Introducing The East London Line: Norwood Junction

Dean Nicholas
By Dean Nicholas Last edited 93 months ago
Introducing The East London Line: Norwood Junction
The Norwood Brook, a tributary of the Wandle
The Norwood Brook, a tributary of the Wandle
South Norwood clock tower
South Norwood clock tower
The house where Arthur Conan Doyle lived (by Pafcool2
The house where Arthur Conan Doyle lived (by Pafcool2
South Norwood library
South Norwood library
Mosaic showcasing local Croydon iconography, including the transmitter towers, a kebab spit, a jolly sailor, and a train (not an Overground one, alas)
Mosaic showcasing local Croydon iconography, including the transmitter towers, a kebab spit, a jolly sailor, and a train (not an Overground one, alas)
The Jolly Sailor pub
The Jolly Sailor pub
Selhurst Park, home of Crystal Palace F.C.
Selhurst Park, home of Crystal Palace F.C.

The East London Line opened its south-east section on 23rd May, inducting a whole new swathe of London into the world of roundels. Given that, for a lot of people, south-east London might as well be populated by dragons, we asked some locals to give you a tour round their gaffs. Unfortunately no bona-fide local stepped forward for Norwood Junction, so we had to press regular Londonista DeanN into the job, his main qualification being lifelong trips through the station en route to the tawdry spectacle of watching Crystal Palace FC.

Time was, this would have been easily the most cheerily-named station on the East London line. But that time was the 1830s, when it seemed perfectly natural and proper to name outposts of this new-fangled locomotive contraption after local public houses and watering dens. Hence, when it opened in 1838, Norwood Junction was called "Jolly-sailor station" (sic), in honour of a pub nearby.

On train timetables it was given the wonderfully evocative name, "Jolly-sailor near Beulah Spa", for its proximity to the eponymous Victorian healthspot. Sadly, the name didn't stick, for long, and by 1846 it was called "Norwood", after the Great North Wood, with the "Junction" appellation arriving in 1856. Along with its cheery name, the station holds a rare piece of rail industry history: it was the test site of a pneumatic propulsion system trialled by the London and Croydon Railway company, involving a vacuum pipe placed between the rails that would propel the carriages toward a pumping station, an example of which was built in a suitably Gothic style.

Alas, the experiment wasn't entirely successful. The company merged with London and Brighton Railway, who had no interest in the propulsion idea, and the pumping station was regrettably destroyed, with this illustration the only thing left. The Jolly Sailor pub remains, but the smiling seamen have long been replaced by frowning, pink-armed locals. It's difficult to avoid the conclusion that the area is long past its peak.

Contemporary South Norwood seems caught between two worlds: the real Croydon to the south, and the more aspirational, middle class-tempting destinations found further north along the railway line. At first unassuming, with the anodyne satellite-town feel that only a row of dispiriting pound shops and fried chicken outlets can create, a scratch beneath the surface reveals a few items of interest. Arthur Conan Doyle lived in a house on Tennyson Road in the early 1890s, working as an ophthalmologist, though, as noted in his diary, he was rather bereft of clients, and was able to use the time productively to write, focusing in particular on his more historical novels (a curious choice for a man later to champion the existence of fairies). Indeed, it was while resident in Norwood that Conan Doyle (temporarily) slew Holmes in "The Final Problem". Mysteries of a different kind have also been solved in the area: in 1966, the World Cup trophy, stolen while on display in Westminster Central Hall, was discovered by a dog named Pickles, abandoned in bushes near Beulah Hill.

Now part of the East London line, Norwood Junction will be of use mainly to river completionists (the Norbury Brook, a tributary of the Wandle, flows nearby) and football fans north of the river needing to get to Selhurst Park. It may be trickier for others to justify a visit.

Last Updated 28 May 2010