History buffs spent a cold autumn afternoon bringing a bit of forgotten history to life by walking the route of Croydon’s doomed canal which was opened 200 years ago.

Penge partners organised the walk for 15 people who tried to imagine what the canal looked like as they ambled along its route.

In 1799 it was decided a Croydon needed a canal to link the growing town to London. Building of the waterway was authorised by an Act of Parliament in 1801 and the grand opening was held on October 23, 1809.

The canal, however, was a financial failure, and closed after 27 years of service after the £100 shares decreased in value until they were worth just two shillings in 1830.

The picturesque 15km long waterway consisted of 28 locks and ran between the Grand Surrey Canal near New Cross Gate to where West Croydon station now stands.

Barges carried up to 30 tons of timber, coal, building materials, food and other supplies between London and Croydon.

By the 1830s the owners realised that the coming of the railways was an opportunity not to be missed, and they sold the canal for £40,250 to the London and Croydon Railway company.

Today, the stopping train from London Bridge to West Croydon follows the route of the old canal.

Local residents can still enjoy the remnants of the waterway, it was fed by a reservoir of water in South Norwood, now the South Norwood Lakes.

The two hour walk led by local historian Dr Chris Doran began at 2.30pm from the Seymour Terrace end of the canal in Betts Park.

Wendie Roche, chair of the committee of Penge Partners said: “It was a bitterly cold but bright day and we had a lovely walk that took longer than the one and a half hours we had thought.”

One highlight of the walk was a stop at what was formerly the Anerley Tea Rooms now the St Hughes Estate.

Dr Doran said: “Though the canal ceased to be used for transport, just as they are today, it was still popular for leisure activities.”

A popular venue was the Anerley Pleasure Gardens which opened in 1841. It was boating and fishing destination and contained a maze and Swiss cottage house.

However the popularity of Crystal Palace quickly “eclipsed” the “tranquil” gardens.

Today little evidence is left of the canal with only a few traces remaining.

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