Purley, London

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Pizza Express, Purley - geograph.org.uk - 932445.jpg
Street scene in town centre with local Pizza Express branch, formerly the Westminster Bank in foreground
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Location within Greater London
OS grid reference TQ313615
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town PURLEY
Postcode district CR8
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°20′14″N0°06′51″W / 51.3373°N 0.1141°W / 51.3373; -0.1141 Coordinates: 51°20′14″N0°06′51″W / 51.3373°N 0.1141°W / 51.3373; -0.1141

Purley is an area of the London Borough of Croydon in London, England, 11.7 miles (18.8 km) south of Charing Cross, with a history going back at least 800 years. It was originally granted as an estate from holdings at Sanderstead and until as a district of Surrey and then, with neighbouring Coulsdon, as an urban district that became an electoral ward of the London Borough of Croydon, becoming part of the ceremonial county of London, in 1965. In 2018 the Purley ward was divided into two: Purley and Woodcote, and Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown.


Purley is a suburban area of South London, and the quintessential suburban environment has been referenced in fictional and popular culture, most notably as the setting for the long running Terry and June sitcom.

Purley had a population of about 14,000 in 2011.



The name derives from an estate, mentioned in about 1200 when it was deeded to one William de Pirelea, son of Osbert de Pirelea by the abbot of St. Peter’s monastery near Winchester. [1] The original meaning of Purley was probably a wood or clearing where pear trees grow, [2] derived from "Pirlea" which from Anglo Saxon pir, pear or pirige, pear tree and leá, a clearing or a place. [3]

Local government

Under the Local Government Act 1894, Purley became part of the Croydon Rural District of Surrey. In 1915 Purley and the neighbouring town of Coulsdon formed the Coulsdon and Purley Urban District which was based at the Purley Council Offices. [4] The council was abolished in 1965, under the London Government Act 1963, and its area transferred to Greater London and used to form part of the London Borough of Croydon. [5]

The urban district council was based in a colonial-style building opened in 1930. The building, on the A23 Brighton Road near Reedham Station, became the property of the London Borough of Croydon and was sold to developers. It was left derelict for many years but was converted into flats in 2012. Plans to dig under the building and build additional flats were refused in 2015. [6]


Kenley Aerodrome, to the east of the town, is currently official property of the Ministry of Defence. It was one of the key fighter stations – together with Croydon Airport and Biggin Hill – during the World War II support of Dunkirk, Battle of Britain and for the defence of London. [7] [8]

Suburban growth

The former Purley Council Offices on Brighton Road, Purley. Now a residential development. Purley Council Office.jpg
The former Purley Council Offices on Brighton Road, Purley. Now a residential development.

Purley grew rapidly in the 1920s and 1930s, providing spacious homes in a green environment. Northeast Purley stretches into the chalk hill spurs of the North Downs.

One road, Promenade de Verdun, created by William Webb, has a distinction all of its own. It is 600 yards (550 m) long and has on one side Lombardy poplars planted in local soil mixed with French earth specially shipped over to the UK. A plaque at one end of the road explains that the French ministry of the interior donated the soil from Armentières, as a memorial to the alliance of World War One and the soldiers who died. At the other end stands an obelisk carved from a single piece of stone with the inscription "Aux soldats de France morts glorieusement pendant la Grande Guerre". [9]

The 32nd Surrey Battalion of the Home Guard was known as the Factory Battalion, and had the specific task of guarding the Purley Way factories: its units were mainly based on staff from the individual firms. The factories adjoining Croydon Airport took the worst of the air raid of 15 August 1940: the British NSF factory was almost entirely destroyed, and the Bourjois factory gutted, with a total of over sixty civilian deaths. [10]

A comprehensive history of Purley and its growth around Caterham Junction (now Purley Station) with the coming of the railways some 150 years ago is found in the Bourne Society's 'Purley Village History' and in its Local History Records publications.

The Webb Estate made headlines in a 2002 survey, which found that it had over the years attracted the highest-earning residents in the UK. In the same year Purley topped Britain's rich list becoming the most affluent suburb and consistently features among the most affluent suburbs in Britain owing to its exclusive gated estates, large houses and greenery yet only less than 30 minutes from central London thus attracting wealthy city workers. [11]


Map of Purley Postal District Purley Postal Area2.png
Map of Purley Postal District

The Purley postal district encompasses Purley high street and extends through Woodcote to the West, includes the Peaks Hill area to the North, and borders Purley Oaks in South Croydon. To the East it includes Riddlesdown and to the South it borders Kenley and Coulsdon. [12] The current electoral ward of Purley and Woodcote is largely co-extensive with the postal district, [13] but Riddlesdown is now in the neighbouring Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown ward. [14]

Woodcote Village Green Village Green, Woodcote, London (geograph 1888055).jpg
Woodcote Village Green

Woodcote is contained within Purley. Developed in the early 20th century, it is centred on Woodcote Village Green and is the location of Woodcote Model Village. [15] Purley's Webb Estate lies on Woodcote road, close to Upper Woodcote Village. [16]

The Bourne river runs through Purley. The river is culverted but can flood in Purley valley. A local history society take their name from this river. [17]


Peaks Hill Street Scene, Peaks Hill, Woodcote - geograph.org.uk - 1208689.jpg
Peaks Hill

Purley is home to a number of schools; [18] including four Catholic schools. Two of which are in Peaks Hill neighbourhood of Purley, and these are The John Fisher School an all boys state school (formerly an independent and then a voluntary aided state school), [19] and Laleham Lea School a co-educational prep-school.

Purley has one of the UK's longest-established language schools, Purley Language College, founded in 1928. [20]

The current schools in Purley are: [18]

Current Purley Schools
Beaumont Primary School PrimaryMixedLEA128
Christ Church Cofe Primary SchoolPrimaryMixedC of E214
Laleham Lea School PrimaryMixedCatholic Independent147
Margaret Roper Catholic Primary SchoolPrimaryMixedCatholic219
Oakwood SchoolPrimary/PrepMixedCatholic Independent219
Reedham Park School LimitedPrimaryMixedIndependent113
Riddlesdown Collegiate SecondaryMixedLEA1517
St David's School Primary/PrepMixedIndependent167
St Nicholas SchoolPrimaryMixedLEA/Special103
The John Fisher SchoolSecondaryBoysCatholic1004
Thomas More Catholic School SecondaryMixedCatholic717
Tudor Lodge SchoolMixedMixedIndependent8
Wattenden Primary SchoolPrimaryMixedLEA139
West Dene SchoolPrimaryMixedIndependent107

Retail and commerce

Shops in Purley Purley, UK - panoramio (44).jpg
Shops in Purley

Purley used to have many different kinds of shops such as greengrocers, butchers, toy shops, tobacconists, a restaurant and a cinema. There was an earlier Sainsbury's store that closed in the 1980s, when a new Sainsbury's was opened at Purley Fountain. [21] The new Sainsbury's closed in 2001. [22] A Tesco superstore was opened in 1991, and there has been a shift in the town's retail offering towards charity shops, restaurants and non retail businesses. [23]

Purley retail and commerce interests are represented by the Purley Business improvement district. This Business Improvement District (BID) is in the second 5-year term having successfully been voted in favour in 2015 and 2020. [24]

The island opposite Purley Baptist Church has been refurbished and the Church, under the banner of 58:12 [25] (a company and charity set up by the Church) are planning to redevelop it. Other partners in the development of a strategy for the regeneration of central Purley include the Purely Business improvement district, the Purley & Woodcote Residents' Association and Purley Rotary who actively participate in the Neighbourhood Partnership forums hosted by Croydon Council.


In the 2011 census, Purley had a population of 14607 with a demography of: White or White British (68.2%), Asian or Asian British (15.5%), Black or Black British (8.2%), Mixed/multiple ethnic groups (5.8%), and Other ethnic group (1.7%). [26] White British is the largest single ethnicity (60.7%). [27]


Riddlesdown Riddlesdown view.JPG

Purley lies within the Croydon South parliamentary constituency, where voters have consistently returned Conservative Party MPs to the local seat since 1974. Purley has been staunchly conservative and its amalgamation into the London borough of Croydon in 1965 helped consolidate the middle class domination of that borough. [28] The Purley electoral ward returned Conservative party councillors in Croydon London Borough Council elections from 1965 up until the reorganisation of 2018. In 2018, Purley was split into two wards; Purley and Woodcote, and Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown. [29]

Fictional references

Entrance to Purley Beeches Entrance to Purley Beeches - geograph.org.uk - 3591682.jpg
Entrance to Purley Beeches

Notable residents


Purley railway station Purley station building.JPG
Purley railway station

Purley Cross gyratory connects routes leading south-east to East Grinstead and Eastbourne (the A22), west to Epsom and Kingston (the A2022), south to Redhill and Brighton (the A23), and north to Croydon and Central London (the A23 and A235). The A23 north from Purley forms the Purley Way, which leads to Croydon's trading and industrial hinterland and also to the former Croydon Airport, the predecessor of the present London Heathrow Airport and London Gatwick Airport. [53]

The town is on the main London-to-Brighton railway line and is served by Purley and Purley Oaks stations on that line, and Reedham station on the Tattenham Corner Line. [53]

Nearest railway stations

Nearest places

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">London Borough of Croydon</span> Borough in United Kingdom

The London Borough of Croydon is a London borough in south London, part of Outer London. It covers an area of 87 km2 (33.6 sq mi). It is the southernmost borough of London. At its centre is the historic town of Croydon from which the borough takes its name; while other urban centres include Coulsdon, Purley, South Norwood, Norbury, New Addington and Thornton Heath. Croydon is mentioned in Domesday Book, and from a small market town has expanded into one of the most populous areas on the fringe of London. The borough is now one of London's leading business, financial and cultural centres, and its influence in entertainment and the arts contribute to its status as a major metropolitan centre. Its population is 386,710, making it the second largest London borough and fifteenth largest English district.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coulsdon</span> Human settlement in England

Coulsdon is a town in south London, England, within the London Borough of Croydon, in the ceremonial county of Greater London since 1965. Prior to this it was part of the historic county of Surrey.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wallington, London</span> Human settlement in England

Wallington is a town in the London Borough of Sutton, in South London, England. It is 9.7 miles (15.6 km) south south-west of Charing Cross. Before the Municipal Borough of Beddington and Wallington merged into the London Borough of Sutton in Greater London in 1965, it was part of the county of Surrey. Wallington is a post town in the SM postcode area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kenley</span> Human settlement in England

Kenley is an area within the London Borough of Croydon and the historic county of Surrey. It is situated south of Purley, east of Coulsdon, north of Caterham and Whyteleafe and west of Sanderstead, and 13 miles (21 km) south of Charing Cross. At the 2011 Census, Kenley had a population of 14,966.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sanderstead</span> Human settlement in England

Sanderstead is a village and medieval-founded church parish at the southern end of Croydon in south London, England, within the London Borough of Croydon and the ceremonial county of Greater London. Prior to 1965 it was in the historic county of Surrey. It takes in Purley Downs and Sanderstead Plantation, an area of woodland that includes the second-highest point in London. Sanderstead sits above a dry valley at the edge of the built-up area of Greater London. Cementing its secular identity from the late 19th century until abolition in 1965 it had a civil parish council. The community had a smaller farming-centred economy until the mid 19th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South Croydon</span> Area of London

South Croydon in south London is the area surrounding the valley south of central Croydon and running as far south as the former Red Deer public house on the Brighton Road. It is bounded by Waddon to the West and Selsdon and Sanderstead to the East. It is part of the South Croydon (CR2) post town and in the London Borough of Croydon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reedham railway station (London)</span> National Rail station in London, England

Reedham railway station is in the south of Purley in the London Borough of Croydon on the Tattenham Corner line. The local area is residential and the station is near the A23 Brighton Road. It is 15 miles 65 chains (25.4 km) measured from London Charing Cross. The Brighton Main Line is adjacent, but is not served by this station.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hamsey Green</span> Human settlement in England

Hamsey Green is a place on the plateau of the English North Downs between the villages of Sanderstead to the north and Warlingham to the south. It is split almost across the centre into north and south so is in part in the Tandridge district of Surrey and in part in the London Borough of Croydon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Purley Oaks railway station</span> South London station on Brighton main line

Purley Oaks railway station is in the London Borough of Croydon in south London, on the Brighton Main Line 12 miles 34 chains (20.0 km) measured from London Bridge. All trains serving it are operated by Southern and it is in London Travelcard Zone 6. The station has four platforms: a disused side platform on the up fast line, an island platform with a disused face on the down fast line and an eastern face used by up trains, and a side platform on the eastern side used by down trains. The two platforms are only used during engineering works. There is also a pay-and-display car park at the station.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Whyteleafe</span> Human settlement in England

Whyteleafe is a village in the district of Tandridge, Surrey, England, with a few streets falling inside the London Borough of Croydon. The village, in a dry valley of the North Downs, has three railway stations. Neighbouring villages and towns include Woldingham, Caterham, Coulsdon, Warlingham, and Kenley. To the west are Kenley Aerodrome, Kenley Common, Coxes Wood, and Blize Wood. To the east are Riddlesdown, the Dobbin and Marden Park.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coulsdon and Purley Urban District</span>

Coulsdon and Purley Urban District was a local government district in northeast Surrey from 1915 to 1965. The local authority was Coulsdon and Purley Urban District Council. The former area of the district is now mostly part of the London Borough of Croydon in Greater London, with parts in the Tandridge District and the Borough of Reigate and Banstead in Surrey.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Riddlesdown</span> Human settlement in England

Riddlesdown is a place in the London Borough of Croydon, one mile east from the centre of its post town of Purley. The name applies to the residential district and to the green space maintained by the City of London Corporation which is also known as Riddlesdown Common.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">A2022 road</span> Road in south London and northern Surrey

The A2022 is a non-primary road in England. It runs south-west into the foothills of the North Downs from West Wickham in the London Borough of Bromley through Selsdon, Sanderstead, Addington, Purley, the Woodcote part of that town, Banstead in Surrey and Epsom Downs through which it descends to a similar altitude as at its beginning to end at Epsom.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Riddlesdown Collegiate</span> Academy in Purley, London, England

Riddlesdown Collegiate is a secondary school with academy status located in the Riddlesdown area of the London Borough of Croydon, UK. It is a coeducational school, of between 1800 and 2000 students. The school takes its pupils mainly from the Sanderstead, Selsdon, Purley, Kenley, New Addington and South Croydon areas, and specialises in science. Riddlesdown is the largest school in Croydon in terms of pupil numbers, and one of the most over-subscribed schools in the area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Coat of arms of the London Borough of Croydon</span>

The coat of arms of the London Borough of Croydon is the official heraldic arms of the London Borough of Croydon, granted on 10 December 1965.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Purley Oaks & Riddlesdown (ward)</span>

Purley Oaks & Riddlesdown is a ward in the London Borough of Croydon. It was created from parts of the former Purley, Sanderstead and Waddon wards. The first election was on 3 May 2018.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sanderstead (ward)</span>

Sanderstead is a ward in the London Borough of Croydon. The ward received boundary changes in 2018, gaining territory from Croham ward, but losing Riddlesdown to Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown ward. The first election with new boundaries was 3 May 2018.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Purley Council Offices</span> Municipal building in London, England

Purley Council Offices, also known as Purley Town Hall, is a former municipal building in Brighton Road, Purley, London. The structure, which was the headquarters of Coulsdon and Purley Urban District Council, is a Grade II listed building.


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