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The Upper Norwood Windmill and Royal Albert Pub

February 1, 2007

It all started with a simple request to find out something about the pubs history

A short walk across the road to the Upper Norwood reference library where the first book I find the Royal Albert mentioned in is John Coulters Norwood Past. There is one brief mention: behind the modern Royal Albert was a tea garden in the grounds of a working windmill which would close in 1853 and be demolished shortly afterwards.

And the oddest coincidence of all, which I would find: the tea gardens were run by a Mr and Mrs Jinks. Whether the modern-day occupant of the Royal Albert is a descendant of the couple who ran the tea gardens is not yet known. Mr and Mrs Jinks were the first to have gas in Norwood . Mr Jinks built the temporary place for the tea gardens, access to which appears to have been via Paddock Gardens.

The original Mrs Jinks relived some of her memories in the Norwood Review in a column called Bygone Days in Norwood by its editor William Farmer. Her recollections of Norwood went back 60 years, 50 of which were spent at the Windmill tea gardens. On the London side of Westow Hill there was a wood as far as the Swan (now the Bluebottle) where there was a beer shop. Where the Holly Bush stands now there was another beer shop, then there were a few cottages the exact location is unclear from the article which were pulled down when the land they were on was bought by the Palace.

People from London used to ascend the mill to obtain a view of the surrounding country. The mill first appears in the rate books for 1812. In 1816 the premises also comprised a brick dwelling house, stables, pigsties, a barn and other buildings. Built as either a tower type or a post mill with stones in the breast, the building saw a succession of millers come and go, many just disappearing overnight.

In Picturesque Norwood wheelwright Mr E. Wheeler of Westow Hill, giving his recollections of the area shortly after 1900, said the mill ceased work in 1853 and was pulled down shortly afterwards. Trade directories show Mrs Edwards and the tea gardens were still there in 1861.

In 1961 Alan R Warwick in a booklet titled Glimpses of Norwood records that the foundations of a long-forgotten windmill could be seen behind the shops facing the library. In his 1971 book Windmills in Lambeth, Michael Short says that when he visited the site in 1969 a close inspection of the ground failed to reveal any trace of this foundation. But I am told that if you take a stroll along the cobblestones down the right hand side of the Royal Albert just before the path becomes proper paving stones there is an odd triangle-shaped pattern in the cobblestones. This indicates the site of one of the plinths the windmill stood on.

As to the Royal Albert itself rate books in Croydon local studies library, show a beer house on the site in 1852 run by Thomas Worfold. By 1852 J ?Coolley is running the beer house the name Poole having been crossed out in the rate books. The name Coolley sometimes as Geo., sometimes as J appears in the rate books up to at least 1870. Although the rate books always describe it as a beer house, it appears as the Royal Albert chop and dining rooms in a trade directory for 1861 62. In 1864 it is described as the Royal Albert Tavern, 5 Woodman Terrace with Albert Terrace at the rear. The pub was demolished shortly before the start of the Second World War. Records in Croydon councils planning department show the existing building was built the way it was designed with no plans to build on its left hand side. No drawings or photos of the windmill or the original Royal Albert appear to exist.

In April 1907 at a meeting held under the auspices of the Upper Norwood literary and scientific society, Mr W C Nicholls, a stationer of Westow Street , recalled there had been plans to erect a second windmill at the top of Gipsy Hill.

He told the meeting, apparently in all seriousness, it was not built because it was thought there was not enough wind to work two windmills.


Bygone Days in Norwood . Press cuttings dated 1888-9 by William Farmer, editor of the Norwood Review. **

Windmills in Lambeth an historical survey by Michael Short. (London borough of Lambeth 1971).**

The windmills of Surrey and Inner London by K G Parries and M T Mason, (Charles Skilton publishers London 1966). **

Norwood Past by John Coulter (Historical Publications London 1996).*

Picturesque Norwood third edition 1907, a pamphlet by J A Squire.**

Reminiscences of Norwood delivered by Arthur A Saward at the Royal Normal College, Westow Street under the auspices of the Upper Norwood literary and scientific society, April 10 1907. **

*available local studies library, Croydon.

** available Upper Norwood reference library.

Picture caption: Audrey Hammonds painting of the Royal Albert and its neighbouring egg stall. The painting appears on pages 66-67 of the book Norwood Heights by Audrey Hammond and Brian Dann. (On page 67 of her book is another painting by Audrey of the remains of the mill house. A photo taken from roughly the same location appears on page 85 of Michael Shorts book).

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One Response to The Upper Norwood Windmill and Royal Albert Pub

  1. Frank Brown on June 23, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    I enjoyed your history of the Roal Albert pub.I spent sometime in 06 camping in crystal Palace,walking distance to the pub.I met quite a few of the locals,had a wonderful time there.I believe the propriators name was Bernie.I also stopped in 08.
    I am trying to find information on a pup called the Victory.My grand mother ran the pub and lived above it during the 2nd war and and before.My mother also lived there.I grew up on all the stories of those times.She did tell me that they could see the glow of the fire when Crystal Palace burnt.Do you have any info of a pup by that name in the area at that time.Thanks much,Frank in Victoria,British Columbia

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