How did Croydon, Pennsylvania get it’s name? This page provides a brief history about the naming of Croydon, Pennsylvania, the people who settled it, and the industry rising within it.
A village in southwestern Bristol Township, two miles west of the borough of Bristol, on Frankford and Bristol Turnpike Road (Route 130) and on the east bank of Neshaminy Creek. The New York Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad passes through the village. Croydon now has a post office and has grown fast in recent years. Schencks Station was its early name, so called in honor of Dr. Joseph H. Schenck, who once owned a fine estate of 750 acres there and built upon it a mansion which he called “The Evergreens.” Long ago the old Schencks station house was demolished and another at Croydon, a quarter mile away, took its place. The name Croydon comes from a town, parish and district in northeast Surrey, England, nine miles south of London. On the Bensalem side of Neshaminy Creek on March 29, 1763, Major Thomas Barnsley bought a 537-acre tract of land, on which he built “Croydon Lodge.” This English-named mansion may have suggested the name for the Bristol Township village. One authority, in another explanation of the origin of the name, says that, when the railroad station was relocated, it was built upon land belonging to Henry L. Gaw, a stockholder in the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, who suggested the name Croydon. There appears to be no further information on the subject, An important historical attraction of Croydon is “China’s Retreat,” 1 a splendid old frame mansion, lined with brick, with a great wide hall and a room large enough for chapel exercises in its later days. It was built in 1796 by a Dutch ambassador from Holland to China, named Andreas Everardus Van Braam Houckgeest, who owned it for only two years. Since 1798 it has had many owners, one of whom was William J. B. Dobell, who stabled the celebrated stallion Messenger there. The Episcopal Education Society of Pennsylvania bought the place in 1833, and the next year it became the headquarters for the celebrated but short-lived Bristol College, which lasted only five years. Rev. A. F. Dobbs, an Englishman who had managed a school at Attleboro, took the place over in 1839 and conducted it as a boarding school under the name of St. James’ Hall. This was not a success and in 1843 Captain Alden Partridge opened his Literary and Scientific Institute in the building, which survived for three years. During the Civil War it was used as a military hospital and following the war as a school for orphans of colored federal soldiers. Since that period it has been in the hands of several private owners. Possibly no other old mansion in the county has had an historical background so varied and interesting as “China’s Retreat” during its career of a century and a half.
Source: MacReynolds, George. Place Names in Bucks County Pennsylvania, 2nd Edition. Doylestown, PA: The Bucks County Historical Society, 1955.Footnotes:
- Described at length in History of China’s Retreat, by Edward R. Barnsley, 1933.[↩]