Police have arrested a man in connection with a fire which caused devastation to Thornton Heath’s Clock Tower.
Officers quickly identified a male suspect who was arrested on suspicion of arson.
In a statement Thornton Heath Safer Neighbourhood Team said the man was also arrested for other offences.
Investigations are ongoing and further updates are expected.
The statement concludes: “Sadly, we understand that the damage to the Clock is substantial. The fire caused damage to both the exterior and interior.”
Firefighters were quickly on the scene at 2.55am on Thursday after local residents raised the alarm but a substantial amount of damage had already been caused to the door, clock face and the roof turrets of the historic landmark.
The area was taped off this morning and debris including the springs from a mattress which appeared to have been the source of the blaze was still visible.
During the summer, rough sleepers used the doorway setting up a makeshift bed. The area has been plagued with anti social behaviour over many years and more recently various items of furniture have been abandoned around the tower including a BBQ, office chairs, an array of kitchenware, television stands, sofas, and rugs as well as baby toys.
This is the second time the much loved landmark has been targeted by fire bugs but this latest blaze is much more severe than in May 2020. Following that incident the door was replaced and secured with a padlock.
Photos show that the internal clock workings have been damaged in this latest fire and repair costs are likely to be extensive.
Residents have complained over the summer months that public spaces have become virtual no go areas with: The Pond, Trumble Gardens, The Clock Tower and benches outside Thornton Heath leisure centre occupied by street drinkers.
Street drinkers began using the seats next to the tower in 2019, which were installed as part of the council led regeneration of Thornton Heath.
In recent months there have been reports of open drug dealing with a double stabbing on Woodville Road and as well as a target for graffiti the clocktower door is routinely used as a public urinal.
Worse still there have been complaints about indecent exposure and sex acts in public including a couple reportedly having sex in broad daylight on the benches outside the leisure centre one Saturday morning while children passed on their way swimming lessons.
The police and local councillors have been made aware of the issues for many years but there has been no solution to the ongoing anti social behaviour in Thornton Heath.
Cllr Callton Young said on his Twitter feed he was ‘saddened’ to see the damage done.
More recently concerns have been raised with the new Mayor Jason Perry and Safer Neighbourhood Board which oversees the ward panels.
The Thornton Heath Safer Neighbourhood Team have recently conducted a series of public surveys and are soon to announce a strategy to tackle long term problems.
The clocktower has stood at the junction of Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath High Street and Parchmore Road since 1900.
It was built to commemorate the new century and cost £300, half of which was donated by mem­bers of the public.
The site on which it stands was formerly known as Walker’s Green and was suggested as a location by Councillor Addison, who wrote to Croydon Corporation with his suggestion.
Within two weeks of receiving Addison’s letter, plans for the tower had been drawn up by the deputy borough engi­neer and were approved by the Corporation which also agreed to meet half the cost of the project.
The stone structure soon established itself as a well known local landmark and became a focal point for Thornton Heath.
During the Second World War the tower stood defiantly in an area which suffered badly from enemy bombing.
One high explosive bomb fell close by, destroying the tram lines in Thornton Heath High Street, but fortunately the clocktower escaped serious damage.
In April 1987, work began on an £8,000 facelift for the tower, which included the laying of new paving; the planting of flower beds; the installation of railings and the filling in of old underground toilets that stood adjacent to the back of the clock tower in Parchmore Road.
More recently, in 2019, it was cleaned and the area once again regenerated with new seating and planting.
*Residents have posted pictures of the damaged landmark.