Regenerating Croydon

From farmland and fields

From farmland and fields to the regeneration of our town centre

In the late 1500s our founder John Whitgift had the forethought to leave a legacy of land and property alongside his mission to educate the young and care for the old of Croydon.

In 1596 Whitgift wrote the will that would forever bind his name to the town and the Foundation was established by Act of Parliament. In February 1595 Whitgift purchased a site situated on higher ground just above the Archbishops’ Palace where the Checquer Inn stood, for £200 along with other land and properties in Croydon totalling 13 acres to form the first part of his Foundation’s endowment. An adjoining house was then purchased for £30 followed by The Swan Inn a little further to the north with four acres of land for £80.

John Whitgift Portrait
Hospital of the Holy Trinity

Starting with Staycross

In October 1596 a building and an acre and a half of land called Staycross, adjoining the Checquer Inn was purchased for £80 to provide a suitable site for his new school.

A further 87 acres were purchased to the east near Stroud Green along with several farms at Woodside, Shirley and Addiscombe for the sum of £1,400. He continued to purchase additional properties in the remaining years prior to his death, notably the 340 acres of the Manor of Croham for £740. His investments totalled £2,530 or approximately £350,000 in today’s money.

Building work for his hospital, started in January 1596, with Whitgift laying two cornerstones on 22 March of that year. The Vicar of Croydon, Samuel Finch, kept him regularly updated on progress whilst he was out of town and the build took just over three years to complete and cost of £2,716 11s. 11d, the equivalent to around £466,000 today. When complete it was described as being surrounded by fields, orchards, vines and arbours with a bowling alley, walnut tree garden, apricot trees and 600 ‘rose-sets’ brought specially from Worcestershire to Croydon in 1614.

A Growing Legacy

During the early days of the Foundation, additional land in and around the town centre was purchased to build a property portfolio capable of funding John Whitgift’s charitable aspirations.

Today our property portfolio has changed from farmland and fields to commercial and residential buildings. Amongst our town centre properties, we are freehold owners of the Whitgift Shopping Centre, part of the Allders building and various other retail units. This portfolio provides us with an annual income to fund our bursary programmes at Old Palace School, Trinity School and Whitgift School and supporting older people in our care services including The Whitgift Almshouses, Whitgift House and Wilhelmina House along with supporting carers in Croydon via Carers Information Service.

For over 400 years we have played a key role in the development of Croydon. The site of the current Whitgift Centre (between Wellesley Road and North End) was previously home to Whitgift Middle School, which in 1954 was renamed Trinity School of John Whitgift. In 1965 the school moved to its present location in Shirley Park to make space for Croydon’s plan to become a major retail and economic hub, with the Whitgift Centre at its heart.

Whitgift Middle School
Whitgift Grammar School

What next for Croydon?

Croydon is undoubtedly undergoing tremendous changes at the moment. As communities and financial markets settle back into a post-pandemic rhythm, plans are being remade to revitalise the town that John Whitgift had so much love for. We are as committed today as Whitgift was himself over four centuries ago, to supporting the town and providing for its communities. By working with organisations such as Croydon Partnership, Croydon BID (Business Improvement District), Croydon Council and our elected Mayor, Jason Perry, Croydon will continue to adapt, change and develop, just as it always has. We would love to see the Whitgift Centre and the High Street busy and full again, serving the local community, whether that be retail shops, office space, leisure, community groups or food and beverage.

We consider the Foundation privileged to be a major land/property owner in the town, with the unique offering to tenants that their rental income will be used directly to support the people of Croydon, whether that be through bursaries to our schools, supporting the elderly through our care homes and Almshouses or support to the 34,000+ carers in the borough.

Source: John Whitgift by Christopher Barnett