The Beulah Spa Stone and Pictorial History Lectern - achieved by the Beulah Spa History Project September 2018
Beulah Spa Unveiling Celebrations
Time travel seemed possible last Saturday (29th September 2018) at the Beulah Spa lawns in Upper Norwood, as for two hours, one hundred people participated in an unveiling ceremony for the long forgotten Beulah Spa.
Many in Victorian dress, celebrated with the live music, period dancing and a juggling performance. For the first time in 162 years the glories of the former Royal Beulah Spa and Gardens were enjoyed by the crowd at Norwood.
The All Saints Clarinet Quartet played the music of Johann Strauss Senior (who himself conducted his band on the Spa lawns in 1838) as dancers in Victorian dress – provided by Mrs Bennet’s Ballroom Dance Group - performed quadrilles and dancing just like in the days of old.
The Mayor of Croydon, Bernadette Khan, along with Consort Qaiyum Khan, carried out the honour of unveiling the newly installed Beulah Spa Granite Memorial Stone and a Pictorial History Lectern.
The event was organized by The Beulah Spa History Project founder Chris Shields. Chris, a local author and musician, who has worked for Croydon’s libraries for over thirty years, recently wrote a book on the subject called ‘The Beulah Spa 1831-1856 A New History’. He couldn’t quite understand why such an important place in the social history of London was left unmarked and forgotten.
The Beulah Spa opened in 1831 and was a playground for London’s social class. Attended by Queen Victoria on four occasions, it also saw the coming of Queen Consorts, future Kings (Edward VII), Princes, Princesses, Emperors, Dukes, Duchesses, writers, artists, poets, singers, musicians, magicians, tightrope-walkers, balloonists, gymnasts, dancers, acrobats, archers, clowns, jesters, jugglers, sword-swallowers, Italian singing minstrels and gypsy fortune tellers. Charles Dickens mentioned it in his books as did William Makepeace Thackeray. Victorian caricaturist George Cruickshank drew it and Charles Dance wrote a play about it.
A band would play at the Beulah Spa every day from 11am until dusk so it really was like going back in time. Chris, wearing a very tall stove-pipe hat, made a speech about the Spa’s history, before the Mayor unveiled the stone on the very spot of the original well spring.
Chris set up the Beulah Spa History Project in order to raise funds to remedy this big omission in the history of Croydon and on Saturday all his hard work and planning came to fruition.
Attendees included Councillor Pat Ryan (who contributed to the cost of the stone and lectern) Stephen Oxford, Secretary of the Norwood Society, Father Leonard Marsh of All Saints Church and Keith Walshe, former Headmaster of David Livingstone School.
Gazebos and bunting were the order of the day as the crowds were amazed with the juggling of Matiss Duhon. The Friends of Spa Woods, who have monthly work days tidying up the Spa Woods, were all present and provided festivalgoers with tea, coffee and homemade cakes.