This fascinating postcard titled Cucumber House, Thornton Heath, 1899 really gives an insight in to just how important market gardening was to Thornton Heath.
In the 1910 photograph you can just see one of the glasshouses used to grow the cucumbers on what is a roundabout in Beulah Crescent now occupied by residential flats. The Ordnance Survey map dated 1894 also identifies the nursery in the middle of the crescent.
Robert Methven, who lives in Perth, Australia but was a resident of Thornton Heath, has an amazing collection of vintage photos of the area and posted this series of mages on Facebook.
According to the Croydon Local Environment Information Services (CLEIS), a history and local environment research resource, farming, particularly market gardening, was extremely important in Thornton Heath during most of the 19th century with fruit and vegetable grown on a commercial scale.
Growing vegetables, fruit and flowers was labour-intensive and it wasn’t just individuals working on the land but complete families.
At one time there were 134 acres of agricultural land being between Collier’s Water Lane and Bensham Lane, and another 87 acres in the Beulah area.
The railway arrived in 1862 but the advantages of this fast and improved way of getting such crops as strawberries and flowers to London were far-reaching.
As many as 60 loads of horse dung were applied each year to an acre of ground, often having first been used for the ‘hot beds’ where salad crops, especially lettuce, and rhubarb were grown.
There were orchards of trees aplenty with vegetables under or between lines of fruit trees. Developers, too, were prepared to pay good prices for land and the next two decades saw a large part of the area under market-gardening lost, writes on Ken Maggs who runs CLEIS (www.cleis.org.uk)