South Norwood Net Community Group

Local History

William Ford Robinson Stanley  (2 February 1829 – 14 August 1909) was a British inventor with 78 patents filed in both the UK and the USA. Stanley was an engineer who designed and made precision drawing and mathematical instruments, as well as surveying instruments and telescopes, manufactured by his company 'William Ford Stanley and Co. Ltd'.

Stanley was a skilled architect who designed and founded the UK's first Trades school, Stanley Technical Trades School, as well as designing the Stanley Halls in South Norwood.

He married Eliza Ann Savory and they lived initially in Kentish Town before moving to South Norwood in the mid-1860s. They adopted Stanley's niece and another child, Maud Martin, whose father and brother had drowned at sea.

Once established, his business went from strength to strength and he became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts as well as a number of othe Astronomical associations.

He travelled widely due to his fellowship of the Geologists' Association.

A strong believer in education, he set up and built Stanley Technical Trades School, which was the first of it's kind in the UK, teaching a mix of general education as well as teaching them trades. It became the Stanley Technical School and now exists as the Harris Academy South Norwood.

Stanley Halls followed in 1903 to provide the community with a space for entertainment and also became the first public building in Croydon to have electricity. Stanley Halls is a Grade II listed building and occasionally is open to members of the public to tour the building, which remains an impressive structure.

William Stanley was an amazing benefactor, both during his life and as a result of his will, with money not only going to his family, but also to his factory workers and the family's servants, something quite unusual at the time. He also left money to a large number of community organisations. 

When he died one of his homes was used as a children's home after his death, in accordance with his will.

He is buried in Elmers End Cemetery next to his wife who died in 1913.


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