Charles Dickens created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters but a little known fact is that Thornton Heath played such an integral part in his fortunes and misfortunes!
Hablot Knight Browne, nicknamed Phiz, who lived in Thornton Heath from 1846 to 1867 became Dickens’ essential illustrator, immortalising characters in 10 of his major novels, from The Pickwick Papers to A Tale of Two Cities.
But the link doesn’t end there. Edward Lloyd born in Thornton Heath, the son of a bankrupt, became rich on the back of producing parodies of Dickens’ novels such as Oliver Twiss, Nickelas Nickelbery and The Penny Pickwick.
Lloyd was sued by Dickens for “fraudulent imitation”, but the case failed as there were no laws to stop him selling the knockoffs until The Copyright Act of 1842, reveals a new book called: Edward Lloyd and His World: Popular Fiction, Politics and the Press in Victorian Britain.
The so-called “penny dreadfuls” aimed at the working classes helped Lloyd to become a millionaire and saw him create a newspaper empire from his Fleet Street offices.
He went on to publish Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, a Sunday paper which became the first to sell a million copies and The Daily Chronicle .
Recently at Thornton Heath Library Lindsay Ould, Borough Archivist, gave an informative talk about about local history resources available at Croydon Museum which has 6000 items, some going back to the 18th Century.
This includes old photos of Thornton Heath along with poignant records, such as bomb maps and the list of baptisms at the workhouse.
Dozens of bombs hit Thornton Heath destroying a number of houses during the Second World War. and damaging Croydon’s first museum which was located in Grangewood Mansion in Grangewood Park.
The museum opened in 1903 and was recording visitors of a 1,000 on Sundays and 200 a day on weekdays. It closed during World War II and the mansion was partly used by an Air Raid Precautions unit from 1939.
Ross Road and Wharncliffe Roads were bombed and the Mansion damaged during the strike which led to the dispersal of the museum goods and the ultimate demolition of the Mansion in 1957.
The wide range of resources available in Croydon’s archives includes: school registers, health records, historic maps, newspapers on microfilm, street directories, electoral rolls, local history research, local firms’ records, oral history, council papers and art. Plus access to online family history databases.
The Research Room is on the Lower Ground Floor of the Croydon Clocktower. Its open Tuesday to Saturday 10.30am-5pm.
To do a search first view the archives catalogue at: www.museumofcroydoncollections.com/catalogues. If you find something you are interested in seeing email firstname.lastname@example.org.