William Stanley (1829-1909)


We are named after William Stanley, or ‘Mr South Norwood’, a local inventor, architect, industrialist, philanthropist and all-round community champion, who worked his way up from humble beginnings.

Born in 1829, Mr William Ford Robinson Stanley took an active part in public life in Croydon, generously donating over £80,000 to a multitude of local charities, hospitals and schools during his lifetime. He was a skilled architect who designed and founded the UK’s first Trades school, Stanley Technical Trades School (now Harris Academy South Norwood), as well as Stanley Halls, a venue for theatre, performance and learning.

As an inventor and an engineer he designed and made precision drawing and mathematical instruments, manufactured by his company “William Ford Stanley and Co. Ltd.” He had 78 patents filed in both the United Kingdom and the USA, and his inventions included the wire-spoke bicycle wheel, the theodolite and a straight-line dividing machine (whatever it is, we want one!).

In 1907, two years before his death, local residents financed and built the South Norwood Clock Tower to thank Mr Stanley and his wife Eliza for their commitment to the community, and to mark their golden wedding anniversary.