Watercress grows naturally in the river Wandle. In the middle ages there was a stream in Carshalton called the Cress Brook - perhaps the section of river which flows from the springs in the village down to Hackbridge where it joins the Beddington branch.
The first commercial watercress beds in England were created at Springhead in north Kent in 1805. The industry was slow to spread to this area as there were only two beds shown on the first edition 25 inch Ordnance Survey map made in the late 1860s. One of these was on the east side of the river above Goat Green (now the Wandle Valley wetlands - a nature reserve). The other was on the east side of London Road, Hackbridge. The industry expanded slowly until the early 20th century when nine beds were working often combined with market gardening and greenhouses.
Two factors led to the decline of the industry. One was pollution and in particular a typhoid outbreak in Croydon in 1930s. The latter damaged the reputation of the cress beds although subsequent investigations showed that they were not involved. The other was the increasing value of land. As the area became a suburb the beds could be drained and sold making far more money than cress growing ever could. A few beds survived into the 1950s and now few traces of the business remain.