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Historic Past - Bright Future
Proposals for a major renovation of the gardens and grounds surrounding Norwood Grove have highlighted the historic significance of this fine Georgian mansion.
A house was originally erected on this site around 1760 for a hop merchant named John Ambler.
This building was substantially enlarged or rebuilt in the last decade of the 18th century which formed the basis of the magnificent mansion we see today.
Since the early 1800s the building has been known under a number of different names, including Streatham Grove and White House.
The 4th Duke of Portland lived here in 1839 and in 1847 it was occupied by Arthur Anderson, the joint founder of the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, known today simply as the P&O shipping line.
Image: Sphinx stairway leading to Norwood Grove, 1930
In 1864 the famous Italian patriot, Garibaldi, dined with Anderson at Norwood Grove following which he made an official visit to the Crystal Palace.
The Anderson family are commemorated on the small gate lodge to the Grove which they built in 1860. Carved in the stonework above the door is the family motto "Patria fidelis" with the crest of an arm with the hand holding a hammer and the entwined letters of three A's and an M. These are the initials of Arthur Anderson, and his wife Margaret.
From the driveway the lodge appears to be a single story building but is in fact two stories high with the front entrance on the upper floor.
From 1878 to 1913 Norwood Grove was occupied by Frederick Nettlefold and his family. In 1833 Frederick entered his father's iron and screw business and built the company up to become the first major industrial manufacturer of pointed wood screws in the world. The company survives today as part of the GKN Group.
In 1924 a local resident, Stenton Covington, launched a successful campaign to acquire Norwood Grove and its grounds for use as a public open space and these were opened by the Prince of Wales in November 1926.
One of the most popular features in the newly created public park were the two large stone sphinxes that guarded the stairway leading up to the house. For many years these giant statues have were a favourite attraction for children who would take great delight in having their photographs taken whilst sitting astride them. Sadly both these statues have long since disappeared. However, it would be a most welcome initiative if Croydon Council could be persuaded to incorporate their reinstatement as part of their proposed restoration plans for the grounds.
A fascinating collection of old photographs of Norwood Grove, some showing the sphinxes, appear in the book "Images of Streatham", available from Local History Publications, 316 Green Lane, Streatham, London SW16 3AS.