|Promenade de Verdun Memorial Landscape *||Croydon|
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
The Promenade de Verdun was created as a memorial landscape in 1922 on the Webb Estate to commemorate French sacrifices on the Western Front in WWI. The only straight road on the private estate, it has a wide grass verge, and extends a third of a mile. The soil was brought over from France for the purpose and it is planted with a line of Lombardy Poplars. At the south-east end is a tall obelisk, dedicated to the French soldiers who died in Petain's stand against the Germans in 1916, and inscribed: 'Aux soldats de France mort glorieusement pendant la Grand Guerre'. Responsibility for the maintenance of the Promenade was vested in Croydon Council in 1925.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/02/2016
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.croydon.gov.uk; www.webbestate.com
The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.
Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
The Promenade de Verdun is a roadway within the Webb Estate (q,v,), an upmarket private residential development in Purley that was laid out from 1888 onwards by William Webb (1862-1930). Webb was a local chartered surveyor and horticulturist who planned his estate according to his 'Garden First' system. 'The name Garden First means that the garden shall not only have prominence but that partial garden construction shall be carried out before any buildings are erected …the house is but the complement of the garden in a general survey of the estate' (William Webb, Garden First in Land Development, 1919).
Webb created the Promenade de Verdun in 1922 after WWI to commemorate French sacrifices on the Western Front, the soil brought over from France especially for the purpose. The only straight road on the estate, it has a wide grass verge almost the same width as the carriageway, and extends a third of a mile. It is planted with a line of Lombardy Poplars and has a tall obelisk at the south eastern end. Webb conceived the idea of creating an Anglo-French memorial as a tribute 'to our fallen neighbours', and hoped that the tribute would cement the friendship between the two nations. Webb wrote a short article on the memorial for the Purley Review in 1927, on the occasion of a visit to England by the French President, in which he explained the rationale behind the construction of the monument. When relations between England and France, which King Edward VII had fostered and the war reinforced, might become strained in the future, Webb hoped that the tribute would cement the friendship between the two nations. He referred to the year 1923 when differences of opinion between France and England were acute and some of the French papers mentioned the Promenade de Verdun as evidence that public opinion in England was more sympathetic to France than the utterances of Britain's best known politicians of the time would lead them to believe. The 19ft high granite obelisk was carved in a Cornish quarry by The London Granite Co. Ltd from a single piece of stone and is set on a crescent shaped piece of grass planted with privet, laurel and other evergreen shrubs. Dedicated to the French soldiers who died in Petain's stand against the Germans in 1916, it is inscribed with the words: 'Aux soldats de France mort glorieusement pendant la Grand Guerre'. It is named after Verdun the town where almost a million French and German soldiers were killed as the Germans made desperate attempts to reach Paris.
The Lombardy Poplars are growing in a mixture of French and English soil. About ten tons of French soil was transported to Purley from the 'Field of Explosion' near Armentieres The soil was so laden with shrapnel and bullets that to prevent the trees being damaged by souvenir hunters the soil was sifted and two sacks of missiles extracted. The British Consul at Lille and the Institute Francais du Royaume Uni both helped to execute the project. It was a news item in the Croydon Advertiser in 1922 and in Country Life the following year where it was mentioned that the memorial demonstrated ‘we have not forgotten our comradeship in arms’. Responsibility for the maintenance of the Promenade was vested in Croydon Council in 1925. The grass verge is set behind low hanging chains suspended on posts made from the poplars uprooted in the hurricane of October 1987. Replanting of trees has been carried out in recent years.
On February 2016, the Promenade de Verdun was designated for inclusion on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest as part of Historic England's First World War Commemoration project.
MA Winterman, 'Croydon's parks: an illustrated history' (LB Croydon, 1988) p71; Andrew Saint (introduction), 'London Suburbs', Merrell Holberton Publishers 1999; Vanda Bouri 'A Century of Garden First; History of the Webb Estate on webbestate.com; LB Croydon, 'Local List of Historic Parks & Gardens', December 2008; Sally Williams, ''Some Appendages to the City': A look at three of London's less well known Garden Suburbs', The London Gardener, vol.14, 2008-09. Also: Promenade de Verdun: Lombardy Poplars planted at Purley, Croydon Advertiser, 29 July 1922; Promenade de Verdun, Purley, Correspondence, Country Life, 4 August 1923; William Webb, Promenade de Verdun: Purley’s French Memorial, Purley Review, 18 May 1927.