Purley, London

Purley is an area of the London Borough of Croydon in London, England. It was part of the county of Surrey until 1965. It is located south of the town of Croydon, and 11.7 miles (18.8 km) south of Charing Cross. It had a population of about 14,000 in 2011.


Street scene in town centre with local Pizza Express branch, formerly the Westminster Bank in foreground
Location within Greater London
OS grid referenceTQ313615
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townPURLEY
Postcode districtCR8
Dialling code020
EU ParliamentLondon
UK Parliament
London Assembly



The name derives from Purley Farm which was originally part of the Benendon estates owned in the Middle Ages by the Huscarle and Carew families. They also held estates in Berkshire and men from this area who had worked on the estates were brought up to 'headquarters' to work and were generally known as xx de Pirley or xx de Woodcote etc. denoting the villages from whence they came. (there was no consistent spelling in those days so you will find the Berkshire Purley variously spelled Purle, P'lee, Pirley etc.) One, John de Purley, tenanted the farm which became known as Purley Farm after his family succeeded him for several generations. The original meaning of Purley was a riverside field inhabited by snipe or bittern.

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 in 1965, under the London Government Act 1963, was abolished and its area transferred to Greater London and used to form part of the London Borough of Croydon.

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.[1]


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.[2][3]

Suburban growth

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".[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]


Purley is home to a number of schools; including four notable Catholic schools, two of which are in Peaks Hill, Surrey: these schools are The John Fisher School a high-performing Catholic all boys state school (formerly an independent and then highly selective state school), Laleham Lea School a co-educational prep-school and Oakwood School, a co-educational Catholic primary. Cumnor House School, a prep school, is also in Purley. Oakwood Prep School is located on Godstone Road, Purley, and has been awarded Outstanding by Ofsted for over 10 years. Purley has one of the UK's longest-established language schools, Purley Language College, founded in 1928.

Other schools in Purley include:

Retail and commerce

Purley used to have many different kinds of shops such as greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers, card shops, sport shops, etc. The old Sainsbury's was closed in the early 1980s (and has now been demolished as part of redevelopment plans by the congregation of Purley Baptist Church). Since the opening of a new Sainsbury's in the early 1980s (closed 2001) and, more significantly, a Tesco superstore in 1991, there has been a shift in the town's retail offering towards estate agents, restaurants and bars.

The island opposite Purley Baptist Church has been refurbished and the Church, under the banner of 58:12[7] (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 Purley & Woodcote Residents' Association and Purley Rotary who actively participate in the Neighbourhood Partnership forums hosted by Croydon Council.


White British is the largest ethnic group at 61%, as of the 2011 census.[8]


Purley has consistently returned Conservative Party MPs to the local seat of Croydon South since 1974 and has also returned Conservative members to Croydon Council since 1965. Since the north of Croydon tends to return Labour councillors, the two halves of the borough are often at loggerheads. In the 2006 local elections the Conservatives were returned to power in Croydon removing Liberal Democrats and replacing Labour from the local political scene. Prominent members of the new Council are residents of Purley & of Woodcote (now part of Coulsdon West Ward). In 2018, Purley was split into two wards; Purley and Woodcote, and Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown.

Fictional references

Notable residents


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.

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.

Nearest railway stations

Nearest places

See also


  1. "Permission refused for Purley Town Hall's underground flats". Inside Croydon. 30 July 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  2. "BBC - WW2 People's War - The Bombing of Kenley Aerodrome 1940". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  3. Truelove, Sam (12 September 2017). "The incredible history of RAF Kenley which opened 100 years ago". The Croydon Advertiser. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  4. "Promenade de Verdun history" (PDF). croydon.gov.uk. London Borough of Croydon. Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  5. "London Borough of Croydon : Purley Way and Valley Park". Croydon Online. 6 December 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  6. "Purley laughs all the way to the bank". The Daily Telegraph. London. 16 June 2002. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
  7. "58-12.co.uk". 58-12.co.uk. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
  8. http://www.ukcensusdata.com/purley-e05000159
  9. Flanagan, Aaron (15 October 2015). "Wilfried Zaha set for new £2.5million Surrey mansion - featuring Crystal Palace emblem on the swimming pool floor". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  10. Granger, Derek (20 September 2000). "Obituaries: Shelagh Fraser". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  11. David Goodway, ‘Williamson, George Scott (1883–1953)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, May 2012
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