There is a myth about the Croydon Canal which is quite wrong. It is asserted that the only remains of the canal are at Betts Park, further south near Anerley, where it is often cited that the Betts Park section “is the only surviving part of what used to be the Croydon Canal” and that’s not quite the case!
This excellent stretch of canal at Dacres Wood is never mentioned in most literature, all the more surprising since the section at Betts Park is just a concrete monstrosity designed to ‘improve’ the stretch of waterway there. Dacres Wood is the canal route itself, still in water, although much stilted up, and the channel profile modified now forming a nature reserve.
Just off Dacres Road, by some flats opposite the junction with Dacres Road this access path leads to Dacres Wood nature reserve (and of course, the Croydon Canal.) It is a surprise to actually be able to see a real stretch of canal at last. This is the view (below) as one passes through the gates of Dacres Wood nature reserve and the path slopes down towards the canal itself. Despite information boards, not one word is uttered that this is the Croydon Canal.
However, Lewisham Council does have a website that tells us this is the former canal. It explains that the former canal “became the garden of a Victorian house called Irongates; this was one of a pair, the other called Thriffwood. By 1895, the grounds of both houses were wooded, with a belt of trees separating the two gardens.” In 1952 Thriffwood was demolished, and a block of flats, Homefield House, was built on the site of Irongates in 1962. Originally earmarked for housing, it was not realised that this was the Croydon until the council did a little bit of research in 1989, and redug out the canal in 1990 to its original width to create an attractive wetland.
Two more views of the Dacres Wood section. The houses in the background are on Catling Close, and the landing stage (below) lies at the other extent of the canal. As its now a nature reserve the landing stage really serves to give closer interaction with the aquatic life that can be found in the canal – some of which may be descendants of those which lived in the original canal! A footpath cuts the route and a look over the fence along this footpath reveals houses which can be seen at Thriffwood.
The houses in Thriftwood kept subsiding and eventually the cause was attributed to poor drainage caused by the filling in of the old canal route.
The house, seen above, is in Thriffwood, just off Silverdale. Behind the house is a fence forming the Dacres Wood boundary. The height of this fence indicates the removal of a low embankment for the properties at Thriffwood. Several of these houses actually sit at the level of what was once the bottom of the canal bed, and suffered subsidence problems when first built in the early 1950’s. People had to move out temporarily for about a year and a half, until the subsidence (attributed to the former canal) were resolved. Many thanks to Robert Pope for this information.
After Thriffwood, traces of the canal are scarce. By train however, a sharp eyed traveller can spot trees marking the boundary of the canal as it comes behind Silverdale to encroach partially onto the railway route approaching Sydenham Station. At Sydenham (above right) the canal was at a higher level, thus the road crossing here would have had a pronounced hump. The nearby Greyhound Inn is a descendant of older property connected with the canal. Just after Sydenham station the line to Crystal Palace leaves the main railway. This was built on the route of the canal south of Sydenham Bridge alongside what is now known as Canal Walk. From here the canal headed straight from here towards Venner Road, whose route it crossed twice in a short distance.
The nearby Canal Walk has an alignment that acknowledges the former route to Croydon. Venner Road (right) leads southwards from Sydenham Station. This view looks north. According to published research the canal lay to the north of Venner Road. However it appears part of Venner Road could have been the canal route. About midway along Venner Road, a change in the style of property can be seen in the form of these four houses (the large white one being the second one along.) Research shows the canal alignment was these houses now stand. The route crossed the road alignment herabouts before turning south west towards Penge.
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