London SE19 has some interesting things going for it...
1. It’s where Pickles the dog found the World Cup
Less than four months before the start of the 1966 World Cup – you know, the one England won – the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen while on display to promote the competition. The cup was eventually found by Pickles the dog under this very bush on Beulah Hill, Upper Norwood.
2. The Queen of the Gypsies lived on Gipsy Hill
Back in 1740, Upper Norwood was covered by Great Northwood. It’s where a lot of the local names come from and the area had long been a favourite haunt for local gypsies. Margaret Finch was famously Queen of the Gypsies and lived in a conical hut built of branches. People used to come from London to have their fortunes read! When Margaret died at the ripe old age of 108, she had to be buried in a square box as she’d been sat squatting on her haunches for so many years her body had completely seized up!
3. The Crystal Palace was there
The Crystal Palace was moved from Hyde Park to Upper Norwood after the Great Exhibition finished. It fell into disrepair and finally burnt down in 1936. John Logie Baird was using one of the water towers with his experiments in television broadcasting and he lost vital equipment, hampering his attempts to compete with Marconi. It was said the glow from the fire at the Palace could be seen over eight counties.
4. There’s a nuclear bunker under this block of flats
This building was part of the civil defence for London and would have been used as a control centre in the event of a nuclear attack. Its position on the side of the hill would have given the bunker some protection from any blast. It’s difficult to imagine now, but in the 60s, 70s and 80s, some of us were, quite literally, four minutes away from a nuclear apocalypse!
5. Emile Zola lived there… for a bit…
Zola was a French novelist, playwright, and journalist, who was convicted of criminal libel over the Dreyfus affair. Rather than go to jail, he fled to England. He had a brief and unhappy time living at Upper Norwood from October 1898 to June 1899, until he was allowed to return to France in time to see the fall of the government which had convicted him.
6. Raymond Chandler lived there
Writer of hard-boiled detective novels, including The Big Sleep, Chandler lived in a double-fronted Victorian house on the mean streets of Auckland Road, Upper Norwood, while he studied at Dulwich College.
7. They filmed this classic line from The Italian Job in the park
…and not a lot of people know that.
8. Kingsley Amis lived there
Author of Lucky Jim, Amis lived in Norbury (part of the ward of Upper Norwood). Amis said that it was ‘not really a place, it’s an expression on a map – really I should say I came from Norbury station’.
9. Marie Stopes Lived there
Birth-control pioneer Marie Stopes’ early years were spent at 28 Cintra Park, Upper Norwood.
10. Elgar lived there
Pomp and Circumstance! Land of Hope and Glory! Stirring stuff from Elgar who lived on what is now Fountain Drive.
11. There was a theme park at Beulah Spa
Dubbed ‘The Versailles of London’, Beulah Spa was designed in 1831 by Decimus Burton, the architect responsible for parts of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and London Zoo. He also designed the layout and architecture of the seaside towns of Fleetwood, St Leonards-on-Sea, and spa town Tunbridge Wells.
The Spa had daily entertainment, including minstrels who serenaded lovers, concerts by military bands, dancing, astrology, acrobatics, archery, fireworks and illuminations. There was also a camera obscura with a telescope powerful enough to see Windsor Castle. It is now the site of a Harvester.
12. They used to have the Grand Prix there!
Crystal Palace is one of the oldest motor-racing venues in the world. It was the first-ever place where live televised motor racing was broadcast, and was then the venue for the London Grand Prix prior to WWII.