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Visit and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:

Croydon, Greater London. In less than 150 years Croydon has grown from little more than a large village into a bustling borough with a population of some 350,000. For two decades its growth has been exceptionally fast and it boasts many tall modem buildings.

Fairfield Hall, one of the most ambitious cultural centres in the country, was completed and opened in 1962. It comprises a main concert hall, a smaller theatre, an art gallery, and a general purposes lounge, which also serves as a second art gallery. The main hall was planned primarily for orchestral concerts, but can be adapted for stage performances, arena events, cinema shows or lectures.

The theatre, called the Ashcroft Theatre in honour of Dame Peggy Ashcroft, is smaller and more intimate, with a seating capacity of 734, and is also ideal for smaller concerts and chamber music recitals. The Arnhem Gallery has a wall space of more than 6,000 sq. ft. and is primarily designed for painting exhibitions, but also serves as a banqueting hall.

The Fairfield Hall building is one of several modern edifices forming a pleasant square centred with flowering shrubs and a fountain, a breathing space in a busy centre. Nearby is the modern 20-story town hall, not far from its predecessor which now houses the Municipal Library, the Information Office, and sections of the police administration.

The Whitgift Centre is a well-designed, traffic-free shopping precinct.

The most historic building in Croydon was the Palace, summer residence of the archbishops of Canterbury from Norman times until the middle of the 18th century. Much of this has now been demolished, but some has been preserved and is now incorporated in the Old Palace School, a direct-grant school for girls under the control of the Community of the Sisters of the Church. Of the medieval palace only the Norman undercroft, the 15th-century banqueting hail, the entrance porch from the churchyard, the solar or retiring room, and the guardroom remain, but there are considerable remains from the Tudor period. These include the chapel with seven windows with typical Tudor arches; the dining-room built at the end of the 15th century; the long gallery which still contains some l6th-century panelling; and the library with a Tudor ceiling and oaken staircase. There is also a room known as Queen Elizabeth's Bedroom - she really did stay here, for it is recorded that she made several visits on matters of state.

The palace was originally built by Archbishop Lanfranc in the 11th century, and was considerably altered and added to over the centuries. It was last used by Archbishop Hutton in 1757. After that it fell into decay and was used for a time as a factory for printing linen. In 1887 the Duke of Newcastle bought it and handed it over to the Community of Sisters who established the school later in the same year, and in course of time had restorations and rebuilding carried out.

Next to the school is the Church of St John the Evangelist, the largest parish church in Surrey. It was largely destroyed by fire in 1867 and the present structure dates from the late l880s. The rebuilding followed the original Perpendicular church as far as possible. The tower dates from the 15th century and was completely restored after the fire, although its original interior work is almost intact. Also surviving from the fire is the 15th-century brass eagle lectern. In the church are the tombs of six archbishops of Canterbury.

In 1596 Archbishop Whitgift founded the hospital or almshouse that bears his name and still stands in the centre of Croydon. He also founded a grammar school.

Nearby towns: Caterham, Coulsdon, Crystal Palace, Epson, Ewell, Sutton

Nearby suburbs: Banstead, Beckenham, Bromley, Carshalton, Catford, Chipstead, Dulwich, Elmers End, Forest Hill, Hackbridge, Kenley, Merton, Mitcham, Morden, Norwood, Purley, Sanderstead, Selsdon, South Norwood, Streatham, Thornton Heath, Upper Norwood, Warlingham, West Dulwich, West Norwood, West Wickham, Westerham, Wimbledon

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