Sunday, February 21st 2016
This afternoon, we decided to take a little look at Tooting, a district that now lies within the London Borough of Wandsworth. The first question that occurs to curious minds is where the name comes from. I would like to give you a positive answer but it seems the matter is subject to dispute. A very plausible suggestion is that the name comes from Anglo-Saxon times when one Tota set up his estate here and gathered his folk (inga) about him. This is supported by its appearing in Domesday Book as Totinge. Another theory suggests that the name derives from the Celtic word tout or toot, meaning a lookout post. There are other ideas but as no one knows anything for certain, it seems otiose to pursue them.
Interesting old buildings always catch my attention and so I noticed the Mitre Hotel, now apparently called the Long Room1. With its entrance façade placed diagonally across the corner, it is a handsome building whose size suggests a prosperous past. It is still an hotel and I think the bar is open to the public.
At the back of the hotel is a courtyard with outbuildings and on the outside wall we read ‘MITRE HOTEL STABLES’. As far as I can tell, the Mitre dates from the middle of the 19th century, so I doubt whether it was ever a coaching inn but I suppose it’s possible that some customers arrived on horseback or in their own horse-drawn vehicles and that their horses needed stabling.
When we first discovered this curious object, its purpose was far from obvious. Happily, a plaque set into the base explains its nature. It is a monument, erected in 1823, marking the site of an Artesian well, sunk at the expense of the parish to provide water for the local inhabitants.
As you probably know, Artesian Wells tap into ground water trapped between two layers of rock. The water is usually purer and safer than river water and, moreover, is often under pressure so that it emerges at the surface of its own accord. The plaque also speaks of a pump, in use until the end of the 19th century though the relationship between the well and the pump is not made clear (at least, to me). Incidentally, Artesian wells are so called because the first recorded example was dug in 1126 by monks in Artois in France.
In Franciscan Road we discovered a school. Apart from anything else, it impresses with its sheer size. (Because of its extent and the narrowness of the street, I had to stitch several frames together to make a complete picture and there is therefore a slight distortion of perspective.) Named the Ensham School, it was built by the School Board for London in 1900, though the north wing was added after the First World War. Over the last 115 years or so, it has served various educational uses and is currently a primary school. Its architectural qualities and historical interest have gained it a Grade II listing.
Tooting boasts a very pretty Edwardian public library, and one with a clock to boot. It was first built in 1902 as a single-storey structure and the upper level was added in 1906.
And what about this wonderful piece of street furniture!? It stands at the junction of Tooting High Street and the A217 (Garratt Lane becoming Mitcham Road). It serves as both a street lamp and a signpost. Apart from the fact that it is obviously Victorian, I know nothing about its origins. It has survived so far and I hope it continues to do so.
Tooting has two covered markets, Tooting Market and Broadway Market, both in Tooting High Street. The one below is Tooting Market, established in 1930.
As we approached it, we saw it had already been decorated by an artist of familiar style.
The fluid lines and palette dominated by violet and mauve tones indicate that this portrait in by Mr Cenz.
When we really hit pay-dirt, though, was when we discovered the car park beside Broadway Market. This area has been ‘owned’ by street artists and to good effect. We even found a couple of them at work. Below, I post just a few of the paintings that we saw and that grabbed my attention. (Click the name for more details of the artist.)
(Work in progress)
Collaborative work by Irony and another artist
I was told that the above was a joint or collaborative work by Irony and another artist but I don’t know the name of the other artist.
In Totterdown Street we found a few more pieces of art. The first was a banknote origami bird by Airborne Mark.
The next painting was so huge is size that, even taking several frames and stitching them together, it was not possible to make a single composite. (Cars parked in front and blocking the view didn’t help.) I therefore present the work in two parts. You’ll need to click on them to see larger versions. I believe this painting is also by Irony and another (to me unknown) artist.
It had been an interesting and enjoyable, if short, visit to Tooting but I was now feeling somewhat cold and tired and when Tigger proposed that we travel home by tube (she who greatly dislikes the tube), I was happy to agree. Accordingly, we betook ourselves to Tooting Broadway Station and there found another piece of art, albeit of a more conventional kind.
I must admit that the sculptor, Louis Frederick Roslyn, was new to me. To add slight confusion, his name appears in other forms, such as Louis Fritz Roselieb. The statue is well done, I think, and on the column are two fine reliefs representing Charity and Peace, respectively. Unlike his long-lived mother, Queen Victoria, Edward VII reigned for a single decade, 1901 to 1910, and had little time to make his mark. He seems to have been popular during his life, if virtually forgotten afterwards. This statue was financed by public subscription and unveiled in 1911.
1Again, I can’t help wondering why pub managers replace perfectly good and robust names with insipid modern ones.