Norbury Hall Park has a grand history as the grounds of the last manor house of Norbury, built in 1802.
The grounds originally included 30 acres of ornamental gardens with a lake fed by the River Graveney/Norbury Brook, which was later diverted to run along the back of Dalmeny Avenue through Thornton Heath Recreation Ground and Norbury Park.
The main gates to the estate were on London Road, at the top of what is now Craignish Avenue, with a drive leading to the house through woodland. The stable yard to the Hall was described in 1855 as having “room for several carriages, stabling for seven horses, hay and corn rooms, granary and a hen house”.
James William Hobbs, mayor of Croydon, bought Norbury Hall in the 19th century and had a private cricket pitch laid in the grounds. In 1888 it hosted the first match of Australia’s tour series against an England XI including WG Grace. Australia won by six wickets.
Hobbs later sold the cricket pitch to Barclays Bank and it is now used for football as part of the Nuffield Gym complex.
He kept the lake stocked with fish and his weekend guests enjoyed fishing and shooting. Rowing boats were accessed by the ramp that still leads to the dip that marks where the lake stood until 1954 when it was drained.
Croydon Council acquired the estate in 1956 when nine acres of the gardens were fenced off. The walled garden was sold for development into offices and later converted into apartment blocks along London Road, however a section of the original wall remains.
Apart from the squirrels that give the park its informal name, several families of foxes inhabit the grounds and it’s great for bird-watchers with tree creepers, magpies, robins and jays among the native species to watch for, as well as woodpeckers to listen for! There are also green parakeets, gathering at dusk in flocks of up to 120 in the tall trees lining the paths.
With such a glorious past and splendid wildlife we want to ensure Norbury Hall Park also has a future to match.