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Croydon is a major commercial centre in Greater Londonmarker and the principal settlement of the London Borough of Croydonmarker. It is south of Charing Crossmarker, and is one of the major metropolitan centres identified in the London Plan. It is located on the natural transport corridor between London and England's south coast, just to the north of a gap in the North Downsmarker.

Historically a part of Surreymarker, at the time of the Norman conquest of England Croydon had a church, a mill and around 365 inhabitants (as recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086). Croydon expanded during the Middle Ages as a market town and a centre for charcoal production, leather tanning and brewing. The Surrey Iron Railway from Croydon to Wandsworthmarker opened in 1803 and was the world's first horse-drawn railway, which later developed into an important means of transport – facilitating Croydon's growth as a commuter town for the City of Londonmarker and beyond.

In the early 20th century Croydon was an important industrial area, known for metal working, car manufacture and its airport. In the mid 20th century these sectors were replaced with retailing and service economy, brought about as a result of a massive redevelopment of office blocks and the Whitgift shopping centre. Croydon was amalgamated into Greater Londonmarker in 1965. Road traffic is now diverted away from a largely pedestrianised town centre, but its main railway station, East Croydonmarker, is still a major hub within the national railway transport system. The town is expected to have its urban planning changed as part of Croydon Vision 2020.



One theory is that the name Croydon derives originally from the Anglo-Saxon croh, meaning "crocus" and denu 'valley', indicating that, like Saffron Waldenmarker in Essex, it was a centre for the collection of saffron.

According to John Corbett Anderson, "The earliest mention of Croydon is in the joint will of Beorhtric and Aelfswth, dated about the year 962. In this Anglo-Saxon document the name is spelt (here he uses original script) Crogdaene. Crog was, and still is, the Norse or Danish word for crooked, which is expressed in Anglo-Saxon by crumb, a totally different word. From the Danish came our crook and crooked. This term accurately describes the locality; it is a crooked or winding valley; in reference to the valley which runs in an oblique and serpentine course from Godstone to Croydon." Anderson rejected a claim, originally cited by Andrew Coltee Ducarel that the name came from the Old French for 'chalk hill', for the reasons that the name was in use at least a century before the French language would have been commonly used, following the Norman Invasion.

Early history

There is a plate recording a Bronze Age settlement on Croham Hurst. In addition there is evidence of a Roman settlement in the area on the London to Brighton Way Roman road, and a 5th to 6th century pagan Saxon cemetery.

In the late Saxon period it was the centre of a large estate belonging to the Archbishops of Canterbury. The church and the archbishops' manor house occupied the area still known as the Old Town. The archbishops used the manor house as an occasional place of residence and would continue to have important links as Lords of the manor, a title originally bestowed on Archbishop Lanfranc by William the Conqueror, and then as local patrons right up to the present day. Croydon appears in Domesday Book as Croindene. It was held by Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterburymarker. Its domesday assets were: 16 hide and 1 virgate; 1 church, 1 mill worth 5s, 38 ploughs, of meadow, woodland worth 200 hog. It rendered £37 10s 0d.

Croydon Palace in 1785
In 1276 the archbishop acquired a charter for a weekly market, and this probably marks the foundation of Croydon as an urban centre. Croydon developed into one of the main market towns of northeast Surrey. The market place was laid out on the higher ground to the east of the manor house in the triangle now bounded by High Street, Surrey Street and Crown Hill. By the 16th century the manor house had become a substantial palace used as the main summer home of the archbishops, visited by monarchs and other dignitaries. The original palace was sold in 1781, by then dilapidated and surrounded by slums and stagnant ponds, and a new residencemarker, nearby at Addingtonmarker, purchased in its place. Many of the buildings of the original Croydon Palacemarker survive, and are in use today as Old Palace Schoolmarker.

The earliest record of Christian leaders in Croydon is in an Anglo-Saxon will made in about 960, witnessed by Elfsies, priest of Croydon. The Domesday Book contains the earliest written record of Croydon Church. The earliest recording of the name of the church is 6 December 1347, when it was recorded in the will of John de Croydon, fishmonger, containing a bequest to "the church of S John de Croydon". The church still bears the arms of Archbishop Courtenay and Archbishop Chicheley, presumed to be its benefactors.

Croydon Parish Churchmarker is a Perpendicular-style church which was remodelled in 1849 but was destroyed in a great fire in 1867, following which only the tower, south porch and outer walls remained. A new church was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, one of the greatest architects of the Victorian age, and opened in 1870. His design loosely followed the previous layout, with knapped flint facing and many of the original features, including several important tombs. Croydon Parish Church is the burial place of six Archbishops of Canterbury including John Whitgift, Edmund Grindal, Gilbert Sheldon, William Wake, John Potter and Thomas Herring. Previously part of the Diocese of Canterburymarker, Croydon is now in the Diocese of Southwarkmarker. The Vicar of Croydon is an important post, in addition to the suffragan Bishop of Croydon.

Addington Palacemarker is a Palladian-style mansion between Addingtonmarker Village and Shirleymarker, surrounded by park landscapes and golf courses, within the boundaries of Croydon. After an Act of Parliament enabled the mansion to be purchased for the Archbishops of Canterbury in 1807, it became the official residence of six Archbishops until it was sold in 1898. In 1953 it was leased to the Royal School of Church Music until 1996, when it was leased to a private company which has developed it as a conference and banqueting venue, with plans for a health farm and country club. The grounds were landscaped by Capability Brown and are mainly a golf course and public park. A famous very large cedar tree stands next to the Palace.

The "Whitgift Hospital" almshouses in the centre of Croydon
The Elizabethan Whitgift Almshouses, named the "Hospital of the Holy Trinity", have stood in the centre of Croydon (at the corner of North End and George Street) since they were erected by Archbishop John Whitgift. He had petitioned for and had received permission from Queen Elizabeth I to establish a hospital and school in Croydon for the "poor, needy and impotent people" from the parishes of Croydon and Lambethmarker. The foundation stone was laid in 1596 and the building was completed in 1599.

The premises included the actual Hospital or Almshouses, providing accommodation for between 28 and 40 people, and a nearby schoolhouse and schoolmaster's house. There was a Warden in charge for the well-being of the almoners. The building is constructed with the chambers of the almoners and various offices surrounding an inner courtyard.

Threatened by various reconstruction plans and road-widening schemes, the Almshouses were saved in 1923 by intervention of the House of Lordsmarker. On 21 June 1983 Queen Elizabeth II visited the almshouses and unveiled a plaque celebrating the recently completed reconstruction of the building. On 22 March each year the laying of the foundation stone is commemorated as Founder's Day.

Industrial Revolution and the railway

The development of Brightonmarker as a fashionable resort in the 1780s increased Croydon's role as a significant halt for stage coaches on the road south of London. At the beginning of the 19th century Croydon became the terminus of two pioneering commercial transport links with London. The first, opened in 1803, was the horse-drawn Surrey Iron Railway from Wandsworthmarker, which in 1805 was extended to Mersthammarker, as the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Railway. The second, opened in 1809, was the Croydon Canalmarker, which branched off the Grand Surrey Canalmarker at Deptfordmarker. The London and Croydon Railway (an atmospheric and steam-powered railway), opened between London Bridgemarker and West Croydonmarker in 1839, using much of the route of the canal (which had closed in 1836), and other connections to London and the south followed.

The arrival of the railways and other communications advances in the 19th century led to a 23-fold increase in Croydon's population between 1801 and 1901.This rapid expansion of the town led to considerable health problems, especially in the damp and overcrowded working class district of the Old Town. In response to this, in 1849 Croydon became one of the first towns in the country to acquire a Local Board of Health. The Board constructed public health infrastructure including a reservoir, and water supply network, and sewer, a pumping station, and sewage disposal works.

A growing town

H.Q of Nestlé U.K
Jurys Inn Croydon

As the town continued to grow it became especially popular as a pleasant leafy residential suburb for members of the Victorian middle classes, who could commute to the City of Londonmarker by fast train in 15 minutes. In 1883 Croydon was incorporated as a borough. In 1889 it became a county borough, with a still greater degree of autonomy. The new county borough council implemented the Croydon Improvement scheme in the early 1890s, which resulted in the widening of the High Street and the clearance of much of the 'Middle Row' slum area. The remaining slums were cleared shortly after World War II, with much of the population relocated to the isolated new community at New Addingtonmarker. New stores opened and expanded in central Croydon, including Alldersmarker, Kennards and Grants, and the first Sainsbury'smarker self-service shop in the country. There was also a bustling market on Surrey Streetmarker.

By the 1950s, with its continuing growth, the town was becoming congested, and the Council decided to introduce another major redevelopment scheme. The Croydon Corporation Act was passed in 1956. This, coupled with government incentives for office relocation out of London, led to the building of new offices and accompanying road schemes through the late 1950s and 1960s, and the town boomed as an important business centre in the 1960s, with the building of a large number of multi-storey office blocks, an underpass, a flyover and multi-storey car parks.

In 1912 a Woolworths branch opened in Croydon. This shop became the chain's longest running branch, but was forced to close in January 2009 after the entire chain went into administration in December 2008.

Modern Croydon

In more modern times Croydon has developed an important centre for shopping, with the construction of the Whitgift Centremarker, which opened in 1969. The Fairfield Hallsmarker arts centre and event venue opened in 1962. The Warehouse Theatremarker opened in 1977. The 1990s saw further changes intended to give the town a more attractive image. These include the closure of North End to vehicles in 1989 and the opening of the Croydon Clocktowermarker arts centre in 1994. Tramlinkmarker began operation in May 2000. A new equally large shopping centre, Centralemarker, opened in 2004 opposite the Whitgift Centre, straddling the site of the smaller Drummond Centremarker and what was once a large branch of C&A. There are plans for a large new shopping centre, Park Placemarker, which will replace most of the eastern edge of the shopping district including St George's Walkmarker; the redevelopment of the Croydon Gatewaymarker site; and extensions of Tramlink to Purleymarker, Streathammarker, Lewishammarker and Crystal Palacemarker. Croydon has become the second-largest place to shop in the south east, after central London, offering a wide range of shops and department stores. It is also home to many high density buildings such as the Nestlé Towermarker, being London's third main CBD, after the Square Milemarker and the Docklandsmarker and South Londonmarker's main business centre. The Croydon area is served by various hospitals of which the main one is Mayday University Hospitalmarker in London Road. The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has stated that he would support Croydon becoming an official city.


For centuries the area lay within the Wallington hundred, an ancient Anglo-Saxon administrative division of the county of Surreymarker. Croydon was created a municipal borough of Surrey in 1883. In 1889, through its growing economic importance, it was made a county borough exempt from county administration. In 1965 the County Borough of Croydon was abolished and its former area was transferred to Greater Londonmarker and combined with that of the Coulsdon and Purley Urban Districtmarker to form the present-day London Borough of Croydonmarker.

Most of the area lies within the Addiscombemarker and Fairfield wardsmarker which form part of the Croydon Centralmarker constituency. The rest of the town is in the Croham wardmarker which is part of Croydon Southmarker. These wards are all in the local authority of Croydon, which has the responsibility for providing services such as education, refuse collection, and tourism. The Addiscombe ward is currently represented by Councillors Russell Jackson, Andrew Price, and Maria Garcia de la Huerta, members of the Conservative Party. The Fairfield and Croham wards also brought back Conservatives, leaving the area represented only by Conservatives at council level. Labour lost the seat that it had in Addiscombe in the 2006 local elections. The area also forms part of the London constituency of the European Parliamentmarker. The sitting Member of Parliament for Croydon Centralmarker is Andrew Pelling, a member of the Conservative Party. The sitting Member of Parliament for Croydon Southmarker is Richard Ottaway, who is also a member of the Conservatives.

The police service is provided by the Metropolitan Police with Croydon Police Station on Park Lane next to Croydon College. The London Fire Brigademarker provide services for the area and Greater London as a whole. The nearest fire station is in Old Town which has only two pumping appliance.


Croydon is situated in the centre of the borough of Croydon. The town adjoins with South Croydonmarker and West Croydonmarker, which is administered along with Croydon. To the south are the North Downsmarker, which stretch to the white cliffs of Dovermarker in Kent, as well as parts of Surreymarker and the south coast. The Pilgrims' Waymarker path is to the south of Croydon.

The town is bordered by Selhurstmarker and South Norwoodmarker to the north, which are both part of the same borough; South Croydon to the south; Shirleymarker due east and Beddington in the borough of Sutton to the west. The northernmost point of Croydon is at the junction with Northcote Roadmarker and Whitehorse Road where there are a community centre and a few retail shops, overlapping with Selhurst and Broad Green. The postcode area that covers most of Croydon is CR0marker which forms part of the CR postcode area. The CR postcode was created especially for Croydon and its surrounding areas.

Croydon is split up by a number of different areas in the same borough. Fairfield, Broad Green, West Croydon and South Croydon make up the rest of Croydon, but are known as separate areas in their own right. The most prominent of these towns is South Croydon which has become a town of its own, with various shops and its own high street. It is essentially a dormitory suburb for Croydon and Central London. The street South End is the prominent main road in South Croydon and continues northward as High Street, Croydon and southward as Brighton Roadmarker.

The town is split in the middle with a rough line from west to east along Wellesley Road on the A212 roadmarker. This type of urban planning has been discouraged recently by the London Plan and there have been a number of proposals to ease the relation between East Croydon stationmarker and the town centre of Croydon. Croydon Vision 2020 aims to solve that problem and make the whole road easier for pedestrians by creating a centre island pathway.


Arts and literature

The Fairfield Halls, Croydon's entertainment complex
The BRIT School
There are several arts venues. Foremost amongst these is the Fairfield Hallsmarker, opened in 1962, which consists of a large concert hall frequently used for BBC recordings, the Ashcroft Theatremarker and the Arnhem Gallery. Fairfield is the home of the London Mozart Players, whose Principal Guest Conductor is flautist Sir James Galway. Many famous faces have appeared at the Fairfield Halls, from the Beatles through Bucks Fizz, Omid Djalili, Robert Cray, Chuck Berry, Don McLean, The Monkees, Johnny Cash, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Tom Jones, The Stylistics, Status Quo, Level 42, Joe Satriani, John Mayall, Jools Holland, Kenny Rogers, James Last to Coolio. The main concert hall was used for the conference scene in the Tom Hanks film The Da Vinci Code.

The Warehouse Theatremarker is a studio theatre known for promoting new writing, as well as comedy and youth theatre. Croydon Clocktowermarker, built by the London Borough of Croydon in the mid-1990s, houses a state-of-the-art library, the David Lean cinema, a performance venue in the old reference library and the town museum. The Pembroke Theatre had many productions with well known actors before its closure in about 1962.

There are several local and small venues for comedy and community events dotted around Croydon and its neighbourhoods. Croydon Youth Theatre Organisation celebrated its 40th birthday in 2005. There are several community arts groups, particularly in the large Asian community. There are controversial plans to develop an arena for entertainment and sporting events at the Croydon Gateway site.

A calendar titled "Rare Roundabouts of Croydon", with a picture of a different Croydon roundabout each month, has enjoyed some success.


Croydon has been at the centre of the development of the dubstep genre, a relatively recent musical development that traces its roots from Jamaicanmarker dub music, UK Garage and drum and bass. Artists such as Benga and Skream, who honed their production and DJ skills whilst working at the now defunct Big Apple Records on Surrey Streetmarker, along with Norwood's Digital Mystikz and Thornton Heath's Plastician, form the core roster of dubstep DJs and producers.

Croydon also has a thriving rock scene producing such local talent as Czagio, The Tunics, Kitty Hudson, Von Kleet, ApfelZaft, Rosewest, 5th Man Down, Godsized, Bad Sign, Ten Foot Nun, Mordecai, Surviving Silence, Frankmusik and Noisettes. Local venues for live music include the Black Sheep Bar, The Ship, The Green Dragon, The Brief, The George, and The Scream Lounge.

In addition to the Fairfield Halls, there have been several notable venues in Croydon that have hosted major established national and international rock acts - established in 1976, The Cartoon in West Croydonmarker was a very popular live music venue, but closed its doors for the final time in November 2006. The Greyhound in Park Lane (in the site within the Nestle complex currently occupied by the Blue Orchid) played host to acts such as Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, David Bowie, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Damned, The Boomtown Rats and many others during the 1960s and 1970s.

The composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) lived at 30 Dagnall Park, Selhurst, until his death. He grew up in Croydon and sang in the church choir at St George's and taught at the Crystal Palacemarker and many other schools of music. He died from pneumonia after collapsing at West Croydon stationmarker. There is an impressive grave with a touching poem at Bandon Hill Cemetery, as well as exhibits about him in the Clock Tower Museum, Katharine Street.

The town centre was for 30 years home to Europe's largest second-hand record store, Beanos, offering rare vinyl, CDs and books. In November 2008, it was announced that Beanos would be closing down. The premises (off Church Street near the Grants cinema complex) are to become a "market place" with stalls for rent by small business and individuals.

Croydon is home to the BRIT Schoolmarker for performing arts and technology, based in Selhurst, which has produced stars such as Katie Melua, Amy Winehouse, Leona Lewis, Imogen Heap, Dane Bowers and members of The Feeling & The Kooks.


Croydon also plays host to the filming of the popular Channel 4 show, Peep Show. Croydon is also home to several video game developers, including Crawfish. The ITV police drama The Bill, although is set in East London, is filmed in Croydon, many of the town centre locations are filmed around Surrey Street and St George's House (the Nestle Building). Sun Hill Police station is situated in nearby Mitcham. In 2007, the music video for pop star Mika's single Big Girl was filmed in various locations around the town, including the High Street and Surrey Street Marketmarker. Croydon was also revealed to be the true birthplace of Phillip the "African Prince" in the 1980 film version of Rising Damp. (Don Warrington revealed in Britains 50 Best Sitcoms on Channel 4, that this fact was actually supposed to be revealed in the TV Series, but that the death of Richard Beckinsale meant that this was not possible).The opening credits for the sitcom Terry and June featured the eponymous stars walking around the Whitgift Centre and the Fairfield Halls area.


The inside concourse of East Croydon station
Croydon Flyover
The River Wandlemarker is a major tributary of the River Thames, where it stretches to Wandsworthmarker and Putneymarker for 9 miles (14 km) from its main source in Croydon. It forms a rough western boundary with the London Borough of Suttonmarker, and for part of its length forms the boundary between the London Boroughs of Croydon and Lambethmarker. The main river ends near Croydon with one of its tributaries ending in Selhurstmarker. Just to the south of Croydon is a significant gap in the North Downsmarker, which acts as a route focus for transport from London to the south coast.

The old London to Brighton road used to pass through the town on North End before it was shut off to motor traffic. The A23marker now bypasses the centre of the town and follows Purley Waymarker, to the west of the area, instead. The Brighton Main Line railway route south from Croydon links the town to Sussex, Surrey, and Kent and to Central London to the north: providing direct services to Hastings, Southampton, Brighton, Portsmouth, Gatwick Airport, Bedford and Luton. Also running through Croydon is the N/S cross-country line which links Manchester and Reading directly with South London, the south east, and the South Coast. The main station for all these services is East Croydon stationmarker in the centre of the town centre. East Croydon stationmarker is the largest and busiest railway station in Croydon and the third busiest in London, excluding those in Travelcard Zone 1. West Croydon stationmarker serves all trains travelling west except the fastest. There are also more regional stations scattered around the borough. Passenger rail services through Croydon are provided by Southern and First Capital Connect.

The light rail system Tramlinkmarker (Operated by Tramtrack Croydonmarker, a wholly owned subsidy of Transport for London), opened in 2000, and Croydon serves as its main hub. Its network consists of three lines, from Elmers Endmarker to West Croydon, from Beckenhammarker to West Croydon, and from New Addingtonmarker to Wimbledonmarker, with all three lines running via the Croydon loop on which it is centred. It has been highly successful, environmentally-friendly and a reliable light rail system carrying around 22 million passengers a year. It is also the only tram system in London but there is another light rail system in the Docklands. It serves Mitchammarker, Woodsidemarker, Addiscombemarker and the Purley Waymarker retail and industrial area amongst others. An extension to Crystal Palacemarker is currently being developed by Transport for London with the support of the council and the South London Partnership. The extension could be in service by 2013. Other possible extensions include Suttonmarker, a new park and ride close to the M25, Coulsdonmarker, Purleymarker, Kingston upon Thamesmarker, Tolworthmarker, Tootingmarker, Brixtonmarker for an interchange with the proposed Cross River Tram, Bromleymarker and Lewishammarker for an interchange with the Docklands Light Railway.

Construction of the first phase of the East London Line Extension to West Croydon is now under way north of the Thames. This project will improve Croydon's public transport connections to central and inner East Londonmarker. It will also provide the main impetus for building a modern public transport interchange at West Croydon station linking tram, bus and rail. The East London Line Extension will be a major contribution to London's transport infrastructure in time for the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in the capital in 2012. Two stations in Croydon, Norwood Junctionmarker and West Croydonmarker, will be connected to London Underground services.

Croydon's early transport links

The horse-drawn Surrey Iron Railway was the world's first public railway. It was opened in 1803, had double track, was some long and ran from Wandsworth to Croydon, at what is now Reeves Corner and which in 1805 was extended to Merstham, as the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Railway. The railway boom of the 1840s brought superior and faster steam lines and it closed in 1846. The route is followed in part by Tramlink. The last remaining sections of rail can be seen behind railings in a corner of Rotary Field in Purley. With the opening of the LBSCR's line to London Victoriamarker in 1860, extra platforms were provided which were treated by the LBSCR as forming part of a separate station named "New Croydon". The SER was excluded from this station which ran exclusively LBSCR services to London at fares cheaper than those which the SER could offer from the original station. In 1864, the LBSCR obtained authorisation to construct a ½-mile long branch line into the heart of the town centre near Katharine Street where Croydon Central stationmarker was built. The new line opened in 1868 but enjoyed little success and closed in 1871, only to reopen in 1886 under pressure from the Town Council before finally closing in 1890. The station was subsequently demolished and replaced by the new Town Hallmarker. In 1897-98, East Croydon and New Croydon stations were merged into a single station equipped with the three island platforms which remain to this day. Even so, the two stations kept separate booking accounts until 1924.

The Croydon Canalmarker ran for from what is now West Croydon stationmarker. It travelled north to largely along the course of the present railway line to New Cross Gatemarker, where it joined the Grand Surrey Canal and went on into the Thames. It opened in 1809 and had 28 locks. It had a strong competitor in the Surrey Iron Railway and was never a financial success. It sold out to the London & Croydon Railway in 1836. The lake at South Norwoodmarker is the former reservoir for the canal.

Croydon Airportmarker on Purley Way was the main international airport for London until it was superseded by London Heathrow Airportmarker and London Gatwick Airportmarker. Starting out during World War I as an airfield for protection against Zeppelins, and developing into one of the great airports of the world during the 1920s and 1930s, it welcomed the world's pioneer aviators in its heyday. As aviation technology progressed, however, and aircraft became larger and more numerous, it was recognized in 1952 that the airport would be too small to cope with the ever-increasing volume of air traffic. The last scheduled flight departed on 30 September 1959. The air terminal, now known as Airport House, has been restored and has a museum open one day a month.


Secondary education

State schools

Independent schools

Further education

There is only one further education institution in the local area. The town is home to Croydon Collegemarker, with its main site on Park Lane and College Road near East Croydon railway station. It currently has over 13,000 students attending one of its three sub-colleges. The sub-colleges were created in 2007 to allow for more students to be catered for and to ensure that the courses on offer, the style of teaching and the way the college is run are right for the students that attend each college. The three colleges that were created by the action are the Croydon Sixth Form College, Croydon Skills and Enterprise College and the Croydon Higher Education College. The Higher Education College offers university-level education in a range of subjects from Law through to Fine Art. Croydon Skills and Enterprise College delivers training and education opportunities that have been designed to meet the various needs of businesses of all sizes, across different sectors within London and the south east.

See also


  1. Republished in 1970 by SR Publishers, East Ardsley, Wakefield
  2. Surrey Domesday Book
  3. Looking Out For No1 (from Croydon Guardian)
  4. State of the art refurbishment
  7. BBC News - Roundabout calendar is gift hit
  8. Beanos closing down
  9. Beanos announcing closing down sales
  10. Croydon Phillip's birthplace
  11. White, H.P., op. cit. p. 79.
  12. Treby, E., op. cit. p. 106.

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