John Coulter has provided us with an excellent pictorial reminiscence of Norwood and its surrounds. The book is essentially a portrait of Norwood one hundred years ago, with a few illustrations from the twenties and thirties and a short commentary to set the scenes.
Mr Coulter has taken pains to include a number of unfamiliar pictures except, of course, for those who remember Norwood of fifty or sixty years ago when many of the locations still existed ‘in the flesh’ so to speak. His reference to ‘Wesleyans’ instead of to ‘Methodists’ needs however to take into account that the three branches of that denomination jointed together under an Act of Parliament in 1932. Many will however share his sadness at the loss of so many Victorian buildings in Norwood, but the loss of Newtown, whatever we may think of its replacement, was not mourned. Newtown in the late 1940’s was in many parts a slum with outside sanitation and no bathrooms or hot water. Conservation has to be able to take into account some changes in people’s quality of life, and not all buildings in the Victorian era were well-built or attractive!
One or two inaccuracies have crept into this otherwise excellent publication. The corner of Knight’s Hill, for example, was not a vacant plot for many years. Until the early 1960’s the shops came right up to the pavement, and then Lambeth Council demolished them and built an estate much further back. One can of course criticise what replaced the shops, but on the other hand the generous set-back has enabled the corner site to be planted and landscaped.
This is an excellent and useful historical document and an opportunity for many to indulge in nostalgia.
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