Keepers on Riddlesdown in 1930s
For most of its history, Riddlesdown was used as pasture and was one of many downs and commons in the area used to graze livestock. Except for Coombes Wood, the site was much more open, and is depicted in earlier editions of Ordnance Survey maps as being covered by only scattered scrub.
The old Riddlesdown Road that runs through the middle of the site is believed to be a Roman road that ran from London to the coast. It was probably a transport link between a network of Roman iron works in the South East of England.
Riddlesdown Quarry about 1967
The earthworks or 'Wide Ditch' on the north-western boundary are listed as a Scheduled Monument by English Heritage and also hint at early human activity on the site. These aspects of the site, together with various old trackways, causeways, depressions and even possible traces of Iron Age fields, give it regional archaeological significance. Croydon Council has designated Riddlesdown as an Archaeological Priority Zone.
In the 1860s, the hill slopes were used as a rifle range by the famous Surrey Volunteers and the Rifle Butts on Croydon Council’s land are a legacy of this. In 1884, a year after the City Corporation acquired the site, the railway line from Croydon to Oxted was completed. It runs through a 700-metre tunnel beneath the site and crosses the Quarry on a viaduct.
Keepers working on the Godstone Road
Grazing by domestic livestock ceased by about 1930. As a result, scrub and trees colonised the site. Only the grassland higher up on the slopes was kept open, initially by burning (although this ceased in the 1960s) and later by mechanical mowing. It was not until 1989 that livestock grazing was restored to confined areas to redress the balance.
View of Riddlesdown from the Godstone Road 1906-12
There are notable trees on the site, represented mainly by boundary trees, and by mature coppice and maiden trees in Coombes Wood. The distinctive yew trees are an important feature. Some of these trees may be veterans.