Possibly named after Thomas Colson, a surveyor, listed as living nearby on Croydon Common in the 1849 street directory. But as likely it may be his father, also called Thomas Colson (1791 – 1841), of New Lane, Croydon, who was the engineer for the Croydon Canal which opened in 1809 and superintendent of the works of the London and Croydon Railway, which created West Croydon station. It was also claimed in The History and Description of the Town and Borough of Ipswich by G R Clarke that Thomas senior was runner up in a competition to design the New London Bridge: “He gave in a plan for the New London bridge, which was considered the next point of excellence to that which was accepted; but being without interest or friends, he received no recompense, and what was a singular coincidence, there was scarcely any difference between his plan and the one adopted, except in the character of the centre arch.” The report however concluded: “There is no doubt that his strong natural genius will eventually surmount all difficulties, and he will become an eminent man.” Thomas was the son of another Thomas Colson who was widely known as “Robinson Crusoe”, presumably for his misadventures. Despite coming from a well-to-do family in Suffolk, this Thomas eked out a living as an impoverished fisherman. He died when his son was aged 12, having become convinced of his own immortality at sea, he drowned after refusing offers of help as his self-made boat sank. Thomas junior’s headstone at St Bartholomew’s Church, Sydenham, reads: “Praises on Tombs are Idlely Spent; A Good Name is a Monument”.
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