Sunday, February 26th 2017
Having breakfasted and done the weekly shopping, we thought to pay a return visit to Tooting. We went there last year and I wrote about what we saw, including the street art (see Tooting and its street art). It seemed about time to go back and see whether any new paintings had appeared.
Tooting is a curious name and it would be interesting to discover its derivation. In my original account, I proposed a couple of possibilities but further research shows that these are really no more than stabs in the dark. In essence, no one knows where the name came from, whether its antecedents are Celtic or Anglo-Saxon or indeed anything else about it. Failing unexpected discoveries, it must remain a mystery.
We travelled to Tooting on the Underground. There are two Tootings on the tube map, Tooting Bec and Tooting Broadway. We emerged into daylight at the latter. In front of it stands Louis Fritz Roselieb’s statue of Edward VII, unveiled on November 4th 1911 (a year after the king’s death) and paid for by public subscription. (There is a close-up picture of the subject in the above mentioned blog post.)
We had a look round Broadway Market and allowed ourselves to be tempted by the menu of a small restaurant within the market. Called Bordelaise, it promoted itself as French but what clinched matters was that they had a vegetarian macaroni cheese dish on the menu. It is a doll’s house of a restaurant but functions efficiently enough.
We set out to visit the sites where we had found street art on our previous visit. We were disappointed. There was little new and most of that not worth the trouble of photographing it. The only worthwhile new piece I spotted was this engaging portrait by Olivier Roubieu.
We spent the remainder of our time walking along Upper Tooting Road looking at any buildings of interest until our visit came to an abrupt end, as I shall recount.
On this Art Deco structure one can read ·R·A·C·S·Ltd but that is the only indication that it once belonged to the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society Ltd. The Society was formed in 1868 and built this store in the 1920s but went out of business as a separate entity in 1985. Since then, the premises have served various purposes and came under threat of demolition under a plan by developers to build a student accommodation block and a hotel on the site. (Because we really need yet more student accommodation blocks and hotels, don’t we? In a word, no.) Happily, local residents got together in organized protest and the demolition plans were dropped. The building will be preserved to form part of whatever development plans finally gain council approval.
If I had to nominate one of the buildings I saw in Tooting as my favourite I think it may be this one. It is now a Sikh temple but you can see from its architecture and the coat of arms above the door that it was originally something quite different. It is in fact a pretty little building that was put up in 1904 to serve as the local Royal Mail sorting office. I do not know when the Royal Mail moved its sorting elsewhere or why, but the building came up for sale and was bought by the Sikh community in 1984. The ex-sorting office doesn’t seem to be listed but I think it ought to be.
The rather exuberant design of this pub, the King’s Head, caught my eye and would have done so even without the flags of five nations (Scotland, Wales, England, Ireland and – odd one out – France) flapping merrily in the breeze. There has been a pub here from at least the 18th century but this one was built in 1896, as indicated by a plaque on the façade. It is a Grade II listed building and here is part of Historic England’s enthusiastic description of it: ‘1896 by W M Brunton, a prolific designer of public houses. Perhaps his master-piece and his least altered interior. Florid symmetrical composition; brashness of detail typical of late 19th Century gin palace. Red brick with stucco ornamentation. Slate roof. Central portion 3 windows 3-storeys, steep hipped roof rising to a dome. Large decorated lucarne over second floor windows, bears inscription “The Kings Head”…’ We didn’t go inside but I understand the interior is worth a look too.
Telephone exchanges are usually very noticeable and immediately recognizable for their sheer size and blocky red-brick design. Tooting’s is no exception. In an age when one carries one’s telephone in one’s pocket or handbag, one may wonder why telephone exchanges needed to be so big. Whatever the reason, Tooting’s has an added excuse because this building, dating from 1939, was intended to be both the telephone exchange and the employment exchange, as indicated by the lettering above the two doors.
Tigger once worked for a well-known cinema chain and retains her interest in cinemas and their history. All the more reason why we notice cinemas when we are out and about. The heyday of the cinema has passed and while some still survive, many have disappeared or been converted to other uses. The Classic fits into the latter category. It opened in 1910 as the Central Hall Picture Palace with seating for nearly 900 patrons. The circular feature on the roof above the door was originally topped by a dome. It changed its name in 1923 to the Central Cinema and again in 1936 when it became the Classic Cinema and the exterior was modified to appear as it does now. Unfortunately, it suffered from the decline in cinema-going and closed in 1983. Today it advertises itself as a restaurant and ‘banqueting suite’.
We were about to continue our ramble when there occurred the event mentioned in the title. A street sweeper’s cart was obstructing the pavement and I stepped into the road to get past it. As I stepped back onto the pavement, I must have caught my foot on the kerb, which was quite high and that point, and I fell full length on the ground.
I was touched by the way the street sweeper and some passers-by rushed up to ask whether they could help me up but, mustering as much dignity as is possible in a horizontal configuration, I thanked them but said I preferred to get up by myself. This was so that I could remain where I was for a moment and mentally review the damage. This done, I regained a vertical stance with the help of a handy window sill. I seem not to have suffered more than a few knocks and bruises and am happy to say that my camera, which was in my hand, has also escaped harm.
Even though I was relatively unhurt, Tigger proposed that this was a good time to start our journey home and I was in no mood to disagree. We thus betook ourselves to Tooting Bec tube station a little further along the road and from there the Northern Line carried us back to the Angel and a comforting cup of home-brewed tea!