The summer’s night that changed Croydon forever

The smoke rises on Croydon’s darkest night

8/8 One Year On: As we approach the anniversary of the London riots, we will be publishing readers’ and contributors’ memories of that darkest of nights, their views and  hopes for the future.

Like many of us, local filmmaker JANET SMITH was first alerted to trouble by her mobile phone

I was at a noisy event in the West End that evening and had my phone in my bag.

When I looked at it I had a lot of missed calls and a number of texts from my boyfriend.

17.48: Be careful tonight, seems Lewisham is having trouble now, and rumors that people are gathering in Croydon.

20.19: West Croydon suffering and locked down.

20.38: Argos and Maplins been broken into.

20.45: Think trains are suspended now and smell fire here and black smoke from East Croydon direction.

I checked my phone about 9pm and phoned home. I made my way to Victoria Station which seemed quiet and got on a Brighton train.

There was some murmurings from other passengers that they had heard about trouble, but nobody knew anything definite.

As we passed Selhurst we expected to see something through the windows but there was no sign of fire from the direction of West Croydon.

Everything was calm and normal until we got to the last stretch of line before East Croydon Station where there was an overpowering smell of burning. But we still could not see anything.

We left the train and went up the slope to the station. Still the smell but still nothing to see.

There were four police officers in the station but not many people.

The trams had been stopped.

I looked down George Street but still there was nothing to see.

I turned left and walked down Addiscombe Road, there were quiet a few people walking in both directions but there was no trouble.

When I reached home I saw it all on TV and it was difficult relating it to a short distance from home.

As a commuter, I did not have reason to go into Croydon town centre until the trams came back on the Friday.

I got on the tram and did the full circuit and filmed it on my phone.

I think the under-development of the East Croydon area probably saved it from the riots because there is nothing close to the station that the rioters wanted to target.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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