South Norwood Country Park

  • Subject: Oral History
A narrow path through trees and bushes in the park

Founding members of the South Norwood United Action Group discuss the park creation and its inaugural ceremony.

In this audio you can hear Penny and Ted. 

The audio is 6 minutes long.

Audio Transcript: 


Back in the 70s, I think it was the 70s, Crystal Palace Football Club were thinking of moving their football ground to what was then the redundant sewage farm. 

Now, I personally took a bit of umbrage to that, and didn’t think it was a good plan ‘cause I lived in Watcombe Road at the time. And I was on the bus going to Croydon and I heard some elderly people getting very concerned about the football club moving down to the country pa…the sewage farm. So that kicked me off and I thought, well, “who do I know who like, who’s good for a fight or an argument?”, and my next door neighbour brought a couple, his name was Paul Tonks, and his wife. Paul was…is a union man, or was a union man, and he was telling me that “Oh, I’ve just been speaking to my brother-in-law about this”. So cut a long story short, the three of us, or the three families…we did lots of things. One of which was to write to the Croydon Advertiser protesting and to…just to extend that particular park. We kept that going for…we…for about three years of making a noise on the newspapers so it would become popular. And we ended up joining what was to be the local residents’ association, which was called South Norwood United Action Group.


Because I was always a very busy person and then had that first baby, my husband said he thought I should go and do something or whatever, because I was just at home. So, I joined South Norwood United Action Group, and they were just talking about the Country Park, because it was a wasteland, and some people, including my current husband, were trying to stop the football…Crystal Palace going there and to turn it into open space. And so, I joined at about that time and we talked about making it into a park and a nice place, and I had this baby, so I thought “Oh yes that’d be lovely. I could take my baby there”. And so I joined that bit, you know, a subgroup. Well [laughs], finally the Country Park was opened on that baby’s seventh birthday [laugh]. So, I never really did take him there as a baby. 

What I did particularly was discover that if you put in a…that we could put in a planning application and somebody would have to look at it. And because they wanted to put a waste disposal centre into… onto the Country Park. Yes, you know, and one of those incinerator things, giant incinerator things, like at Beddington. And we didn’t really want that, [laughs]…so I made a planning application and with, you know golf course and…and playground and wild bits and, you know, kept all the wild bits and the water bits and so on and so forth. And we put it in to Croydon Council, and I don’t think we actually put it in to Bromley Council, but my there was another group at the other end of the Country Park who were in Bromley. So, I think they might have. Anyway, the Council looked at it and thought about it and Sir Bernard Weatherill was the MP at the time and he had got very interested. He would…and he kept wanting me to be a…a…you know, stand for being in the Council and I kept telling him no, I’d rather be a rogue element than be controlled by being a councillor, and I think he probably liked that. So he did put in words and the Council took up our planning application and turned it into a Country Park [laughs]. And we opened it as I say on my son’s birthday and Sir Bernard Weatherill was there on his horse and [laughs] galloped around the park and it was all very funny. 

Oh gosh, well it was…it was a big day we there were…lots…lots of people came. The…it was…we…the…we did a kind of opening thing with speeches and whatnot, and…at the end of Albert Road where…where the park is, and as I say, Sir Bernard Weatherill was on his horse [laughs]. It was just so strange! And…oh there were all sorts of very important people came, you know, people from the Council and so on. And they had invited me, and then we walked all around the park, which wasn’t quite expected because they’ve…all the ladies were, you know, dressed up and high heeled shoes and whatnot [laughs]. So we walked all the way around it and Sir Bernard had done a big speech and then we all went to the Fairfield Halls, and had a slap-up lunch.


South Norwood High Street Stories is funded by Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme delivered by Croydon Council. For more information visit

Image Credit: Croydon Council

A narrow path through trees and bushes in the park

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