Famous Writers of Croydon


19-Aug-2017 21:54

I already knew, as most people do, that Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lived in South Norwood (which was part of London at the time but is now in the Borough of Croydon); but while I was researching the history of Addington Palace I came across a  reference to Henry James, the author. He was friends with Archbishop Benson who was living at Addington Palace. While he was visiting his friend, Benson told him a ghost story which inspired James to write his only ghost story "Turn of The Screw". The book not only inspired the films "The Innocents" and "The Others", but it also ahead of its time because it is a psychological story. No actual horror takes place in the story; the reader only learns about the events because the children Miles and Flora tell their governess about them; which today could mean that they are mad or disturbed. It is also reported that Archbishop Benson's ghost haunts Addington Palace.

I also discovered some interesting  facts about Doyle. Not only did he live in Norwood from 1891 to 1894, on Tennison Road, but he also set several of his Holmes adventures in the area including "The Adventure the Norwood Builder", which takes place in Lower Norwood (West Norwood today) and Croydon itself is mentioned in the story "The Cardboard Box", where a woman living in East Croydon has to call Holmes when she receives a box of severed ears by mistake. It is also believed that the police station which stood on the site where there is now a Natwest bank could be the police station mentioned in the story "The Sign Of Four". In fact, according to the Croydon Guardian the Sherlock Holmes character gained popularity while Doyle was living on Tennison Road. Another adventure "The Adventure of the Yellow Face" is set in Norbury, and is even advertised on the wall of Norbury station.

Doyle was a qualified doctor, but then I discovered something that I would never have associated with him. He developed an interest in the popular Victorian belief of Spiritualism and attempted to contact the dead. He also believed, absolutely, in the authenticity of the Cottingley Fairies and supported the girls who claimed to have discovered them, until they were proved to be fake; which is what destroyed his reputation.

Other famous writers associated with Croydon include D.H. Lawrence who taught at Davidson School before World War I, Cicely Mary Barker who created the Flower Fairies not only lived in Croydon but also studied at Croydon School of Art; Raymond Chandler and artist John Ruskin also lived in Croydon. Modern day writers and well known faces include Sue Perkins and Noel Fielding while fictional journalist and Dr Who Companion Sarah Jane Smith lived in Croydon (the character not the actress). 

Probably the most interesting writer associated with Croydon, (for me, anyway), is the best selling author Neil Gaiman, who attended Whitgift School in Croydon. His works include Good Omens (written with the late Terry Pratchett and one of the funniest books I have read), Stardust , adapted  into a Hollywood film starring Claire Danes,:one of the darkest children's books ever Coraline, and even wrote two episodes of Dr Who "The Doctor's Wife" and "Nightmare in Silver" as well as an episode of Babylon 5.

He is also set to have another TV credit to his name with the upcoming adaptation of Good Omens. If you have never read Good Omens I recommend it. 

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