environs of Wandle Park and heads diagonally across Cornwall Road. It is possible to see the Jubilee Way flyover and The Pitlake Arms from the point and so one can roughly envisage the last couple of hundred yards of the SiR as it headed towards the Pitlake terminus.
Looking across Waddon Park Avenue across the railway/tramway lines, with the SiR marked in red and the Pitlake Arms circled.
The SiR alignment shown between Cornwall Road & Lower Church Street. The tram is bound for Therapia Lane.
Photo of 132 Waddon New Road from TrueCroydonian’s Flickr photostream. Image used under Creative Commons License 2.0
Before the Tramlink route was built, a building as 132 Waddon New Road stood on the route of the SiR. It was ascertained that this structure was very old and indeed was the SiR’s Pitlake toll house. However research has since shown that this building, whilst very old, was in fact built during the 1850’s to serve a coal depot that existed alongside the Croydon to Sutton railway lines at the time. The photograph above, from TrueCroydonian, shows the building clearly aligned west-east along the railway and road. If it had indeed been a SiR toll house it would have surely been aligned north to south.
Nowadays Pitlake is found as a cul-de-sac to the north of the railway line, however in times past Pitlake actually extended down to what is now Reeves Corner. Cairo New Road is roughly on the former alignment of Pitlake and Croydon’s tramlines three-way junction at Reeves Corner is a modern reminder of the three-way rail junction that once connected up the three Surrey Iron Railway routes. The difference between Reeves Corner and the Pitlake terminus of the past is the tramlines use Church Street instead of adjacent Church Road.
Lower Church Street from the underpass showing the SiR alignment as it entered the Pitlake depot.
The tunnel under Jubilee Way. ‘River Wandle’ belies the fact the Surrey Iron Railway’s Pitlake terminus once stood here!
The SiR’s actual approach to it’s Pitlake terminus seems to differ slightly between the opinions of Bayliss and McGow. Doubtless, the SiR offically ended at a site that is now directly underneath the A236, just south of the Jubilee Way underpass. The tracks however continuned towards Reeves Corner forming a delta of rail tracks between the SiR, CMG, and CCR.
Tamworth Road, up which the Tramlink line heads towards West Croydon, was actually a route built for the iron railway’s link between Pitlake and the Croydon Canal. It does appear that Tamworth Road has a steep incline at its northern end but this is because the ground levels have been built up to provide better approaches to the crossings over the adjacent railway line. When the CCR was in use it in fact consisted of a gentle incline all the way from Pitlake to the Croydon canal basins.
From 1839 Croydon was better served by the new London & Croydon railway, which offered better transit times and opportunities for carrying larger freight. This made the CMG route redundant and that closed in the same year. The SiR struggled on a bit longer until 1846.
Reeves Corner viewed from Jubilee Way. The arrow indicates possible entrance to the SiR’s Pitlake terminus off Elys Days Road.
By the 1870’s the enitre SiR terminus area had been obliterated by terraced houses. The yard appears to have been via an entrance opposite the junction of Church Street and Elys Days Road. This is now Church Road, so the entrance would have been roughly where the large middle island between Reeves Corner and Jubilee Way is sited.
There is not a single building in the locale left over from SiR days, however parts of the nearby Croydon Minster parish church from pre-1867, including it’s West clock tower, and Croydon palace were extant during the decades the iron railways ran through the immediate area.
The Church Street branch of Reeves has the one remaining SiR plaque.
Reeves Corner had two plaques denoting the area as the location of the SiR terminus. Unfortunately the plaque nearest to the Pitlake site was destroyed in the fires that engulfed Reeves Corner during the 2011 London Riots. A picture of this plaque can be seen here, it was seen during the Stephenson Locomotive Society’s visit to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the SiR on 26 July 2003. The smaller Reeves Corner store in Church Street has the other surviving plaque as shown above.
Surrey Iron Railway pages:
Surrey Iron Railway / Through Wandsworth / Wandsworth to Earlsfield / Summerstown to New Wimbledon / Colliers Wood to Church Lane / Hallowfield Way to Mitcham Jct / Mitcham to Wandle Park / Cornwall Road to Croydon