Croydon residents' shock over night of violence

It served Croydon for more than 140 years. But it just took one night of violence for it to be destroyed.

Family-run business Reeves Furniture was established in 1867 and was so famous locally that the area - Reeves Corner - and a tram stop are named after it.

But all that has now gone and owner Maurice Reeves, 80, said he was "devastated".

The shop was destroyed as buildings and cars were set alight on a third night of violence in London, which saw more than 200 people arrested.

London Fire Brigade said it dealt with major blazes across the capital on a night which saw "unprecedented" events.

Mr Reeves, who runs the furniture shop with his sons Trevor, 55, and Graham 45, has seen his business experience hard times before.

"We survived World War I, the 30s depression, World War II, the recession in the 80s, and all that time we served the people of Croydon.

"But in the end it was the people of Croydon, so it seems, that has finally destroyed us."

'We are fighters'

Mr Reeves was out in London celebrating his 21st wedding anniversary with his wife Anne, 72, when he heard about the trouble.

Image caption Maurice Reeves was celebrating his wedding anniversary when he heard about the violence

He came home to see his store up in flames.

"It was hard to describe. It was hugely upsetting and I could only think 'why?'.

"The whole family is absolutely appalled and devastated by what has happened and I don't know what's going to happen now.

"We will talk to the insurers obviously - but we will be back. We are fighters."

Some 50 firefighters tackled the blaze at Reeves Furniture store and a woman was forced to jump from a first floor flat as the fire from the shop spread to homes.

Croydon Council leader Mike Fisher said the cost of the disturbances in the area would run into millions of pounds.

A total of 28 families were made homeless and placed in temporary accommodation but most would be able to return shortly, he said.

Walking around Croydon town centre many roads remained taped off by police, as fire crews remain damping down two buildings hit by Monday night's disturbances.

Shops including Argos, Maplin, Lidl and Iceland had their windows smashed and a number of smaller shops, including jewellers and newsagents, were also targeted.

Image caption Residents feared flames from a burning bus would set fire to their homes

Richer Sounds electrical store and the Cycle King shop were completely ransacked.

The owner of the Il Ponte Italian restaurant is cutting short his holiday after his windows were smashed.

And a number of stores in the Whitgift centre including Currys have been raided.

The shell of a burnt-out bus and a burnt down bus shelter remain along with a lot of confusion. Several roads are blocked off and many buses are diverted.

One West Croydon resident, who did not want to be named, said: "Look at Croydon, look what they have done. They are just all mindless idiots wanting to nick something.

"This has nothing to do with what happened in Tottenham. "

Image caption Jennifer Gray-Evans could see the burning bus from her living room window

Sixty-six-year-old Jennifer Gray-Evans lives just behind Reeves Furniture store.

She said she could also see the burning bus from her living room window, adding: "It was absolutely terrifying - we had the Reeves fire on one side and the bus shelter on the other.

"We did not know what to do, whether to stay inside or leave.

"Later, I heard people were evacuated, but we were not given any advice and we stayed. We could see hot embers flying towards our house and we thought it was going to go up."

'It was horrible'

Another resident in West Croydon said: "We could see big groups going down London Road and they were allowed to do what they wanted.

"They were smashing windows, stealing stuff and we could not see any police. They seemed to be up the road somewhere.

"Then the groups started running off, later we saw the fires.

"It was horrible. I don't know what's up with these kids but they left the place looking messed up and we've got to pay for it."

Image caption People are signing up to help the clean-up

The local business, Croydon Ceilings, escaped any damage.

But its branch manager said staff did not know what they were going to do today.

"We have not been told by the police or anyone about whether to stay open or shut up. I know they are busy, but we haven't been given any advice."

It may have been residents of Croydon that caused the damage but it is the residents of the south London borough that are helping to clear it up.

Council staff have been around the town centre signing people up to help the clean-up.

Nick Jefferson, who signed up, said: "It's our town so we should help - to show everyone that there are good people in Croydon."

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