When shops closed their doors and flags were flown at half mast in Norwood on August 19, 1909, it was not to mourn the death of a member of the royal family nor a London dignitary.

Instead, it was to mark the death of William Ford Stanley, a Victorian who touched the lives of so many people in Croydon.

Although Stanley was not born and bred in the borough, he was born in Islington on February 2, 1829, he dedicated his life and work to Croydon, and in particular South Norwood.

His name adorns the walls of Stanley Halls in South Norwood Hill and the Clocktower that was presented to him by the appreciative people of South Norwood on his 78th birthday still stands proudly in High Street.

However, the school he founded Stanley Technical High School may no longer bear his name when it is re-opened as the Harris Academy next year and his former home Cumberlow Lodge could be turned into flats, a move that has angered South Norwood residents who want to keep a firm grip on his heritage.

Stanley's success as a self-made man who shared his accomplishments with those around him made him a popular character in South Norwood and a positive role model for the community today.

The talented inventor, architect, painter and photographer worked his way out of a poverty stricken upbringing and in 1853 he founded William Ford Stanley and Co Ltd.

Four years later on his birthday he married Eliza Ann (Bessie) Savory and in 1861 he invented a mathematical dividing instrument for which he won first prize in an international exhibition.

In 1867 he moved to Norwood where he designed and built his homes Cumberlow Lodge in Chalfont Road and Stanleybury in Albert Road and set up a factory near Norwood Junction railway station.

Stanley and Bessie adopted their niece Eliza Ann in 1877 and a year later adopted another child, Maud Martin, whose father and brother drowned at sea.

It was his love of children that made him leave Cumberlow Lodge to the community. It was written into his will that the building should only be used as a children's home.

By 1881 Stanley, who enriched the era he lived in with his fascination for technology and inventions, was enjoying business success employing 80 people and producing 3,000 technical items.

Further achievements were to follow in the years to come. Stanley was given a gold medal at the International Inventors Exhibition at Wembley and in 1900 his company was floated on the stock market. Around 25,000 shares in his company sold at £5 each.

Steeped in Victorian splendour, Stanley Halls was opened in 1903 to provide the local community with a public space for plays, concerts and lectures.

1907 saw Stanley create the Stanley Technical High School and in the July of the same year he was given the freedom of the borough.

His last design was patented in 1908 and on August 14, 1909, he died of a heart attack at the age of 81. His funeral was held five days later when local flags were flown at half mast, shops closed and local people drew their curtains as a mark of respect as a cortege of 15 carriages drew past.

Stanley's legacy will no doubt live on in the hearts of the people of Norwood, but whether his last wishes are respected remains to be seen.