Alexandra Park miniature road system.

The History of Sydenham from Cippenham to present day. Links to photos especially welcome!

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Roger Lamb
Posts: 2
Joined: 8 Oct 2020 13:46

Alexandra Park miniature road system.

Post by Roger Lamb »

I live in the Eden Park area of Beckenham, and recently chanced to visit the Penge East railway station area for the first time in a very long while - decades. It was a happy place to visit after all this time, but how disappointing to see that the southern end of the park has changed out of all recognition from what it used to be in the early to mid 1950s. At the time I used to live at 3 Queensthorpe Road which looked directly down Earlsthorpe Road. On my bike I soon discovered Alexandra Park, and I have a recollection that while riding down Tannsfeld Road the paving slabs changed colour from grey to pink when it crossed the boundary from Lewisham into the Metropolitan Borough of Beckenham.

I next discovered the miniature road system at the southern end of the park, and used to ride round and round the system, observing the proper use of the traffic lights, the pedestrian crossings with their Belisha beacons, and the dual carriageway on the eastern side. There was also a plain road loop that projected northwards with just plain grass in the interior of the loop. I well recall some mild abuse of the pedestrian crossings, in particular when some children - not forgetting that I too was a child at that time - repeatedly crossing and re-crossing the road when of course, the pedestrian has right of way. I am going to name a name, but with no regrets, a girl in my class at St. Michael's, Champion Crescent, Pat was her name, but I forget her surname. In 1955 I was sent away to boarding school, and when I left school in 1961 I took no interest in the park but later discovered that the road system had been vandalised to destruction - the traffic lights had been smashed, the Belisha beacons were no more, and now it has all been grubbed-up and accommodates a childrens' swings, roundabout and play area.

I would dearly like to see some photos of the road system please, and how nice it would be if Pat were to read this, she will be about 76 now, as I am. There were lots of other friends whose names would be likely to come flooding back if they happen to read this. My screen name is my actual name, in case anyone recogises me.

I hope this is the correct section to have posted this; if it is not, perhaps the moderators would kindly re-position it more appropriately.
Michael Viner
Posts: 68
Joined: 2 Jul 2007 18:37
Location: Sydenham

Re: Alexandra Park miniature road system.

Post by Michael Viner »

Dear Roger, There is a really nice photo of the Alexandra Park miniature road in the 50's on page 31 of the book 'Crystal Palace,Penge and Anerley in Old Photographs by Mick Scott (Alan Sutton Publishing,1995) Although out of print,copies are fairly easily available on Amazon,Ebay etc.
Unfortunately, I do not have a scanner so can't share the photo-perhaps someone else who has the book and the technology can help.
I'm sure I saw another photo in another book but I can't recall it just at the moment-I may be mistaken.
I hope you manage to trace Pat!
Kind Regards,Michael
Roger Lamb
Posts: 2
Joined: 8 Oct 2020 13:46

Re: Alexandra Park miniature road system.

Post by Roger Lamb »

Thank you for your reply Michael, I might well try to get hold of a copy of the book, or in the meantime might it be possible to get a photo, if not a scan, of the page please?

As it happened, I was in the area again yesterday for a reminiscent walk in former haunts; firstly was to notice that there has been a boundary change part way down Tannsfeld Road, where the boundary has been moved down to the corner by the park, as evidenced by the colour change of pavement slabs. Walking towards Queensthorpe Road I was pleased to note that the cast iron structure near the corner with Sydenham Road, which we used to think was something to do with washing horse manure off the streets when that was prevalent in bygone times. I wonder whether that was indeed its purpose or was it merely another fire hydrant. There is another identical example on the corner of Fransfield Grove with Kirkdale, and I suppose others might still be in position.

On up Queensthorpe Road past where the service garages used to be, formerly stables from this once semi-rural locality, not built over until 1904 - Queensdale Motors, and even the derelict tennis courts behind no. 9 have been built over, and the forrmer skating rink that used to be behind nos. 1, 3 and 5 has now gone, and been built over Then past no. 11 where my erstwhile girlfriend Heidi used to live. It has all changed now, with numerous houses and flats. I continued to the top and into Bishopsthorpe Road, then Silverdale where there used to be prefabs on the west side after what I assumed would have been wartime bomb damage. Other school friends from St Michaels lived there, Ann and Frances Martin who were identical twins whom I was later informed had become nurses; Ann and I shared a desk at school and used to read to each other. Mayow Park has not changed a lot since 1955, apart from the bowling green which used to be pristine and well-used. Perhaps as leisure fashions change it became less popular and now it is just an overgrown meadow, albeit mown occasionally. There is now a cafe that appears to have been converted from the park-keeper's lodge I used to know. The park keeper wore an official-looking brown herring-bone uniform with an oval LCC badge on his trilby hat, and he seemed to often find cause to reprimand us for no understandable misdemeanour. Sometimes there was a green road-safety van parked and which used to show road-safety films by back-projection onto a screen in the back. The park itself is still similar to what it was, and I recall the original tree planting was in some cases sourced from surplus stock from planting what became Crystal Palace Park; the monkey-puzzle tree I used to know is still there. I departed the park at the Silverdale Gate which for me was probably for the first time ever.

In Silverdale I encountered a wild part that I had not noticed in my youth, now known as Dacres Wood Wildlife Reserve; this is what remains of a loop in the former Croydon Canal that had been by-passed by the new railway which had bought and closed the loss-making canal, opening the railway in 1839. It appears Dacres Wood is open for visiting on the last Saturday of the month.

At risk of boring you all, I continued past the Dietrch Bonnhoefer Kirche, a German church that ironically had been bombed by Luftwaffe, perhaps by the same stick that destroyed Forest Hill station, now rebuilt in a modern form. In my time only the tower was standing, and surprisingly it was not fenced to prevent us entering so perhaps it had been deemed safe. Indeed, I remember that station with its tower but had been damaged too badly to be saved. Perhaps the intention had been to destroy the railway itself.

I could continue relating my reminiscences, but enough is enough for now. Suffice to say how nice it would be to hear where the characters I have mentioned might now be living, and who else might read this who has history with St Michael's School. And who else was a member of the 13th Sydenham Air Scouts?
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