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Purley, London facts for kids

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Pizza Express, Purley - - 932445.jpg
Street scene in town centre with local Pizza Express branch, formerly the Westminster Bank in foreground
Purley is located in Greater London
OS grid reference TQ313615
London borough
Ceremonial county Greater London
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town PURLEY
Postcode district CR8
Dialling code 020
Police Metropolitan
Fire London
Ambulance London
EU Parliament London
UK Parliament
  • Croydon South
London Assembly
  • Croydon and Sutton
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. 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.



The name, first recorded as "Pirlee" in 1200, means 'Peartree wood or clearing'.

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.


Kenley Aerodrome, to the east of the town, is currently official property of the Ministry of Defence. It was one of the most important fighter stations – together with Croydon Airport and Biggin Hill – during World War II.

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.

Purley Council Office
Former offices of Coulsdon and Purley Urban District on Brighton Road, Purley. Now a residential development.

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 soil mixed with English and French earth specifically shipped over to the UK, a plaque at one end explains that the French ministry of Interior donated the soil from Armentières, as a memorial to the alliance of World War One and the soldiers who died. Notably, the town was home to Joachim von Ribbentrop when he was ambassador before WWII.

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.

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.


In the 2011 census, Purley was 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%). White British is the largest single ethnicity (60.7%).


Purley station building
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.

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

  • Purley railway station
  • Purley Oaks railway station
  • Riddlesdown railway station
  • Reedham railway station
  • Sanderstead railway station

Nearest places


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:

  • Beaumont Primary School
  • Thomas More Catholic Secondary School (co-ed)
  • Riddlesdown Collegiate (co-ed)
  • St David's School

Notable residents

  • Michael Arthur, Vice-Chancellor of Leeds University, Provost of University College London from September 2013, was born in Purley
  • Jay Aston, singer with Bucks Fizz, was born in Purley.
  • Ronald Binge and his wife Vera lived at 18, Smitham Bottom Lane in the 1950s. He composed the well-known Elizabethan Serenade there.
  • Derren Brown, magician and mentalist, was born and grew up in Purley.
  • Peter Cushing OBE, actor, grew up and went to school in Purley.
  • Brian Fahey, composer of "At the Sign of the Swingin' Cymbal" (the signature tune to BBC Radio's Pick of the Pops).
  • Andy Frampton, former professional footballer, grew up in Purley.
  • Shelagh Fraser, actress, was born in Purley
  • Laura Hamilton, TV presenter and Dancing on Ice Contestant, lives in Purley
  • Nigel Harman, actor, was born and grew up in Purley.
  • Sir Bernard Ingham, Margaret Thatcher's former press secretary, lives in Purley.
  • Sir David P. Lane, oncologist best known for identifying P53, went to school and grew up in Purley.
  • Martin Lee, singer with Brotherhood of Man, was born in Purley.
  • Archibald Low, pioneer of radio guidance systems, was born in Purley.
  • Ray Mears, TV survivalist, went to school in Purley.
  • Ron Noades, former chairman of Wimbledon FC, Crystal Palace FC and Brentford FC and owner of the Altonwood Golf Group, lived in Rose Walk, Purley, from 1993 until 2013.
  • Innes Hope Pearse, doctor and co-founder of the Peckham Experiment, grew up in Purley.
  • Francis Rossi, lead singer of Status Quo, lives in the Webb Estate in Purley.
  • John Horne Tooke, an English politician and philologist, lived in Purley at the end of the 18th century where he began writing Epea Pteroenta, Or, The Diversions of Purley.
  • Wilfried Zaha, footballer, Crystal Palace FC, lives in the Webb Estate.

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