Croydon Old and New.

John B Gent. CNHSS. Fourth Edition 1995 (£6.75).

and

Crystal Palace, Penge and Anerley in Old Photographs.

Mick Scott. Alan Sutton Publishing 1995. (£7.99).

These two books provide an interesting contrast in presentation: the second is in a format used successfully for years. The Croydon book has, of course, old photographs, and some modern comparative ones too. But it also uses colour extensively: something highly unusual in a local history book, but well worth the extra cost. It reproduces some really attractive colour paintings from the last century, and illustrates on a clear map where they were painted. This is probably better than showing modern comparatives, as the modern view can often be a depressing one. But the book also contains many modern colour photographs to show attractive aspects of the town as it is now, and the few remains of its past still left. Of Norwood, there are two, probably unique, colour photos by John Gent of buildings in the 1960’s: the lovely house called The Tyrol (removed to extend the Queens Hotel) and All Saints School (replaced by a prefab meeting hall, as recounted in The Phoenix Suburb). Many of us will have a prejudice against the ghastly modernity of Croydon, but it there was one book likely to leave the feeling that it’s not such a bad place after all, then this is that book. The Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society (one could wish for a less cumbersome name!) must be congratulated on a splendid effort, with such a commendable result.

Mick Scott’s book sticks to the formula established by Alan Sutton himself, and now carried on, in friendly rivalry, by both his firm and by Chalford Publishing. The pictures Mick Scott has selected all come from Bromley Local History Library, where he was based, although he subsequently left for pastures new. There are undoubtedly some fine photographs possessed by Bromley, with some very unusual ones inside the Palace, though this section curiously comprises the second, rather than the first, half of the book. It was nice to see the pictures of the old Penge Library next to Betts Park which was demolished to extend the Park. There are also wonderful pictures of wartime processions, with lovely detail in them. But at times one regrets missed opportunities. Indeed, two photos have the simple caption ‘Maple Road’, two others are of ‘Anerley Road’ with no indication of date. It only takes a moment to visit the roads, after which Mr Scott could have told us where the photos were taken, what they show, and whether the scene has changed. But overall this book is a useful addition to the literature on the Palace itself, but it may be that Chalford or Phillimore will produce their own on books on Penge and Anerley: there is much more material available. If it were done on the Croydon format, to include colour, it could then show some of the delightful watercolours (at least ten) of the old Croydon Canal.

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