Croydon is an ambitious, bustling, town looking for ways to attract young professionals and raise its status.

As the most populous of London’s boroughs at 370,000 residents, the area is undergoing a major makeover to change its image from a concrete ‘crap town’ to modern oasis.

In the meantime, the National Trust has turned its attention to the borough. In collaboration with Croydon Council, it is running the Edge City tour, introducing participants to Croydon’s most notable buildings and their history.

The National Trust’s London creative director, Joseph Watson explained: “We want people to see Croydon in a different light.

“There are lots of places around the country that aren’t obviously historic, but the moment you start to understand the history of those places and the many layers of those places, you get a sense of the connection between people and places over a longer period and how they developed.”

Here’s what we learned.

1. The centre is nicknamed ‘mini-Manhattan’

Croydon's high street (Taylor Heyman/PA)
Mini Manhattan in all its glory (Taylor Heyman/PA)

 

Owing to all the tall buildings, locals have named the area after the New York borough. However, that’s where the comparisons end. Croydon has been called a town planner’s nightmare, the complete opposite of Manhattan’s ordered grid system.

2. The Nestle building is exactly double the height of the Travelodge

A view of Croydon, showing the Nestle building in 1968 (PA)
A view of Croydon, showing the Nestle building in 1968 (PA)

 

According to our lovely tour guide Mark, the architect for the building was told to make the building twice as high as the nearby building, which is now a Travelodge. Ronald Ward and partners took that seriously and designed it to be exactly double the height.

3. Croydon is getting a Boxpark, just like Shoreditch

The Boxpark under construction, as seen from AMP House, Croydon (Taylor Heyman/PA)
The Boxpark under construction, as seen from AMP House, Croydon (Taylor Heyman/PA)

 

The new shopping area is part of the raft of building work going on around East Croydon Station. It will have 97 units, all of which are already reserved by retailers, and will be open for five years.

4. The town has seven multi-storey car parks

A roundabout form above (PA)
Dingwall Road hosts one of the seven multi-storey car parks (PA)

 

It originally planned 10, but only managed to build seven. For a large town, that’s an ambitious number.

In the 60s, Liverpool was planning four, Sheffield and Birmingham three and just one for Newcastle. The seven which ended up being built are classic examples of “brick brutalism” an architectural style that was popular in the 1960s.

5. Apollo House hosts Mark Corrigan’s flat in Peep Show

Two men stand in a kitchen (Mark Corrigan lived in Apollo House (Ian West/PA)
Mark Corrigan lived in Apollo House (Ian West/PA)

 

6. The 1960s were a free-for-all for construction

Three different buildings in Croydon (Taylor Heyman/PA)
Croydon is a haven for different styles of brutalist architecture (Taylor Heyman/PA)

 

During the 1960s, there was little control over what a developer could build in Croydon. This has led to the mish-mash of buildings we see today. The issue only got worse into the 1970s and 80s when rows between the Greater London Council and Croydon council halted progress.

This isn’t all there is to know about Croydon. You can join the Edge City tours by booking online. They are running between July 16 and 24 and cost £9, £7 for concessions.

The tour even includes the stunning Fairfield Halls, which are about to undergo major refurbishment.

Interior of Fairfield Halls (Sophia Schorr-Kon/National Trust)
The Fairfield Halls have hosted stars such as The Who (Sophia Schorr-Kon/National Trust)