The world’s end
The only fictionalised depiction of Croydon that I am aware of is Peep Show. This setting is intended to reinforce the idea that the main character’s, Mark and Jeremy, are basically losers. Croydon as depicted in the early 2000s is unfashionable and slightly dangerous. Mark has two encounters with street level violence; in the first episode he is harangued by a large group of children who call him a ‘paedo’, in an episode titled ‘mugging’ he is robbed by two teenagers in a dark underpass. As with all broadcast depictions of anti-social behaviour in London, the antagonists are conspicuously White. Both events serve to underline Mark’s cowardice; his assailants are unarmed but he is thoroughly cowed by the implication of potential violence.
Croydon has never been a fashionable area. For most the late 20th century it was identified with a stolidly lower-middle class in the style of similar distant South London suburbs such as Sidcup, or Orpington – the birthplace of the ‘Orpington Man’, a political term from the 1960s referring to the upwardly mobile white working class, later repackaged in the more distinctly snobby moniker ‘Mondeo Man’. This population tended to live in semi-detached houses built in the interwar period, usually descending from East End cockneys.
Part of the idle condescension was, and still is, rooted in the view that these people were class traitors. Instead of suffering through comprehensive education, they moved to the South East where local authorities had fought valiantly to protect Grammar schools. They did not luxuriate in despair after the decline in manufacturing, but commuted in to the City to make ‘loadsamoney’. They tended to voted Conservative; holding stern views in favour of both the hanging and the flogging of ‘em. The National Front was created in the Croydon apartment AK Chesterton, and later headquartered there by John Tyndall in 1972.
Some of these populations still exist in the suburbs around Croydon such as Sanderstead and New Addington, but the town centre itself has adopted a distinct ‘character’, both from the snobbish imagination of the exalted denizens of Hampstead Garden Suburb and the production team of Peep Show. Croydon was at the epicentre of the 2011 race riots, where the House of Reeves, a furniture shop owned by the Reeves family since 1867 and had survived the Blitz, was burned in to cinders. This is a place, now, where young men are regularly chased by groups of youths wielding machetes. This is also a place where a fifteen year old girl on the way to school has been stabbed through the throat for trying to stop another teenager from harassing her friend.