Wednesday 15 September 2010

Tillotson anyone?

The reference library in Croydon is part of this grand complex, a gloriously extravagant expression of Victorian municipal pride and aspiration. The last time I went in, I was pleased to find it quite wonderfully old-fashioned and unmodernised, complete with chained newspapers, wooden lecterns and dim book-lined galleries - but that was a long while ago, and I'm sure it's a very different story now. However the exterior survives unchanged, with its tall stained-glass windows and, above each, the names of various English worthies, literary and artistic, in threes on little scrolls - very Victorian. Mostly they are the names you'd expect - the likes of Shakespere [sic], Chaucer, Hogarth, Reynolds - but one trio is decidedly odd: Scott, Macaulay (with you so far) - and Tillotson. Who? And why? The only Tillotson of note I can unearth (apart from Johnny 'Poetry in Motion' Tillotson and it's unlikely to be him) is this 17th-century divine. Presumably he enjoyed a Victorian vogue - or perhaps he was a kinsman of the Mayor of Croydon. Who knows?


  1. The Archbishops of Canterbury owned the Manor of Croydon until 1862 (and for a time had a country residence there, Addington Place, now oddly renamed Addington Palace).

    Tillotson was once held in high regard as a luminary of the "broad" school of Anglican churchmanship (precursor of the modern liberal school). Perhaps the window is both a commemoration of the town's connexion with the prinatial see and a sign of where its religious sympathies lay in the nineteenth century.

  2. Thank you Sir Watkin - I knew I could rely on you. There is also the Old Palace in Croydon itself, which survives as a school (and the Whitgift Almshouses, still there amid the horrors of Croydon's shopping centre). I believe the Archbishes were keen on Croydon because the hunting was so good. Those were the days...

  3. I regret that I could offer no more than speculation, but I thank thee, sir.

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