Croydon's link to Lord Byron exposed as poetic licence
NAME-CHECKING Lord Byron, one of the country's most celebrated poets, could be expected to bolster any self-respecting borough's cultural credentials.
But red-faced council workers were this week forced to agree to remove references to him from official literature – because he was no connection to the area whatsoever.
Paul Sowan, vice president of the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society, said the errors reflected a cavalier attitude to the facts.
He said: "Well, nobody cares; it is only history, the facts and truth. Spin is what counts.
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"What I find appalling is that they have a local studies and archives section and they do not even bother to check with them.
"They could have saved themselves a lot of embarrassment."
In a document promoting Croydon's failed bid for city status, the council listed the hard-living Romantic poet as one of "50 notable people" connected with Croydon.
And a second document titled Croydon: The Facts, published by Develop Croydon, had him as one of the many talents "nurtured" by Croydon, "a centre for innovation".
A council spokesman has now admitted they had confused the poet with the very distantly-related Byron family of Coulsdon.
The wealthy landowners were squires of Coulsdon until 1921, building what is now the Coulsdon Manor Hotel in 1850.
The plush golfing venue is mistakenly listed on some tourism websites as being "built for the English poet Lord Byron", despite the fact he died 26 years beforehand – in 1824.
The spokesman said: "References linking Coulsdon Manor Hotel to the poet Lord Byron appear to be fairly widespread.
"This is probably where the detail was erroneously picked up from at some point along the line."
The spokesman said he would get electronic versions of the documents changed, although it might "take a while" to locate the files.
Develop Croydon said they appreciated it was an "urban myth" and would not be using the link again.
Coulsdon historian Ian Scales said people often confused the landowners with the poet.
"I have heard many people say 'poet Byron this and that', and it is complete rubbish," he said.
"He has absolutely nothing to do with the place, although he might have visited once."
Mr Scales said that although the two families were distant relations, their family tree had started to branch apart as far back as the time of Henry VIII, who died in 1547.
Peter Cochran edits the Newstead Byron Society Review and is involved with the International Byron Society website.
He said: "I can assure you with confidence Byron never lived in Croydon. E.H.Coleridge, who edited Byron for John Murray at the turn of the 19th to 20th century, did, but not the poet himself."