The Museum of Croydon is located in the former town hall, next to the library and other civic offices. There are two galleries on the ground floor. The Exhibition Gallery showcases temporary exhibitions of works from the Borough’s art collection; the current exhibition is Croydon Recreated, a collection of paintings by a local artist, E.A. Phipson. These pictures of Croydon from the turn of the 20th century are displayed alongside photographs and historic maps to explore how Croydon has changed. The gallery is situated alongside the Research Room, where genealogical researchers and others with cause to use Croydon’s local archives can work.
The other gallery is the Riesco Gallery, which showcases some of the original exhibits in the museum from the Riesco Collection. I thought that these exhibits were a cut above most similar displays in local museums, with some extremely impressive Chinese grave goods, beautiful small statues, fascinating Anglo-Saxon finds and others.
The main part of the museum is upstairs, and the entrance is designed so that you can start at either end: “Croydon Then” and “Croydon Now”, or vice versa. I chose to start “then” and work my way up to the present day.
The space is a bit dark, but generally well laid out. Rather than a junkyard of random exhibits, a selection of items has been carefully chosen to be on show in individual square cases. Judging by their names: “Mary’s doll”, “Ted’s train”, I would guess that they have been donated by Croydon residents. The items range from the personally significant – toys, sewing kits, tools – to those with wider significance, including a relic of the borough’s first mayor, who was initially respected but who was later found to be a fraudster, conning people out of their life savings with his insurance company.
Moving forward through history, the museum has the usual section on World War II, explaining that Croydon was a major target for German bombers. During the second half of the twentieth century, Croydon welcomed many immigrants and also became an important centre for art and design.
There is a section on current Croydon residents who have been invited to contribute something of their own to the exhibition. This was an interesting chance to see what different people hold significant and explores the culture of the town.
There is a small temporary exhibition called Moving to London, marking the 50th anniversary of the borough becoming a part of London. This also had items in various cases telling the story of this change.
Overall, the Museum of Croydon is a well put together exploration of the borough’s past. Definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Address: Croydon Clocktower, Katharine Street, Croydon, CR9 1ET
Opening Hours: 10.30-5 Tues-Sat