Surrey Street: a strong sense of community

Formerly known as “Butcher’s Row”, “The Shambles” and “The Flesh Market”, Croydon’s oldest surviving shopping street was once a popular location for public punishment.

Prisoners used to be tied to the end of a cart, which was driven slowly along the road. One historical document describes two men in 1802 who were sentenced to be stripped to the waist, tied to the tail of a cart, and whipped along Surrey Street “until their backs be bloody”.

Surrey Street was created under the Royal Charter and started its life as a meat market. Along with Croydon High Street and Crown Hill, it formed a triangular area, known for its markets and fairs.

The creation of a modern Surrey Street market was marked in 1922 when the council approved it as a six day event. Now the market is known for selling good quality, cheap and fresh fruit and vegetables.

The vocal traders of the market have often been embroiled in controversy with the council and customers. In 1979, market inspector Frank Horwill punished the market traders for subjecting “customers to abuse, bad language and even violence”. However, in 2010, market inspector Fiona Woodcock distributed “good stall awards” to 17 traders.

The road has been a crime scene on many occasions. In June 2010 police discovered a “highly professional” cannabis factory with more than 300 plants on Surrey Street. On February 23, 2011 the market was disrupted by an armed robbery and subsequent police chase.

Now, there is a distinct lack of stalls in the market compared to a few years ago, with many people attributing it to the major redevelopment of the surrounding areas and the presence of supermarkets. Nevertheless, there is a strong sense of community on the street and every year, the landlady of the Dog and Bull pub, Lesley North, organises the Surrey Street festival in June. This pub has been around since the 15th century. At the height of its drinking glory days in the 17th century, there were five public houses on Surrey Street – The Three Tuns Inn, The Dog and Bull, The Black Lion and The Britannia.

One of pioneers of dubstep, Skream, aka Ollie Jones, began his music career aged 15 working at Big Apple Records on Surrey Street.

By Katie Gibbons and Nalini Sivathasan

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