This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser 28/07/2017.
The Croydon warehouse full of beer which is owned by the Queen
When it comes to property empires there aren’t many that compare to the one belonging to the Queen, who can decide whether to spend her weekends in the city at Buckingham Palace or out in the country at Windsor Castle.
But while we all know about the multitude of castles and palaces she has to choose from, you probably weren’t aware that there is also a secret slice of royal real estate tucked away in a quiet corner of Croydon.
Because amazingly the Queen also owns a warehouse in the heart of an industrial estate off Purley Way.
What is inside the huge storage facility is even less regal – as it contains massive amounts of European lager.
The warehouse is owned by the Crown Estate, which operates as a business and runs properties for profit in the Queen’s name.
This usually means ancient rural estates and swanky homes in central London.
But in Croydon the Queen owns an enormous warehouse and this storage space is used by giants of international brewing, Carlsberg.
The warehouse on Marlowe Way, bought in 2008, is used to store beer which is then delivered to clients in the local area.
So if you’re sipping Carlsberg in Croydon, there is every chance it has come from the Queen’s own warehouse.
Although the royal acquisition in the borough may be a surprise, blue blood is not unheard of in Croydon. Nor are vast quantities of beer, of course!
Croydon Palace, now the Old Palace School, was for centuries the summer residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Local historian Ray Wheeler explained that the warehouse full of Carlsberg isn’t the first time that royalty and alcohol have been mixed in Croydon.
He said: “The palace was a convenient summer residence for the archbishops.
“It was on the way to Canterbury and close to London.
“There were frequent visits from royalty who came to see the archbishops, and they would expect to be entertained.
“This would mean large feasts, with lots of wine and beer – you couldn’t really drink the water in those days, it wasn’t all that healthy.
“So it was beer for everyone, because it was safe to drink.
“Henry VIII visited a number of times, once to visit his future wife Catherine of Aragon who was staying there.
“Queen Mary also visited, her favourite bishop being John Whitgift, who set up the almshouses in the borough.
“They would have been entertained in the same way.
“It is very interesting, this quirk about the warehouse, but I suppose there have always been these links with royalty. And I suppose beer has been part of that.
“I remember Prince Charles posing for a photo sampling beer from one of the local breweries.”
In 2012 the Prince of Wales was in Croydon, and tried the local “Cronx” beer.
His mother has frequently visited, perhaps most memorably in 1996 for the 400th anniversary of the almshouses – although her own lager intake is not known.
What is the Crown Estate?
The Queen is not involved with the management or administration of the estate and exercises only very limited control of its affairs.
Instead, the estate’s extensive portfolio is overseen by a semi-independent public body.
The revenues from these hereditary possessions have been placed by the monarch at the disposition of the government for the benefit of the British nation.
The Crown Estate is one of the largest property managers in the United Kingdom, overseeing property worth £12 billion, with urban properties valued at £9.1 billion.
These include a large number of properties in central London, but the estate also controls 1,960,000 acres of agricultural land and forest, and various other places such as Ascot Racecourse and Windsor Great Park.
Naturally occurring gold and silver in the UK is managed by the Crown Estate and leased to mining operators.
Historically, Crown Estate properties were administered by the reigning monarch to help fund the business of governing the country. However, in 1760, George III surrendered control over the Estate’s revenues to the treasury, thus relieving him of the responsibility of personally paying for the costs of the civil service, defence costs, the national debt, and his own personal debts.
In return, he received an annual grant known as the Civil List. By tradition, each subsequent monarch agreed to this arrangement upon his or her accession.
However, from April 1, 2012, the Civil List was abolished and the monarch was from that point forward provided with a stable source of revenue indexed to a percentage of the Crown Estate’s annual net revenue (currently set at 15%).
This was intended to remove the politically sensitive issue of Parliament having to debate the Civil List allowance every 10 years.