|Selsdon Wood Nature Reserve||Croydon|
Selsdon Wood Country Park and Nature Reserve was once part of the Selsdon Park estate and up to 1923 the woods were used for shooting. After this time the estate was split up and following an active campaign to save them from development, in 1936 Selsden Woods became the joint responsibility of Croydon Corporation, Coulsdon and Purley UDC and The National Trust, opening to the public in June of that year. The site is a mixture of open pasture and woodland, and the old rides are maintained as footpaths.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/01/2010
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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.
The Country Park and Nature Reserve was once part of the Selsdon Park estate. Selsdon was within the parish of Croydon from medieval times and was part of land owned by the Archbishops of Canterbury. From at least the C16th Selsdon was largely divided between two farms, Selsdon Farm in the north, now Selsdon Park Hotel (q.v.) and Allards Farm in the south. Henry Ownstead, whose brother John owned Sanderstead Manor, held Selsdon Farm in 1584, and it remained in his family until 1660. It was next tenanted by Henry Bowyer whose successors held the farm into the C18th. It seems likely that Selsdon Farm was gentrified into Selsdon Park by William Coles who purchased it 1809. However, Coles became bankrupt soon after this and George Smith, banker and a director of the East India Company, purchased the property in 1810. Smith completed the transformation of the house into a mansion by 1815 and made many changes to the estate, building a home farm complex, two lodges, a new farm and various cottages. He also landscaped the park and re-routed the Farleigh road to the east. The estate at that time included Selsdon Woods. It remained in the Smith family until 1890 when Mabel Greville, George Smith's great-granddaughter, finally sold the estate.
The mansion and land south of Addington Road, comprising 679 acres, was purchased by printer William Stevens, and the land to the north by Charles Goschen incorporated into the Heathfield Estate (q.v.). When Stevens died in 1900 Selsdon Park was purchased by brewer Wickham Noakes who lived here until his death in 1923. He was renowned for the annual shoot he held in Selsdon Woods in November in celebration of his birthday.
Noakes left no successors and the sale of the estate, and also that of Heathfield, led to the Selsdon area being developed for housing, hitherto still isolated and rural. In 1924 the land comprising Selsdon Farm and woodlands seems to have been split into several holdings, with various lots purchased by A E Cresswell including Broom Wood, Broom Shaw, The Gorse, Stevens Larch and 4 parcels of arable land, and this now represents most of the present Nature Reserve. Surrey Garden Village Trust Ltd acquired Ashen Vale and Selsdon Vale Estates in 1924, aiming to divide thec.300 acres of land into small-holdings of half an acre upwards for eventual sale as leasehold property. The plots were targeted at ex-servicemen but proved too small and the land unsuitable for growing crops. From 1925 active measures began to protect the remaining woodland from development, some areas of Lady Grove and Court Wood having been stripped of timber. The original appeal proved successful and the Committee that had been set up raised enough support to buy nearly 200 acres but then needed to provide for its maintenance.
In 1936 Selsdon Woods became the joint responsibility of Croydon Corporation, the Urban District Council of Coulsdon and Purley and the National Trust, with ownership vested in the latter. Selsdon Woods were officially opened on 5 June 1936 by the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Percy Vincent, who planted a tree in commemoration. A Management Committee was then formed and two keepers were appointed; construction of fencing, repair to paths, water supply and coppicing were undertaken. Some woodland was lost during WWII when timber was needed and in 1969 replanting began. By now the two local Councils had become the London Borough of Croydon. On the edge of one of the meadows is a shelter in memory of Malcolm Sharpe, one of the main campaigners for the preservation of Selsdon and other woods in the area, including Croham Hurst, Purley Beeches and Littleheath Woods.
There is little information about how the woods were managed in the C19th but the clearings and rides laid out for shooting purposes can still be seen today. Noakes employed a gamekeeper to keep the woodlands well stocked and there was a pheasantry nearby where young birds were raised. The site today is a mixture of open pasture and woodland, and the old rides are maintained as footpaths. Within the woods is a Memorial Pond.
Winterman, M A, Croydon's parks: an illustrated history (LB Croydon, 1988) p86