Croydon locals want to see the town’s most historic area reach its full potential.

With buildings dating back to the 14th Century, Croydon’s Old Town is steeped in history.

At the heart of the Old Town sits the Croydon Minster, which is believed to have been founded in Saxon times and a church building on the site is referenced in the Doomsday Book. 

Six Archbishops of Canterbury are buried in the Minster and kings and queens were regular visitors to the archbishops at Croydon.

Croydon Palace in Old Town was the summer residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for more than 500 years. Some of these original buildings are now used by Old Palace School.

Earlier this year, Croydon Council said it would invest £7.5million into the area around the Minster acknowledging it needs “vast improvements”.

The plans include relocation of parking, removal of the pedestrian subway and a new play area.

Despite the pledge, locals that spoke to the Local Democracy Reporting Service say the area has been neglected for many years and are sceptical of change. They want to see the historic area brought back to life.

Residents were concerned about rubbish dumped in the area. The council hopes the planned improvements will tackle any vandalism and anti-social behaviour.

Your Local Guardian: Joyce DeanJoyce Dean

Joyce Dean was visiting the Minster with family over from Florida. She has lived in Croydon since the 70s but said she rarely ventures into the town centre these days.

She said: “There are beautiful buildings [in the Old Town] and a lot of history of Croydon that people don’t know about, so many Archbishops of Canterbury are buried here. I have watched [Croydon] go down the tubes. It has everything going for it, it’s got the wonderful train services to London.

“I think the council has spent all the money on the wrong things. They have sold the family silver and wasted so much on Fairfield Halls and buying the Croydon Park Hotel for way over the odds was a scandal.”

The hotel was bought bought by Amro Partners for £24.9m, well under the £29.8m the council paid for it in 2018. There are now plans to redevelop it into flats. Work to renovate Fairfield Halls was completed in 2019, but went nearly £40million over the original £30m budget. A fraud probe into the project has was completed earlier this year but the full report is yet to be published.

Your Local Guardian: Trevor Reeves inside House of ReevesTrevor Reeves inside House of Reeves

Furniture shop House of Reeves has been a presence in the Old Town for more than 150 years. It has been in the Reeves family for five generations since 1867 and has been run by Graham and Trevor for the past 30 years.

The business has survived two world wars and the 2011 riots, which saw one of its buildings burnt to the ground.

Trevor said: “Having been involved in the master plans after the riots I don’t have any faith in anyone doing anything. As an old established business we are a draw to the area.

“Most of the older people would remember us being here when this was the centre of Croydon before the Whitgift Centre was built. It really destroyed this area. No one has really looked after it since then, whether it is Labour or Conservative.”


The Whitgift Centre opened in 1968 and attracted shoppers from far and wide. In the 2000s plans to redevelop the shopping centre emerged and there were promises of a £1.6billion Westfield mall. Plans for the super mall fell through in 2019 but owners Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield have since promised a “masterplan” for the future of the town centre later this year.

The Reeves brothers said footfall to the Old Town area is lower than it was in the past and has taken a further hit since car parks were redeveloped for flats.

Graham said: “Westfield was never going to happen, 23 years later there is still nothing shows there is something seriously wrong. Reeves of  Croydon are still here, going strong, we are the jewel in the crown.”

David Leadbeater, who has lived nearby since 1996, regularly walks through the Old Town. He said: “I think it is important to highlight the history here. It used to be much busier, it is such a shame. It would help if they made it easier for people to park their cars.”

Your Local Guardian: David LeadbeaterDavid Leadbeater

Gill Ball thinks Croydon has gone “downhill” in recent years and said she now prefers Bromley over Croydon. She said: “I don’t think it is nice and I live here, it has gone down hill. I think everywhere in Croydon has potential but we are paying mega council tax and seeing no change.”

In May Croydon locals were hit with a 15 per cent hike in their council tax, the largest increase in England. The government gave the council special permission for the huge rise after it issued its third bankruptcy notice in two years.

A 73-year-old man, who didn’t want to give his name, was enjoying the sunshine on a bench outside the Minster. He said: “I think it needs to be cleaned up, they don’t need to build anything more just clean the place up.”

Your Local Guardian: Rubbish in Croydon Old TownRubbish in Croydon Old Town

A spokesperson for Croydon Council said: “The council is undertaking a major £7.5m project investing in improving the public realm and parks in Minster Green, in Croydon’s Old Town. Detailed designs are being finalised and will be shared with our residents and partners later this year, ahead of construction starting.

“Designed in consultation with the Diocese and local community, the plans include the relocation of parking, removal of the pedestrian subway, a new play area offering green open space and lighting around the Grade I listed Minster. The new layout and lighting will create a space for residents to enjoy along with tackling issues such as vandalism and antisocial behaviour.”

The council’s £7.5m plan for the Croydon Minster area is included in the £12.2m Growth Zone budget for 2023/24.

The Growth Zone was developed in collaboration with the GLA and TfL to secure government funding through business rate retention in central Croydon and runs until 2034.