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CROYDON: Well-known market trader Bill Lovett dies
11:20am Tuesday 6th January 2009 in Latest News
Bill Lovett, the most well-known market stall holder on Surrey Street, has died aged 87.
Mr Lovett was the 13th and last son of Walter and Agnes, the original owners of the stall founded in 1897, and followed the rich family tradition of running a stall at the historical market in Croydon.
Mr Lovett was introduced to the market life at an early age, helping his father out with the flower stall. Walter was a “root man”, selling rare and unusual plants brought back from plant hunters in India, Tibet and China.
He took over the stall when Walter died, but his mother Agnes looked after it when World War II broke out, as Bill served in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps as a signalman.
Bill was awarded a “brave conduct” award for rescuing a fellow soldier. Despite being wounded and having shrapnel in his back, he pulled the soldier into his jeep under heavy fire and drove back to base in France.
After the war he returned to take over the stall, but hit hard times during the “big freeze” of 1962-63 when arctic conditions for three months wreaked havoc at Bill’s four acre smallholding in Wallington.
It was the final blow for Bill as a nurseryman, and a few years later he withdrew from Surrey Street and worked as a groundsman for the council until he retired.
But his love of the market remained and he was able to demonstrate this through his hobby – painting – when he was commissioned to paint an oil landscape of it by Croydon mayor Pat Hicks in 1994.
The resulting work hangs in the Town Hall and was used as the design for the council’s 2007 Christmas card.
Bill’s memories also live on in his daughter Vivien’s book Surrey Street Market – A Stall Story.
She said: “He was very proud the book had the Royal seal of approval with Prince Charles writing the foreword.
“Bill contributed a lot to Croydon’s history with his oil painting, which now hangs in the Town Hall.
“He left a remarkable legacy for all time.”
The interest in his stories and the market were shown when hundreds visited the Surrey Street temporary museum in the Whitgift Centre last year.
He died, aged 87, in the morning on December 23 from complications with a long illness of emphysema.
Bill’s funeral takes place at Croydon Crematorium on Monday, January 12 at 1.45pm, where Bill’s nephew’s wife Rosanna will be making a funeral wreath using the skills taught to her by Bill’s mother Agnes.
Bill, a widower, leaves two sons and two daughters.