On the Street where you Live - South Croxted Road and Alleyn Park by Ian McInnes

The Governors of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift started leasing building plots at the southern (Paxton Green) end of Alleyn Park (then called Palace Road) and Alleyn Road in 1859. At that time the land at the northern end of Alleyn Road and south of Park Hall Road (then called Park Road) was the grounds of a large house called ‘The Manor House’, located roughly where numbers 64-74 Park Hall Road stand today.

Mr Frederick Doulton, of ceramic fame, leased the land east of Alleyn Park and Mr John McDonald Henderson, a chartered accountant, leased the land to the west. There was some limited construction on both sides of Alleyn Road during the 1860s, ‘Glenthorne’ at 12 Alleyn Road was built in 1867 by architect Henry Wilbur Webster, and Pissarro’s 1870 view over the area from College Road confirms a few houses at the south end of Alleyn Park, including  the house of the headmaster of Dulwich College Prep, which still stands,

Mr Henderson sold an interest in some of his land in July 1869 to a “Mr George Baron Holroyd of Dartnall Park, in the County of Surrey, gentleman.” and they both continued to develop plots in Alleyn Road and Alleyn Park over the next twenty years, as demand required. Mr Holroyd had also engaged a new builder, a Mr Edward Van Vliet.  The Estate Surveyor found him to be,” a man of some means and bearing a very good character, having carried out large building operations in Sydenham in a satisfactory manner”. The Estate Map of 1876 shows that, by that date, Mr Holroyd and Mr Van Vliet had completed a set of 6 semi-detached houses in Alleyn Road and 11 houses along the west side of Alleyn Park (No. 5 Alleyn Park is the only original one left). The future route of South Croxted Road was denoted as a path ending roughly where Church Approach connects to Alleyn Road today.

Meanwhile, a few years earlier, in 1871, a Mrs Jemima Smith, the lessee of the ‘Manor House’ since 1857, had agreed to sell the house and all its remaining land to a Mr John Westwood.   Westwood was a property developer and he gave the land for the construction of Emmanuel Church in Clive Road, (architect E.C. Robins), which  was commenced  in 1877. This church, which was demolished in 1966 after a fire, made the area more desirable and, by 1883, Mr Westwood had completed Nos 149-219 inclusive on the west side of South Croxted Road (then referred to as ‘New Croxted Road’). Two pairs of semi-detached houses opposite what is now the junction of South Croxted Road and Church Approach (Nos. 105-111) followed in 1885. On the 1886 Estate Map ‘New’ Croxted Road was noted as “partially formed but not yet made up”.

The same year, 1886, Mr Westwood was in financial difficulty and Mr J M Henderson acquired all his outstanding interests under his original agreement with the governors of the recently formed Dulwich Estate in ‘New’ Croxted Road. At the time the Surveyor reported that “Mr Henderson alleges, and is I think justified in doing so, that houses in this locality must be of moderate size and some of them quite small ones to have any chance of speedy letting. I do not see that damage can accrue to the adjacent property of the Governors by compliance with his request, and should the effect of doing so be, as he anticipates, a more rapid occupation of the land, that will be to the direct interest of the estate, since there will be nearly £12000 more expended on the land, the rents will probably be better secured, and an additional ground rent of 20 shillings a house for 125 houses will result.”

Both Mr Henderson and Mr Holroyd continued their building in Alleyn Road, using Mr Van Vliet as their builder, and the latter only moved on to South Croxted Road in late 1894. He was living at 79 Alleyn Road at the time and made a formal application to the London County Council “for consent to form a new road to be called South Croxted Road, to be the continuation of the existing road”. The specification included a 36 foot roadway with 7 foot wide pavements on either side, a total of 50 feet overall.

At the Board Meeting on 24th January 1895 the Surveyor submitted plans for the first 18 of Mr Van Vliet’s houses on the west side of the road - it is not clear whether he was still working directly for Mr Henderson and Mr Holroyd at this point or they were just acting as his mortgagors. The Surveyor noted that “their gardens will abut on the boundary of the College Estate there……the same specification will be used as has been adopted in the other houses built by him (Mr Van Vliet) on the Manor Estate. I think that approval may be given.” The houses were to cost £450 each. More details were provided at a meeting in February and in June, he submitted the drawings and specifications for the first 8 houses on the east side which were larger and were to cost £750.

Mr Van Vliet, however, was also still busy working in Alleyn Road, on Nos. 3-17, and he sublet some of his South Croxted Road sites to another builder, Mr Bodley. Work carried on through the summer until November when the Surveyor reported that “several old doors have been used in the houses being erected by Mr E Van Vliet in Alleyn Road and in South Croxted Road by Mr Bodley, and I have requested their removal.”

Later in the month the Manager, in the absence of the Surveyor, read the following report “I have inspected the houses in course of erection by Mr Van Vliet and Mr Bodley in reference to some doors and fittings not of new material therein used. Mr Van Vliet’s house is a detached one in Alleyn Road. There are several doors and some closet fittings, in bath room and bedrooms, which were bought by Mr Van Vliet at a mansion which was being demolished at Norwood. They are good and well-seasoned and need not, I think, be objected to. Mr Van Vliet is also using some doors made several years ago by Messrs Bowyer (who had been building in Alleyn Park in the 1880s), but which have not been used by them and were therefore sold; they are of course well-seasoned.

Mr Bodley’s buildings consist of a pair of semi-detached houses in South Croxted Road, one of which is completed and occupied, the other nearly complete. There are 14 doors in one house and 18 in the other. Although these are not new they are well made and well-seasoned, and therefore as good if not better than new doors might be.”

In March 1896 Mr Van Vliet submitted further plans for the remainder of the semi-detached houses on South Croxted Road “on plots having each a frontage of about 26 feet” on the west side, and on plots “having each a frontage of about 30 feet” on the east side. No. 22 was one of the first houses completed and it was sold in June 1897.

It appears however that Mr Van Vliet may also have become overstretched, or Mr Holroyd was, because later in 1897, another developer, the Eastman Brothers, “Hugh Thomas Eastman, Archibald Tennant Eastman and Edward John Eastman all of 23 Bucklersbury in the City of London, surveyors” acquired “the uncovered land in New Croxted Road comprised in the lease of 28th January 1886, to Mr J M Henderson, now vested in Mr G B Holroyd”. They continued to use Mr van Vliet as the builder but nothing more is heard from him until March 1899 when he applies for permission “to hold a sale by auction on the premises of his furniture and effects” – a possible sign of bankruptcy - yet in 1900 he was still working for the Eastman Brothers and is reported as selling on his leases of Nos. 6 - 28 (even), 46-48 and 21–39 (odd) South Croxted Road in 1908.

Nos. 13-23 inclusive and 87 and 88 were complete by June 1898, and Nos. 18 & 20 “the fifth pair from Park Road on the east side” followed in February 1899, along with “The Kraal and a semi-detached house not named or numbered (seventh pair from Park Road on the west side)”. Nos. 6-16 and 26-32 on the east side, and nos. 29-31 on the west side were finished by January 1900.

Building in South Croxted Road was substantially complete by 1901 and it rapidly became an important traffic route south towards Crystal Palace. It has had a bus route since 1912 and in May that year, the Manager reported that “during the last fortnight, I have received complaints from many of the tenants in Croxted Road and South Croxted Road as to the nuisance and injury to health and property occasioned by the incessant passing of two hostile motor bus companies’ vehicles along these roads, and the lessees ask whether the Governors could take any steps to abate the nuisance complained of” The Governors agreed that it was a public highway and said there was nothing they could do.