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Anerley is a district of South London in the London Borough of Bromley. It has never existed as in independent entity but rather as a general area. Prior to the enclosure and the relocation of the Crystal Palace to the top of Sydenham Hill, Anerley was an unoccupied part of Penge Common and did not develop until the 19th century. In 1827 William Sanderson, a Scottish silk manufacturer built the first house in the area which he named “Anerley” meaning ‘solitary’ and this gave the name to the surrounding area.
The Croydon Canal was opened in October 1809 and passed through Anerley. The canal only lasted 27 years and proved to be a financial failure. It was sold to the London and Croydon Railway Company for £40,250. London and Croydon Railway would use much of the former canal for the former railway line, with remnants remaining in Betts Park in Anerley and in Dacres Wood, Sydenham. The railway deviated from the canal course entering a new cutting near what is now Anerley railway station. William Sanderson made land available in return for the creation of the railway station adjacent to his house “Anerley”. Isambard Kingdom Brunel built an atmospheric railway along this course in 1845 but it was short lived. The inability to include points on an atmospheric railway resulted in the construction of flyovers, one of which runs through Anerley between Crystal Palace railway station and Sydenham railway station. A train collision was reported to have occurred at Anerley on 5th October 1844.
Anerley Gardens opened in 1841 and provided entertainment in the growing 19th century leisure industry. With the medium of rail travel and boasting its own railway station, Anerley became a desirable social venue with regular dances, a boating lake, the Anerley Hotel, Swiss cottage, Maze and tranquil gardens. The Gardens closed in 1868 due to competition from the nearby Crystal Palace.
After the great exhibition in 1851, the Crystal Palace was moved to Sydenham hill and given a grand reopening in June of 1854. Many further exhibitions and circuses were hosted in the palace, such as the world’s first aeronautical exhibition in 1868. It stood there from June 1854 until its destruction by fire in November 1936. The surrounding area was renamed after the palace in its honour.
From the 1860s the residential area developed, grand Victorian houses were built along Anerley Road and Anerley formed part of the Parish of St Paul’s in 1861. Anerley Vestry Hall was built in 1878 to conduct public business for the area. It became a Town Hall as a result of the London Government Act 1899, this in 1900 becoming part of the Penge Urban District of Kent. The Hall was enlarged in 1911 for the sum of £3,229 and contained offices, a public hall, the council chamber, committee rooms, and a petty sessional court opened in 1925. By the beginning of the 20th century, Anerley, like the now known area of Crystal Palace was in decline with many of the grand Victorian houses converted into flats. Anerley became part of the London Borough of Bromley in 1965. With the demise of the local government ward of Anerley, the name Anerley is mainly applied to the area in the proximity of the railway station, to the top of Anerley Hill Road and down to the Birkbeck station border divide with London and Kent. The SE20 postcode district was officially named Anerley but covered Anerley, Penge and parts of Beckenham.
During WWII Anerley suffered extensive bomb damage with five V1 Rockets landing in the area with a further 6 landing in Crystal Palace Park and a total of twenty-three in the whole SE20 district. On the 18th June 1944 it was reported that a V1 Rocket was being chased by a Spitfire and then shot down by AA gun fire. The downed V1 fell upon Anerley Park near the junction of Anerley Road. Two people were killed, 3 houses were destroyed and 20 houses severely damaged. On the 11th July 1944 the third V1 Rocket strike to hit Anerley landed on Anerley Road at the junction with Crystal Palace railway station. People had heard the rocket cut out and ran for cover, with many failing to find any, and 11 people were killed. The shops on Station Road were totally destroyed, on Anerley Road 18 shops were demolished, 8 shops and 7 houses were severely damaged, and 84 houses sustained minor damage. The Paxton Arms pub was also partially destroyed and would not re-open until 1955. The last rocket would strike Anerley on the 24th August 1944.
Anerley is served by London buses routes N3, 75, 157, 197, 249. 354, 356, 358 and 432. The 432 now terminate at Anerley bus stand, behind the station on Anerley Station Road
The A213 and A214 pass through the area. During the late 1960s and the 1970s the A214 was to be part of the London Ringways project. The A214 was to become Ringway 2 and it would have passed through much of Anerley and have followed the railway line from Birkbeck station and travelled north. The construction of the A214 into the planned London Motorways network (much like the A2 or Hammersmith flyover London section today), would have seen a lot of destruction of property in Anerley and a great increase in noise pollution. After much consultation and Government dithering the various London Ringway projects were cancelled, including the A214 section.
From Anerley railway station, Southern railways operate trains to London Bridge, East Croydon and West Croydon. London Overground also operate the East London railway from Dalston Junction to West Croydon.
Birkbeck Station, TFL operate from Birkbeck to Beckenham Junction and Croydon. In the era of street trams, a tramway ran down Anerley Road, turning into Croydon Road. It joined the main tram network at West Croydon. In the early days a stationary engine was needed to haul trams up the steepest part of Anerley Hill. Later models were able to climb unassisted, but special gearing was designed exclusively for this route. The tramway was replaced by trolley buses on route 654 which operated until 1959. Transport for London had proposed the extension of Tramlink services from Harrington Road tram stop to the bus station on Crystal Palace Parade via Anerley Road and a consultation exercise finished in December 2006. However, Mayor Boris Johnson cancelled the £170 million extension in November 2008.
Thomas Crapper, plumber who did not invent the toilet (but promoted it), he lived his retirement 12 Thornsett Road
Walter de la Mare, famous poet and author of ghost stories, resided at 14 Thornsett Road during the 1920s
James Busby, authored the Treaty of Waitangi and introduced vines to Australia
Arthur Bigsworth, aviator was born in Anerley in 1885, said to be the inspiration for W. E. Johns fictional hero Biggles