Captain John Brickwood (died 1822), was a local magistrate, merchant and banker, who as East Croydon Community Organisation writes, “owned considerable land in the parish of Croydon and was one of the local landowners who petitioned parliament in 1796 for leave to introduce a private bill to enclose common land in the parish of Croydon. The poor of Croydon protested at the loss of their right to grazing their livestock and gather firewood without success. After the enclosure bill was enacted, Brickwood bought further land both on nearby Croydon Common and on Norwood Common. In East Croydon, he owned all the land east of Cherry Orchard Road, as well as a few plots on the west side near the junction of Moreland Road”. He had his mansion built “well back from the road amongst stately trees which shielded his property from the gaze of the vulgar” according to the St Mary Magdalene with St Martin Parish magazine of 1947. “There was a prospect toward Penge and Beckenham over a lake to pleasantly wooded hills.” Captain Brickwood was notable for his organisation of a local militia (a forerunner of the Home Guard) in readiness for any Napoleonic invasion. His organisation, which excluded all “improper” men from its ranks, had impressed the future Tory Prime Minister Lord Liverpool, who lived nearby at Addiscombe Place. In business Brickwood made his fortune or at least added to it as a colonial agent for the Bermudas. Sean Creighton, describes what this involved: “They were paid by colonial governments to represent them to the British government, securing acceptance of controversial colonial legislation and heading off British policies objectionable to the colonies. Bermuda was one of the first colonies to use enslaved people. As a colonial agent, John Brickwood represented the needs of their masters.” Brickwood’s connections with the islands continued into 1792 when, as a partner in the firm of Brickwood, Pattie & Co, he was paid by the British government to ship goods to them for the army. The company also made loans to French plantation owners living in London, who had escaped the ravages of the revolution. Still large landowners in the Caribbean, they secured these debts against the title deeds of their sugar and coffee plantations. However, the First Republic, which had taken to running France following the toppling of the monarchy outlawed slavery in 1793 meaning the plantations could no longer turn a profit. The owners of plantations in the colony of St Domingue, Haiti, which a few years earlier had been France’s wealthiest, producing more sugar than all the British West Indies colonies put together, combined with the merchants who had loaned them the cash pressed the British government to continue their campaign, hoping to reinstate slavery (still legal in the British empire) and make good their losses. They succeeded, however, this adventure proved a military and financial disaster and in 1798, the British troops withdrew completely from the island. The title deeds were no longer valid and firms made substantial losses. How much of an impact this had on Brickwood’s personal fortune at the time is uncertain but by 1810 he was made bankrupt and much of the land, including Brickwood House which retained most of the land between Cedar Road and Addiscombe Road as its grounds was sold. It was later owned by Sir Benjamin Hallowell, one of Nelson’s admirals at Trafalgar. The house was demolished in 1908 and its land divided into the streets we know today, including Brickwood Road. The estate was eventually sold off in 1907 and 1908 as lots for building development, and the area became traversed by roads, such as Lebanon Road, Cedar Road, Blake Road, and Brickwood Road.
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