Croydon

“You never get away from that thing in your hometown that it has over you. You don’t outgrow where you come from.” – Brian Fallon

As a child of a military family, I never had a hometown. We moved every few years to a variety of locations in and out of the United States. The closest things to hometowns were the cities my parents came from: Racine, Wisconsin, and Valparaiso, Indiana. I’ve mentioned Valparaiso before, because it is the seat of Porter County, where my Casbon ancestors settled in the 1860s. It’s where my father grew up. We visited Valparaiso from time to time to see grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was the only place in the world that I knew where other Casbons existed. I’ve only gone there a couple of times as an adult, but when I go, it still has a special place in my heart.

I’m pretty sure the same feeling applies to many of the Casbans in England, except they would say their home town* is Croydon, Greater London. A couple of the Casbans from Croydon have been kind enough to correspond with me and share some of their stories.

What makes a place a hometown? In the simplest sense, it’s the place where you grew up or come from. But in a broader sense it implies something more than just a place. It embodies the ideas of permanence, relationships, and familiarity. When people talk about their hometowns, they might also be talking about their families, childhood friends, favorite foods or familiar places. For many, a hometown is a place they feel comfortable and secure. For some, it is a place they can’t wait to get away from.

So, how did Croydon become the home town for the Casbans? It all started with Samuel Clark Casban (1851–1922). Samuel was the third son of William (~1805–1877) and Ann (Clark, ~1812–1869) Casbon, and grew up in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. Like his father and brothers, he went to work at an early age, being listed as a labourer in the 1861 census.[1] Samuel (with surname spelled Casban) married Lydia Harrup in 1872,[2] and the couple had four children while still living in Meldreth: Anne, 1872;[3] Samuel Clark, 1874;[4] Margaret Alice, 1875;[5] and Elizabeth Emma, 1879.[6]

Elizabeth died in 1879, within months of her birth,[7] and sometime within the next several months, Samuel and his family moved to Croydon. His move was probably influenced by the fact that his sister Mary Ann, and two brothers, John and Reuben, had lived in the environs of London since the 1860s. More importantly, his brother-in-law, John Harrup, had been working for the Brighton and South Coast Railroad since 1874, and was presumably able to help Samuel secure employment there in January, 1880.[8]

Detail from London, Brighton & South Coast Railway employee records, 1880, showing entries for John Harrup and Samuel Casban. This is the earliest record showing Samuel in Croydon. (Click on image to enlarge)

Croydon was originally a town in Surrey, about ten miles south of London.[9] Due to its position between London and the South Coast of England, and the arrival of the railroads, Croydon became an important transportation hub, and experienced a 23-fold increase in population between 1801 and 1901.[10] When Samuel arrived in 1879–80, Croydon was still an independent entity from London. As London expanded, Croydon soon became a part of the London metropolitan area, and in 1965 became a borough of London and no longer part of Surrey.[11] Croydon is now the most populated borough in London, with a population of 363,378 in 2011.[12] It is a city within a city.

Detail from 1901 map of Outer London (pink shading).[13] Numerous rail lines converge or pass through the vicinity of Croydon, which is located near the bottom, center. (Click on image to enlarge)


Contemporary map showing the Borough of Croydon (shaded). (Google Maps)

Samuel and Lydia’s family continued to grow in Croydon. William was born in 1880; Elizabeth Emma (“Lizzie”), 1881; Florence Edith (“Florie”), 1884; Albert Edward (“Bertie”), 1885; Leonard, 1887; Ernest Charles, 1890.[14] Anne, Samuel, Alice, Lizzie, and Bertie married and raised their families in or near Croydon. William never married, but remained in Croydon. Florie died in 1904.[15] Leonard and Ernest were killed in the first World War.[16] (Ernest had married in 1913 and had a daughter, who died in 1915.[17]) Some of Samuel and Lydia’s great-great-grandchildren and at least one third-great-grandchild have been born in Croydon. Thus, six generations of Casbans lived or were born in Croydon, establishing a strong sense of permanence and identity with the place.

Lorna Thomas (neé Casban) shared these interesting facts about Croydon with me. The London Croydon airport was the first major international airport in England and remained so until Heathrow was developed in the late 1940s. Amy Johnson departed from there on a historic solo flight to Brisbane, Australia in 1930.[18] The international “Mayday! call was invented there.

Photo of ‘Hengist’ plane flying over Croydon Airport. Courtesy of Local Studies Library & Archive and the Museum of Croydon, http://www.museumofcroydon.com.

A quick search on 192.com shows that only a handful of Casbans live in Croydon today. This is not surprising, given the ease of transportation and mobility within our society. However, I’m sure that many still consider Croydon to be their home town. Are you a “Croydon Casban”? I would love to hear from you, either in the “Leave a Reply” section or through the “Contact” link!

*In preparing this post I learned that the single word hometown is more common in American English and home town – two words – more common in British English.

[1] 1861 England Census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, p. 24, schedule 133, William Carston; imaged on findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1861%2f0005027198 : accessed 23 March 2017); citing [The National Archives], RG 09, piece 815, folio 64, p. 24.
[2] “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NVCX-8N1 : accessed 2 August 2016), Samuel Casban and Lydia Harrup, 02 Nov 1872; FHL microfilm 1,040,541.
[3] General Register Office (GRO), “Search the  GRO Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 7 November 2017), search on births, “Harrup,” 1872, Annie Harrup, J[un] qtr, 1872, Royston, vol. 3A/325.
[4] Ibid., search on birth, “Casban,” 1874, Samuel Casban, M[ar] qtr, 1874, Royston, vol. 3A/316.
[5] Ibid., search on birth, “Casban,” 1875, Margaret Casban, D[ec] qtr, 1875, Royston, vol. 3A/320.
[6] Ibid., search on births, “Casban,” 1879, Elizabeth Emma Casban, M[ar] qtr, 1879, Royston, vol. 3A/369.
[7] Ibid., search on deaths, “Casban,” 1879, LIzzie Casban, J[un] qtr, 1879, Royston, vol. 3A/220.
[8] London, Brighton & South Coast Railway: General Manager’s Register of Staff Commencing 1880, p. 87, Croydon Goods Station, John Harrup, Feb 1874, and Samuel Casbon, Jan 1880; imaged as “UK, Railway Employment Records, 1833-1956,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1728 : accessed 20 September 2018), London, Brighton and South Coast >1838-1884 Traffic Appointments >image 119 of 452.
[9] “Croydon,” British History Online (https://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-environs/vol1/pp170-201 : accessed 2 December 2018).
[10] “Croydon,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Croydon : accessed 2 December 2018), rev. 28 Nov 18, 16:19, paras. 20-21.
[11] “London Borough of Croydon,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_Borough_of_Croydon : accessed 2 December 2018), rev. 24 Nov 18, 18:33, para. 2.
[12] “London Borough of Croydon,” Wikipedia, para. 48.
[13] Edward Stanford, “Outer London,” map, Stanford’s London Atlas of Universal Geography Exhibiting the Physical and Political Divisions of the Various Countries of the World (London: Edward Stanford, Ltd., 1901); online image, David Rumsey Map Collection (https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/detail/RUMSEY~8~1~34248~1171163:Outer-London- : accessed 1 December 2018).
[14] General Register Office (GRO), “Search the  GRO Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 2 December 2018), search on births, “Casban,” 1880–90), Croydon, vol. 2A, pp. 209, 213, 228, 238, 260, 264.
[15] Ibid., search on deaths, “Casban,” 1904, Florence Edith Casban, Croydon, vol 2A/153.
[16] “Every One Remembered”, database, Royal British Legion (https://www.everyoneremembered.org), search on “Casban,” Ernest, 25 Sep 1914, Leonard, 1 Apr 1917; citing Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
[17] Ibid., search on deaths, “Casban,” 1915, Nellie Rhoda Casban, M[ar] qtr, 1915, Croydon, vol 2A/153.
[18] “American Experience: Fly Girls, Amy Johnson,” PBS.org (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/flygirls-amy-johnson/ : accessed 2 December 2018).

2 thoughts on “Croydon”

  1. Are the Croydon Casbans the relatives of the Casban families in Australia? I noticed the surname Casban when visiting Australia some time ago and figured they had to be relatives!

  2. Carol, the Australians spell the name Casben. They are descended from Reuben Casben, the brother of Samuel Clark Casban. Reuben’s son Arthur emigrated to Australia in 1913 and brought his family over about six months later. My father corresponded with one of Arthur’s sons in the 1990s. So yes, they are related, although their common ancestor is William Casbon, father of Samuel Clark and Reuben. William never left Meldreth. They are related roughly to the same extent that you and I are, or maybe even a little bit closer.

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