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Commuter Heaven

With green space, quiet streets and easy access to the North Downs, Croydon has all the perks of living out of the capital – but it’s just minutes away from central London >>

Before it became enveloped by the bustling capital, Croydon was in the heart of rural Surrey. At around the time of the Norman conquest, Croydon is recorded as having just a church, a mill and a few hundred inhabitants. During the Middle Ages, Croydon quickly grew, becoming a thriving market town and a centre for charcoal production and brewing.

Once the horse-drawn Surrey Iron Railway opened in 1803, the town soon became a vital link between London and Brighton – and Croydon’s small town feel was a thing of the past. The town rapidly expanded and has since become the largest in Surrey. 

With the railway came tourists – Croydon was a popular leisure destination in the 19th century, boasting a number of spas and hotels as well as pleasure gardens and fetes. The leafy town also became a popular place for members of the Victorian middle classes to set up home, mainly because of the easy links into the City of London.

By 1900 Croydon was an important industrial area, too, boasting thriving metal and car manufacturing industries – and with the arrival  of an airport, Croydon’s identity as a transport hub was established. During World War II, Croydon was London’s main airport and for this reason suffered substantially from bombing. Much of the town was destroyed and even to this day Croydon bears the scars of the blitz.

By the mid-20th century, following the rebuilding of the town centre and the extension of its boundaries, Croydon effectively merged into the capital’s suburbs, making the town part of Greater London. In the decade that followed, many people began to look for homes outside central London, and so during the 1950s and 60s new offices and roads were built to accommodate Croydon’s growing population. 

Today, Croydon is a busy suburb of London. Though the town has sought city status for years, it still officially remains a borough of outer London. In recent years there have been a number of schemes to regenerate the area and develop parts of Croydon that need investing in or improving. 

Croydon has the second largest centre for shopping in the south east, after central London itself. As well as a number of markets, Croydon boasts the Whitgift Centre, Centrale and Drummond Centre, which provide a selection of high street and independent shops – plus there are talks about developing a new Westfield shopping centre in the area, which would make Croydon an unbeatable shopping destination. It has also recently been announced that Croydon will become one of 12 Portas Pilot towns and receive a share of £1.2m to rejuvenate its central shopping area as part of a scheme involving the government and Mary Portas – so Croydon’s town centre is set to get even better in the coming months and years.

Croydon’s city centre also boasts a number of restaurants and cafes as well as busy bars and clubs during the evenings. If you’re after a more high-brow night out, Fairfield Halls arts centre showcases great theatre and performers all year round and has done so for decades – some of the venue’s most famous performers include Johnny Cash, The Beatles and Tom Jones. The Warehouse Theatre is another must-visit for lovers of the arts. The theatre is known for showing new drama, comedy and youth theatre productions. There are also a number of gyms, sports centres and cinemas in the area.

Central London is easily accessible from Croydon and so is all that the exciting capital has to offer, from theatres to bars, museums and parks. As well as being minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, Croydon is just a short journey away from the lush Surrey countryside, most notably the North Downs and the Pilgrim’s Way path. You are never far from a quiet spot in Croydon itself either – the town boasts over 120 open spaces and parks.

Croydon is a transport hub, with quick and frequent trains into central London and out into the surrounding areas. There are a number of easy overground connections into London, which makes commuting into the city a breeze, plus transport links with Gatwick airport which make getting further afield easy too – Gatwick is a mere 15 minutes from East Croydon station.

As well as extensive bus services, Croydon boasts a light rail system called Tramlink. This service provides additional links between Croydon and surrounding areas. The connections between Croydon and central London have improved in recent years, and there are proposals to further develop the transport links to help stimulate regeneration in the south London area.

For drivers, the A23, which skirts the town centre, is a fast road linking London to Brighton and the rest of the south coast. The road itself starts near Waterloo station and ends near the Palace Pier in Brighton.

The Croydon area has a number of great schools – there are around 100 primary schools in the borough and a wide variety of secondary schools. As well as a range of state schools, the town is home to a number of independent schools – the Whitgift School, Old Palace School and Croydon High School for Girls among the most notable.

For higher education, Croydon College offers A levels, apprenticeships, adult learning and even a University Centre where students can study for their degrees on a full or part time basis. And Croydon is also home to the BRIT school for performing arts and technology, which boasts famous alumni such as Adele, Amy Winehouse and Jessie J.

Croydon is a great place to buy property if you feel like you’re being priced out of central London but still want a convenient commute.

A lot of attention has been paid to redeveloping Croydon recently, which has resulted in a number of new apartment developments being built. As the town centre and transport links improve, house prices are likely to go up, so now is a good time to buy.

From Victorian terraces to new builds, larger family homes and swanky apartment blocks, Croydon offers a wide range of properties that will suit all tastes, needs and, most importantly, budgets. As well as property, living in Croydon is also more affordable than in central London, plus, when it comes to the town’s amenities and atmosphere, the area is only improving.

There is a lot of thought, and money, going into Croydon’s regeneration scheme. The more rundown areas are being invested in and the aim is to ensure Croydon’s centre becomes a more effective and attractive hub of culture. As they stand, Croydon’s transport links are second to none, and are likely to only improve in the future.

With great transport links, living in Croydon means you can be part of London when you want to be yet you are never far from the open spaces and green hills of the countryside and the south coast.

It’s got a bit of a reputation for being a bit dreary, with busy roads and concrete buildings, but this actually makes property more affordable in some areas. Plus the council’s focus at the moment is very much on turning this reputation around and making Croydon a desirable London location.

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