Wonderful Webb William weaved

Haven: The Webb Estate was meant to be a peaceful place for city workers to live Pics: Courtesy of Croydon Local Studies Library and Archive Service

Haven: The Webb Estate was meant to be a peaceful place for city workers to live Pics: Courtesy of Croydon Local Studies Library and Archive Service

First published in News by

With its village feel and stunning architectural and garden design, the Webb estate has become one of the most sought-after postcodes in the borough, writes Kerry McQueeney.

However, this exclusive pocket of Purley started out as one man's dream to create a peaceful haven for city workers, where roads and gardens were as meticulously designed as the houses.

So successful was the realisation of William Webb's dream that now nearly 100 years on the whole area is a conservation site.

The Webb estate is considered unique in Croydon in that it was designed and built to one man's vision.

William Webb wanted to create a garden village in the suburbs for people who worked in the city.

In his 1919 book, Garden First in Land Development, Webb said of his project: "Those who worked their brains at full speed during business hours require more than the rest that is obtained from sleep at night; their minds and nerves require the refreshment that is derived from beautiful surroundings, and from sights, sounds and scents which by their nature and from association are restful."

Webb purchased a 260-acre site to the west of Purley centre, bordered by Foxley Lane, Woodcote Lane and Silver Lane, in 1888 and spent 30 years creating a village in which buildings, gardens and roads were carefully and distinctively designed.

Stringent covenants have ensured the estate has kept most of its character intact and the whole estate is now a conservation area.

William Webb, who was born in 1862 and died in 1930, was described as a visionary who also had strong community values, according to David Stranack who recently researched the history of the Webb estate's schools for the Bourne Society's publication, Local History Records.

In it, he says: "He felt the estate would not be complete without its own school, which is why in 1916 he asked Mrs Margery Bray recently returned from nursing the wounded in Belgium to set up Commonweal Lodge.

"The present school building in Woodcote Lane was designed and built and opened in 1917 with a grand total of eight pupils.

"Before long a second school had opened on the estate. At the end of World War One, Fred Chappell founded Downside, a preparatory school for boys, which was also located in Woodcote Lane.

"Downside was subsequently owned and managed by the Dodd family for 56 years."

In 1997 the two schools merged to create The Lodge School.

Mixed pupils attend the infant department at Silverdene Lodge at the age of three, then move on to Downside Lodge when they are six.

At the age of 11 the boys move on to local secondary schools while the girls can stay at Commonweal Lodge up to their A-levels and university entrance.

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