The main part of Riddlesdown was bought by the City of London in 1833 and the purchase resolved the William Hall lawsuit brought against Squire Byron, Lord of the Manor of Coulsdon.
In 1877, Byron, the Squire of Coulsdon,was taken to the Court of Chancery for encroaching on Common land of the Manor (land adjoining Riddlesdown chalkpit). The case was brought by William Hall of Little Roke House, which stood off the western corner of Riddlesdown just below the railway, and his brother. As landowners themselves, they would have benefitted if the land had in fact been enclosed. Apart from its immediate effect ,the case of Hall vs. Byron resulted in a large quantity of records about the local people, customs and land holdings at the time. Judgement was given for the Halls, and an injunction restrained Byron from enclosing common land. Halls solicitors then sued him for their costs, amounting to £1,000 as no judgement was given on this item. His total costs in the affair were £3,510. The City of London Corporation provided the final solution by paying £7,000 plus the costs for Byrons freehold and rights of commonage.
The purchase of local land for preservation as open space continued in 1883 when the London Corporation bought the other Coulsdon Commons: Farthing Downs, Coulsdon Common and Kenley Common, to add to the existing Riddlesdown acquisition.
The name Riddlesdown was first recorded in 1331 as Ridelesdoune and is believed to be mediaeval English 'riddeleah' - cleared woodland. It is also believed that the Down was once capped with Beech trees which are common on chalk because of the good drainage provided.
The area of land which runs from Honister Heights to Hamsey Green was purchased as Greenbelt land and arrested the spread of housing. Much of the land is leased to a local farmer for hay and arable crops, although rights of way still cross the land. There is a Trig point on the side of the track which runs across the area showing that the point is 525 feet above sea level.
The 1910 Ordnance Survey plan shows a rifle rnge on the downland and also makers Hut and Rifle Butts.
Riddlesdown is of archaeological interest, and in 1962 three graves were found that may have been connected with a Saxon Cemetery that was found at the junction of Riddlesdown Avenue and Mitchley Avenue. Stone Axes have also been found on Riddlesdown and have been dated to new Stone age or the Neolithic.
Running underneath Riddlesdown is a tunnel half a mile long which carries the railway line from Riddlesdown Station to Oxted.
Riddlesdown has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest by the Nature Conservancy Council. Scrubland covers the steep south west chalk slopes and the woodland flora includes an orchid which occurs nowhere else in Greater London. Scrub clearance of the land owned by the London Borough of Croydon had also resulted in the re-emergence of several orchids, including the Pyramidal and Man Orchids. The rarer Great Butterfly Orchid, which was thought to be extinct in Croydon, was also recorded.
The whole area of the Riddlesdown to Whyteleafe countryside area is jointly owned by Croydon Council, Corporation of London and Tandridge District Council. The three authorities are working in partnership with the Department of Food and Rural Affairs under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme to restore the beautiful chalk downland landscape, to improve and enhance the wildlife habitats and extend public access to the countryside.
The Riddlesdown to Whyteleafe Countryside Warden patrols the area by liaising and working with local residents, schools and voluntary groups and assisting in site management. If you have any queries about the site, would like to develop a community project or are keen to volunteer, please contact the warden at the address below.
Riddlesdown Countryside Office, Downs Court Road, Purley, CR8 1BD. Telephone: 020 8660 4625
|Telephone||020 8726 6900|
|Fax||020 8760 5622|
|Address||Click on map link above for location|