The centenary of poet Sir John Betjeman has re-ignited a debate over what inspired the writer to pen his mournful verses about Croydon.

Betjeman's obsession with towns - and his dislike of industrial growth encroaching the suburbs - was the likely prompt for his poem Croydon, a lament to the borough's disappearing countryside.

The poet saves his harsher criticisms for his poem Slough, which appeared in the same collections of verses as Croydon.

Peter Evans, chairman of the Croydon-based appreciation society, Poets Anonymous, said: "Betjeman certainly did not feel the same about Croydon as he did about Slough. Both his poems Croydon and Slough were published in his collection Continual Dew in 1937.

"But whereas Slough asks for friendly bombs to destroy the town, Croydon is elegiac, mourning the loss of the countryside, another world, another life, in the encroachment of the suburbs.

"There is a sense of mystery in the poem, things which are not said, which gives the poem a haunting quality.

"Also in the same collection is the poem Love in a Valley, again set in Croydon: Far below me roll the Coulsdon woodlands and/Low down the line sings the Addiscombe train'.

"Again there is the sense of loss, but this time of separation.

"The old world and loves are going and Croydon, this growing suburb, provided Betjeman with the material and inspiration to express that."

Poetry enthusiasts all over the country have been celebrating 100 years since the Betjeman's birth.

Born on August 28, 1906, the poet, writer and broadcaster started his career as a journalist but ended it as British Poet Laureate and a much-loved character on British television. He died on May 19, 1984.


In a house like that
Your Uncle Dick was born;
Satchel on back he walked to Whitgift
Every weekday morn.Boys together in Coulsdon woodlands,
Bramble-berried and steep,
He and his pals would look for spadgers,
Buried deep.The laurels are speckled in Marchmont Avenue Just as they were before,
But the steps are dusty that still lead up to
Your Uncle Dick's front door.Pear and apple in Croydon gardens
Bud and blossom and fall,
But your Uncle Dick has left his Croydon
Once for all.