Street scene in town centre with local Pizza Express branch, formerly the Westminster Bank in foreground
Purley is located in Greater London
Location within Greater London
OS grid referenceTQ313615
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townPURLEY
Postcode districtCR8
Dialling code020
UK Parliament
London Assembly
List of places
51°20′14″N 0°06′51″W / 51.3373°N 0.1141°W / 51.3373; -0.1141

Purley is an area of the London Borough of Croydon in London, England, 11.7 miles (18.8 km) south of Charing Cross, with a history going back at least 800 years. It was originally granted as an estate from holdings at Sanderstead and until as a district of Surrey and then, with neighbouring Coulsdon, as an urban district that became an electoral ward of the London Borough of Croydon, becoming part of the ceremonial county of London, in 1965. In 2018 the Purley ward was divided into two: Purley and Woodcote, and Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown.

Purley is a suburban area of South London, and the quintessential suburban environment has been referenced in fictional and popular culture, most notably as the setting for the long running Terry and June sitcom.

Purley had a population of about 14,000 in 2011.



The name derives from an estate, mentioned in about 1200 when it was deeded to one William de Pirelea, son of Osbert de Pirelea by the abbot of St. Peter’s monastery near Winchester.[1] The original meaning of Purley was probably a wood or clearing where pear trees grow,[2] derived from "Pirlea", which is from Anglo Saxon pir, pear or pirige, pear tree and leá, a clearing or a place.[3]

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 was based at the Purley Council Offices.[4] The council was abolished in 1965, under the London Government Act 1963, and its area transferred to Greater London and used to form part of the London Borough of Croydon.[5]

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.[6]


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.[7][8]

Suburban growth

The former Purley Council Offices on Brighton Road, Purley. Now a residential development.

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".[9]

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.[10]

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.[citation needed]

Webb Estate

An entrance to the estate

The Webb Estate is a gated community with around 220 homes.[11] It began as 260 acres of farmland before being purchased in the 1880s and transformed into Edwardian homes and landscaped gardens by estate agent William Webb. Known for having a "garden village" feel with a high level of privacy, it also includes two private schools plus a restaurant and deli.[11]

The estate made headlines in a 2002 survey, which found that it had over the years attracted the highest-earning residents in the UK, having established itself as an attractive destination for wealthy city workers.[12]

Notable people to have lived on the Webb Estate include singer Francis Rossi, footballer Wilfried Zaha, television presenter Laura Hamilton, and former Downing Street Press Secretary Bernard Ingham.[11]


Map of Purley Postal District

The Purley postal district encompasses Purley high street and extends through Woodcote to the West, includes the Peaks Hill area to the North, and borders Purley Oaks in South Croydon. To the East it includes Riddlesdown and to the South it borders Kenley and Coulsdon.[13] The current electoral ward of Purley and Woodcote is largely co-extensive with the postal district,[14] but Riddlesdown is now in the neighbouring Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown ward.[15]

Woodcote Village Green

Woodcote is contained within Purley. Developed in the early 20th century, it is centred on Woodcote Village Green and is the location of Woodcote Model Village.[16] Purley's Webb Estate lies on Woodcote road, close to Upper Woodcote Village.[17]

The Bourne river runs through Purley. The river is culverted but can flood in Purley valley. A local history society take their name from this river.[18]


Peaks Hill

Purley is home to a number of schools;[19] including four Catholic schools. Two of which are in Peaks Hill neighbourhood of Purley, and these are The John Fisher School an all boys' state school (formerly an independent and then a voluntary aided state school),[20] and Laleham Lea School a co-educational prep-school.[citation needed]

Purley has one of the UK's longest-established language schools, Purley Language College, founded in 1928.[21]

The current schools in Purley are:[19]

Current Purley Schools
Name Type Mix Status Enrollment
Beaumont Primary School Primary Mixed LEA 128
Christ Church Cofe Primary School Primary Mixed C of E 214
Cumnor House School for Girls Primary Girls Independent 118
Laleham Lea School Primary Mixed Catholic Independent 147
Margaret Roper Catholic Primary School Primary Mixed Catholic 219
Oakwood School Primary/Prep Mixed Catholic Independent 219
Reedham Park School Limited Primary Mixed Independent 113
Riddlesdown Collegiate Secondary Mixed LEA 1517
St David's School Primary/Prep Mixed Independent 167
St Nicholas School Primary Mixed LEA/Special 103
The John Fisher School Secondary Boys Catholic 1004
Thomas More Catholic School Secondary Mixed Catholic 717
Tudor Lodge School Mixed Mixed Independent 8
Wattenden Primary School Primary Mixed LEA 139
West Dene School Primary Mixed Independent 107

Retail and commerce

Shops in Purley

Purley used to have many different kinds of shops such as greengrocers, butchers, toy shops, tobacconists, a restaurant and a cinema. There was an earlier Sainsbury's store that closed in the 1980s, when a new Sainsbury's was opened at Purley Fountain.[22] The new Sainsbury's closed in 2001.[23] A Tesco superstore was opened in 1991, and there has been a shift in the town's retail offering towards charity shops, restaurants and non retail businesses.[24]

Purley retail and commerce interests are represented by the Purley Business improvement district. This Business Improvement District (BID) is in the second 5-year term having successfully been voted in favour in 2015 and 2020.[25]

The island opposite Purley Baptist Church has been refurbished and the Church, under the banner of 58:12[26] (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 Purely Business improvement district, the Purley & Woodcote Residents' Association and Purley Rotary who actively participate in the Neighbourhood Partnership forums hosted by Croydon Council.[citation needed]


In the 2011 census, Purley had a population of 14607 with a demography of: White or White British (68.2%), Asian or Asian British (15.5%), Black or Black British (8.2%), Mixed/multiple ethnic groups (5.8%), and Other ethnic group (1.7%).[27] White British is the largest single ethnicity (60.7%).[28]



Purley lies within the Croydon South parliamentary constituency, where voters have consistently returned Conservative Party MPs to the local seat since 1974. Purley has been staunchly conservative and its amalgamation into the London borough of Croydon in 1965 helped consolidate the middle class domination of that borough.[29] The Purley electoral ward returned Conservative party councillors in Croydon London Borough Council elections from 1965 up until the reorganisation of 2018. In 2018, Purley was split into two wards; Purley and Woodcote, and Purley Oaks and Riddlesdown.[30]

Fictional references

Entrance to Purley Beeches

Notable residents


Purley railway station

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.[54]

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.[54]

Nearest railway stations

Nearest places

See also


  1. ^ Birch, Walter de Gray (1887). Domesday Book: A Popular Account of the Exchequer Manuscript So Called, with Notices of the Principal Points of General Interest which it Contains. Society for promoting Christian knowledge. p. 232. Another example of the late use of the term hida is that afforded by the Ad. Ch. 24,613 in the British Museum collection. In this deed John, abbot of St. Peter's monastery at Hyde, or Newminster, outside the city of Winchester, confirms a grant to William de Pirelea, son of Osbert de Pirelea, of "dimidiam hidam terre in Sandestuda," or Sanderstead, co. Surrey. The date is about A.D. 1200.
  2. ^ Mills, A. D. (2010). "Purley". A Dictionary of London Place-Names. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780199566785.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-956678-5. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  3. ^ Tichy, Ondrej; Rocek, Martin. "Bosworth-Toller's Anglo-Saxon Dictionary online". Bosworth-Toller's Anglo-Saxon Dictionary online. Retrieved 9 September 2022.
  4. ^ Historic England. "Purley Council Offices including attached railings (1063902)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  5. ^ "Timeline of Croydon Borough | Croydon Council". www.croydon.gov.uk. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
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  7. ^ "BBC - WW2 People's War - The Bombing of Kenley Aerodrome 1940". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  8. ^ Truelove, Sam (12 September 2017). "The incredible history of RAF Kenley which opened 100 years ago". The Croydon Advertiser. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
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  10. ^ "London Borough of Croydon : Purley Way and Valley Park". Croydon Online. 6 December 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
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  21. ^ "Purley English Language College - News, articles and cooperation". www.cylex-uk.co.uk. Retrieved 11 September 2022.
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  24. ^ "Purley Deserves Better- Jasmine Savory, St Philomena's High School". This Is Local London. 30 January 2022. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  25. ^ "Purley business improvement district ballot | Croydon Council". www.croydon.gov.uk. Retrieved 11 September 2022.
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  34. ^ "Steve Wright In The Afternoon". British Classic Comedy. 21 May 2021. Retrieved 11 September 2022.
  35. ^ Winter, Laura (December 2011). Debrett's People of Today 2012. Debrett's Peerage. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-870520-97-3.
  36. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. p. 2942. ISBN 9780857125958. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  37. ^ Norris, Gerald. A Musical Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1981), p. 96
  38. ^ Green, Adam (30 September 2019). "How Derren Brown Remade Mind Reading for Skeptics". The New Yorker. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
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  53. ^ Brayley, Edward Wedlake (1844). The History of Surrey. R.B. Ede. p. 43. Retrieved 11 September 2022. Purley House, on this estate, was formerly the property and residence of the late John Horne Tooke, esq.; whose celebrated philological work inituled, "Epea Pteroenta, or the Diversions of Purley," was written here, and first published, in octavo, in 1786.
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