In Pictures: Croydon Museum and Clocktower remembers the Blitz and the Battle of Britain

By Richard Moss | 22 September 2010
a black and white photograph of service personnel and civillians looking upwards towards the sky
Awaiting the bombs, Croydon 1940.© Courtesy of Croydon Local Studies Library and Archive Service
Exhibitions: Over Our Skies: Croydon’s Battle of Britain at Croydon Local Studies and Archives Library and Croydon's Blitz at Museum of Croydon, both until December 31 2010

The next time you visit IKEA Croydon and get stuck in the traffic of Purley Way, take a moment to ponder the dark days of 1940 when the traffic black spot was more than just a choked artery to a complex of retail parks.

Back then, the road was busy with factories and warehouses clustered around Croydon Airport, which had just been converted into a frontline RAF fighter station. 

A photo of a bombed out factory exterior
The Bourjois perfume warehouse - gutted by bombs in 1940 but still standing today © Courtesy of Sutton Local Studies and Archives Centre
The latter, and the nearness of RAF stations at Kenley and Biggin Hill, drew the first major Luftwaffe raid over London to the area and in August 1940 the aerodrome was attacked. Many of the factories nearby were damaged or destroyed with the loss of 64 lives.

It was the beginning of five years of bombing attacks and aerial dogfights in the skies above the town that culminated in raids by Hitler's secret weapons, the V rockets.

a photo of bomb damage showing the mangled interior of a factory
Over 60 people were killed in the Luftwaffe raids on Croydon in 1940© Courtesy of Sutton Local Studies and Archives Centre
Now Croydon's dramatic role in the Battle of Britain and the Blitz is being explored in two new exhibitions at the Museum of Croydon and Croydon Library.

Beginning in the Local Studies and Archives collection on the 3rd floor of the Central Library, visitors can discover Croydon's role in the Battle of Britain and explore the memories people have through archive material including documents and photographs.

a black and white photograph looking across rooftops, a church tower and fields towards a distant plume of black smoke
A view of the attack on Kenley Aerodrome in 1940© Courtesy of Croydon Local Studies Library and Archive Service
Together they reveal the strategic importance of Croydon and Kenley, as well as the effect the battle had on local people.

Downstairs in the Museum of Croydon, visitors are invited to listen to recordings of Croydon residents as they retell their experiences of the Blitz and watch an onscreen production by the Croydon Youth Theatre exploring the experience of childhood during this traumatic time.

a photo of two RAF groundcrew standing on the wing of a Hurricane fighter as a pliot looks up at them
a Hawker Hurricane nbought with war bonds raised by the people of Croydon© Courtesy of Croydon Local Studies Library and Archive Service
By the end of the war 5,000 people had been killed or injured and 60,000 houses had been damaged by the air raids in Croydon – the Museum's collection of relics from World War Two includes a defused German bomb from the period – one of 2,620 that fell on Croydon during the war.

The Museum is also home to the Battle of Britain Lace, an intricately woven panel which was presented to the town to commemorate its role in the Battle, and Norman Partridge's popular painting, Croydon Courageous, which offers a lively depiction of the different ways local people helped Croydon's war effort. 
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