In 1901, after three years of campaigning by local residents against the development of the Hurst, the Whitgift Foundation sold Croham Hurst to Croydon Corporation. However, the history of this site goes back many thousands of years.
The high bare top of the Hurst made a safe and convenient place for early man to settle. There is some evidence of a late Mesolithic Settlement which would have been occupied between 5000‑3000 years B.C. The flint tools of Neolithic or New Stone Age man were also found on the Hurst. Around 2100 B.C. the Bronze Age began – Bronze Age man was religious and he buried his dead in round barrows, one of which was found on the top of Croham Hurst.
Croham Hurst covers 35 hectares and the top most point is 145 metres above sea level. The hill is formed of Thanet Sand (which makes up the greater part of the Hurst) topped with a pebble bed and resting on an eroded surface of chalk. All around the hill the sand has been eroded away and the pebbles have been washed lower down the slope. However, a natural iron oxide based cement binding the Blackheath Pebble Beds into conglomerate or ‘pudding stone’ on the top of the Hurst has slowed down the erosion process. Each geological formation gives rise to noticeably different soil types.
The different soils have led to the development of distinctive flora on the slopes of Croham Hurst. On the summit the acidic soil of the Blackheath Pebbles and exposure to wind has produced some very stunted sessile oak trees along with silver birch. On the open heathland the impoverished soil supports patches of heather, bilberry and wavy hair-grass. On the Thanet Sand there are well-grown oak and beech trees along with holly and silver birch.
The south-west slope is mainly oak whilst the gentler north-east slope has stands of beech trees. The lower woodland is more species rich with woodruff, lily of the valley and yellow archangel. Chalk soil on the lower slopes supports ploughman’s spikenard, basil thyme and a population of Pale St John’s Wort. Wood Anemone, bluebell, sanicle and traveller’s joy may also be found at various points in the Hurst.
The Hurst also provides a variety of habitats for many species of birds, mammals and insects.
The importance of the Hurst has been recognised by its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).