Pankhurst points the way for a piece of Coulsdon history

Fine finial: Emmeline Pankhurst is the latest historical figure to grace a Coulsdon lamppost

Emmeline Pankhurst and Britain’s first public railway are the latest additions to the Coulsdon finial history and art trail, a community project designed and managed by local residents.

The first three finials – small, stylised metal models – were positioned atop lampposts and signposts early this year.

“These finials commemorate the history of Coulsdon and Smitham Bottom and were selected from a list of suggestions that were put together from a public consultation by Pauline Payne when she was secretary of East Coulsdon Residents’ Association,” Charlie King, one of the movers behind the project, said.

Emmeline Pankhurst’s finial has been positioned on Brighton Road. Pankhurst visited Coulsdon in April 1911 to speak on Votes for Women.

She was due to speak at Smitham Parish Hall (now the site of the Comrades’ Club). The crowd was so big that she had to speak three times: once in Smitham Parish Hall, again in an adjoining hall, and finally to those in the street.

Right track: the picture of the Surrey Iron Railway in the National Railway Museum

The second new finial is the Surrey Iron Railway, a horse-drawn freight railway which ran from Wandsworth to Merstham via Croydon and Coulsdon. Operating from 1805 to 1838, it was Britain’s first public railway.

The railway crossed Coulsdon on a bridge over Chipstead Valley Road and travelled along the embankment which is still visible at the rear of the Lion Green car park.

The Surrey Iron Railway finial is at the entrance to Lion green car park, with the remaining embankment as a backdrop. The finial is based on the picture of the bridge over Chipstead Valley Road which is on display at the National Railway Museum in York.

The first three finials represent Cuthraed, the Saxon warrior who founded the first settlement around 648AD; Greater Yellow Rattle, an important and rare wild plant that grows on Farthing Downs and Happy Valley; and some stumps to commemorate one of the first games of cricket, played on Lion Green.

In position: the Iron Railway finial is one of 12 planned for around Coulsdon town centre

In total, King and Lewis White, the team behind the project, plan on having 12 finials dotted around the area.

Made of metal and carefully designed and coloured, each finial costs between £450 and £600 to make and install.

The first five have been paid for by donations by individuals, businesses and East Coulsdon RA. “We are now raising money to add new finials to the remaining even posts,” King said.

If you would like to donate please contact Charles King on

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1 Response to Pankhurst points the way for a piece of Coulsdon history

  1. Small point – the Surrey Iron Railway ended at what is now Reeves corner to connect with the canal that finished at what is now West Croydon. The Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Railway connected with the SIR. It was that which ran through Purley / Coulsdon.

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