Londonist.com, which often takes a sideways glance at matters in and around the capital, has clearly enjoyed the produce of Surrey Street Market, or its ancient public house, the Dog and Bull, a little too much…
Someone at the website has alighted on the century-old plaque at the end of the street market and challenged Londoners with the provocative headline: “London’s dullest plaque?”
It is the much-overlooked plaque at the top end of Surrey Street, where it meets Croydon High Street.
In the grand old days of British Imperial grandeur, during the Victorian and Edwardian age, civic gestures in the form of statues and plaques, to commemorate heroes (rarely, if ever, heroines, except for the old Queen herself, gawd bless ‘er), or historic events, or some gesture of generosity from some rich benefactor, were popping up all over the place.
Here in Croydon, in 1896, we got a plaque in the town centre, not far from the (then relatively new) Town Hall which boasted of how the road had been widened “from a width of 29 feet to its present width of 50 feet”. Whoop-de-do.
As Londonist’s Will Noble notes: “Frederick Thomas Edridge — five-times Mayor of Croydon — must have attended some uninspiring ribbon cuttings in his time. But the slight widening of a high street? That takes the biscuit.”
The thing is, as a piece of Victoriana, the plaque is a fine example, with an ornate Croydon civic coat of arms above the text, and all set into some robustly red brick work. It’s just the subject matter which is a bit, well, ho-hum.
For something which has been passed by commuters and shoppers for 122 years with barely an idle glance, the Croydon High Street plaque hardly ever features in any of the over-priced artwashing street art tours which are on offer to the unsuspecting. Odd that.
Londonist’s attention might just turn it into what they call “something of a niche Croydon tourist attraction”.
Even Inside Croydon gets a mention in the Londonist piece, as the source of information that, since the plaque was placed in its position, the road it celebrates as having been widened has been… narrowed. Freddie Edridge won’t have been pleased.
The article certainly created a (slight) stir on social media.
The Bishop of Croydon, no less, Jonathan Clark, chirped in on Twitter: “Important historical evidence that Croydon’s history of knocking buildings down to help the traffic is a long-term phenomenon.”
The Bish, after all, has Croydon’s parish church, the elegant and historic Croydon Minster, now set alongside a six-lane 1960s urban motorway.
Another response, from Canada, provided a photograph from 1955 which shows the High Street as it was then, the full Edridge 50 feet wide.
And, just as we suspect those cunning digital journos at the Londonist always wanted, others chipped in with their own suggestions for deeply dull plaques.
Like this one…
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