Norwood’s Open Spaces: The Lawns

The Lawns Estate was known originally as Bewley’s Coppice. It was taken over by the Royal Beulah Spa Company at the end of the reign of George IV. Both the hotel (at which Queen Adelaide stayed) and the Spa and its grounds were owned by the same company, although the two were separated by a land known as Leather Bottle Lane. Some people attributed this name to the fact that the poor used to collect the water from the Spa in leather bottles. The well itself was 70 ft. deep and never froze even in the hardest frost; the water was composed of sulphur and other minerals as that of the German spas. It was a most fashionable place and the lines of carriages used to stretch right down Beulah Hill. Tivoli Villa, at the entrance, was built by the company and was used for the taking of tickets.

Spas however, had only a temporary fashion, and when this one fell into disuse the grounds on the south side of Leather Bottle Lane were bought by a Mr. Horne for a private estate; it was he who built the Lawns. He bought up land all around the grounds and built two houses on Beulah Hill and Grange Road for his two sons leasing the other sites for redevelopment. All his land tenants were given rights of entry to the woods. When Mr. Horne died, his family sold the estate; some freeholds were bought by the owners, the remainder of the ground leases being bought up by the Prudential. A Mr. Hornsey Walker bought the Lawns and its surrounding grounds from the Horne family and stated that the gates of the surrounding gardens were to remain closed and the owners were to be debarred from using the woods at all. Sir William Treloar and a Mr. Franks refused to accept this edict and took the matter to the High Court, winning the case in 1907.

Leather Bottle Lane changed its name about 60 years ago and we know it now as Spa Hill. There was an old oak in the lower section of the woods in which it was said that both Dick Turpin and his horse hid when hard pressed! This oak was cut down upon the erection of the prefabs. When Mr Hornsey Walker left the Lawns the house and estate were bought by a man thought to be a speculative builder. Perhaps the building trade was not so rewarding as now; in any case, he did not remain there long, and the Corporation took the estate over, building the prefabs on the old archery ground during the War. The National Trust became interested in this estate prior to the first World War, and at present owns covenants over part of it. The Trust’s covenants are negative in that they prevent the wholesale felling of trees. Unfortunately they do not prevent the trees falling down through neglect or old age, nor can they insist on any replanting of trees.

As with others of the old estates in Norwood which have been acquired by the Croydon Corporation for the parks and public open spaces of the future, the war years and lack of money have delayed considerably the care of the Lawns. Residents on Beulah Hill and also Grange Road have been continuously annoyed by the intrusion of strangers into their gardens and there have also been cases of burglary. It is well known that Alderman Mrs. Kettle has been complaining about this state of affairs for some considerable time, and Councillor Keith Edwards, Vice Chairman of the Parks Committee has also paid much attention to this problem. It will be a considerable relief and delight to both the surrounding residents and to Norwood as a whole to hear that the Corporation have asked the Minister for an order allowing the reclaiming of the allotment land for open space. When this permission has been granted, it is intended that the work of clearing and tidying up the whole estate will commence immediately.

Miss Rice Byrne.

H.M.H.F.

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