Icons of Tooting

Throughout the project we have been fortunate to talk to local people online and digitally, capturing informal memories through art and discussion. Over time, what emerged was a sense of the people, places, and spaces who have been iconic in our collective memory of Tooting over the years. Dive into some of them here.

Tooting Market

“Tooting Market has long been the heartbeat of the local community – established in 1930, the iconic red and white façade is well known to locals. Our unique and eclectic market brings an unforgettable shopping experience to anyone that visits; it’s a place where people can enjoy individual shops, a variety of cuisines, and enjoy a range of cultural activities in the centre.

“The market is for everyone, reflected in our diverse customer base which includes many local people who have grown up with the market & whose families have visited for generations. And our amazing, hard-working and characterful traders are well known to everyone!

“Ask anyone local to Tooting and they’ll all have a story to tell about the market!”

Tooting Market Manager


Here’s some of the memories from local residents that make the market so iconic:


“There used to be fabric shops and curtain shops in Tooting Market and on Saturdays they used to do an auction from the women’s clothes stall as well, our markets were brilliant then, you could buy anything!”


“The market had a pet food stall that sold blocks of meat for dogs. It was just random animal meat.”


“I left school at 15 and Mum said she had got me a job. She said, “I’ve got you a job at the market, you have to be there at 8.30am tomorrow.” Well it was 7.30am some mornings. It was a job at a butcher’s called Beale’s. I hated it but Mum said, “well you can work there until you do like it”. There was no quitting. You just got on with it as you couldn’t not have a job. I worked there quite a long time as I became a master butcher before I left!

“I had a walk through the market recently, going in from the Totterdown Street entrance and looking at all the places I used to visit and seeing what they are now. There’s so many food stalls now. It’s almost all food places. Back in the 60s is would be the butcher (where I worked, a greengrocers, a dress shop (the dresses were awful), a toy shop selling dinky toys, and the pet shop where everyone seemed to buy a tortoise. There was only one café in the whole market.

“There was also a record shop where I bought my very first LP – it was The Beatles – Hard Days Night. Bought for 30bob. I didn’t own a record player! I had to take it to a friend’s house to play it.”


“I remember buying a tortoise from the market for 50p!”


“My grandmother ran a stall in Tooting Market and I’d go and help her on Saturday mornings. It was a toy stall. She put me in charge of the Corgi and Matchbox cars. I got pocket money for doing it. A couple of shillings, something like that. It would have been about 1963. There was a record shop just a way along. I’d have the radio on and my grandmother would tell me to turn it off as it might spoilt their sales.

“My grandmother used to send me to the café in the market to get a cup of tea and she would always tell me, “tell her it’s for the lady in the toy shop!”, every time. I never knew why at the time but realise now it must have been to get a discount.”


“Robert, one of the porters in Tooting Market, goes out of his way to help and support everyone, even lending equipment for a local street party.”


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Harrington’s Pie & Mash at 3 Selkirk Road

Ken Hewitt enjoying a traditional Harrington’s meal in October 2017. Photo courtesy: Tom Hewitt.
Ken Hewitt outside Harrington’s in October 2017. Before the refurbishment. Photo courtesy: Tom Hewitt.
“London Soulfood!” Photo courtesy: Tom Hewitt.
Service in action. October 2019. Photo courtesy: Tom Hewitt.
“My Aunt Doris, 14 December 2019, aged 95. Loved it and always her highlight.” Photo courtesy: Marie Stewart

Pie and mash is a well know traditional British meal. In London, ‘eel pie & mash houses’ have been around since the early 1800s. Tooting has had its own pie & mash house now for at least 114 years! Harrington’s was established in 1908 by Bertie John Harrington.

“He was one of the pioneers of the stewed eel shop business in London.”

South Western Star. June. 2, 1939


According to the South Western Star, Bertie actually went to work in Tooting for Mr John Antik, in his pie & mash shop. He then took charge of it and eventually bought it from him. Thus, Harrington’s was born.

“Mr Harrington had many stories to tell about the pioneer days of eel shops. He used to fetch the eels from the Dutch eel boats at London Bridge and carry them to his shops in sacks. The cook did not bother about gutting the eels before cooking them. It was considered sufficient to rinse them well in clean water and cut off their heads. Now the eels are thoroughly cleaned before being cooked.”

South Western Star. June. 2, 1939

The humble pie has links to the River Thames. Originally, it was a cheaper way to eat and feed workers on the docks in East London. Eels were able to live in the polluted river and were cheaper than meat. So they were chopped up and baked in a pie. Many residents have recollections of them being chopped up in Tooting Market!

The addition of mashed potatoes made it a meal you could sit down for, and it was finished off with liquor. A sauce made from the water used to cook the eels, coloured and flavoured by parsley. It elevated the whole dish into something very memorable. It’s a business that clearly has left its imprint on the heart of generations of Tooting residents.

“I used to get sent to buy the green sauce if we couldn’t afford the whole meal and mum made her own pie and mash. On payday Dad would sometimes take us all in the shop for a treat and a proper meal. I remember he always had the eels – ugh! [There were] cold marble tables and wrought iron benches. I used to love my pie and mash and the whole feel of a celebration, even though it was just at the end of the road! Maybe I’ll get to try it again sometime, on a visit to Tooting. The equivalent for us of today’s kids going out for an expensive pizza express and movie!”


“I worked in Harrington’s pie and mash shop when I was about 12, after school and in the market on Saturdays when the eels used to get chopped up. Sometimes I would wrap them up and there was no running water in the shop in the market. I had to fill up a bucket from the tap outside and heat it up on a gas ring, this would have been around 1969. The eels would still move about when they were chopped up. I hated when I was asked to wrap them up and the money notes were sometimes covered in eel blood. I had a lot of free pie and mash and liquor but didn’t touch the eels!”


“On Saturday, when we were closed for lunch, my family used to love pie and mash for lunch”


“My nan used to go there with tubs and get them to stack all the pies in one, fill another with mash, and have the liquor (parsley sauce) in another. She would bring it home and we’d all have the famous Harrington’s Pie & Mash. I still crave it now and have been practicing my own version. I’ve perfected the liquor now but I need to work on my pie making. My kids love it.”


It’s hard to imagine how many pies must have been churned out from the kitchen over 100 years! Long may they continue.


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Land of the Curry Mile

Lahore Karahi

Tooting is one of the greatest places in the UK to sample Britain’s best-loved cuisine – the curry!

Authentic South Indian vegetarian cookery, along with delights from Bangladesh, and Pakistani specialities only available at weekends due to their extensive cook times: Haleem, Nihari, and Paya.

“I remember learning to cook properly from housemates and work colleagues after moving to London in my 20s. I was on a moderate wage and I found buying all of the ingredients and spices needed criminally expensive from the supermarkets. Then someone set me right and sent me to Tooting to buy everything I needed from independent shops. I was amazed it cost next to nothing. I remember coming home with HUGE bunches of fresh coriander for 40p, giant bags of shredded coconut, year-long supplies of garam masala, cumin, chilli, and tamarind for pennies, tubs of ghee you would never see in a branded store. And then at the side of the tills in these stores you’d get freshly made, bagged naan breads you could slather in garlic butter and reheat at home. Absolutely magic!”


“I adored living in Tooting. I used to go to Pooja Sweets & Savouries to buy vegetable samosas for lunch at the weekend. It was incredibly cosmopolitan and welcoming, with so many different cultures and nationalities living and interacting so closely with each other. My fondest memories are food related, from the unique vegetarian South Indian restaurants on the High Street, to the absolute stand outs for me: Mirch Masala, and Lahore Karahi. Both of them, absolutely no frills, but fantastic food, service, atmosphere, and (to an outsider) authentic. You only had to see the number of people eating there from the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities to know how good they were. Although I moved away from there a number of years ago, I am looking forward to a return and experiencing it all again. It means a lot to me.”


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Doris the Eel Lady
A Legend of Tooting

Doris – The Eel Lady of Tooting Market
“London Soulfood!” Photo courtesy: Tom Hewitt.
Photo courtesy: Tom Hewitt.

When people are asked about their memories of Tooting, many cite. “eels”. 

“Eels having their heads chopped off.”
Roger Hunter

“The eels! The eels having their heads chopped off. I never tried them, not even once!”

“I remember going with my mum and buying the eels from the market and after chopping the heads off and they were still moving.”
Christine Evans 

“There was a notorious character from the pie and mash shop, Harrington’s.  She would be in the market cutting up eels. It was a horrifying image as she had one tooth at the front and it was a horrible sight of her cutting up these writhing eels. I never ever tried them.”
Danny Blue

“I remember Doris so well,  although I didn’t know her name until now. I expect you’ve heard stories of her ritual execution of the slippery snake-like fish, which she performed with great aplomb and often whilst scaring young children when decapitation was completed and the poor creature continued to wriggle about in the large, flat containers in her market stall.

“Perversely, as a youngster I found the whole scenario rather amusing. Doris’s appearance was also noteworthy, especially her almost toothless mouth with cigarette stub stuck to her lower lip and her greying hair stained with nicotine. Her, not so white, shop coat covered in bloody evidence of murderous deeds was also fascinating to me! Be assured, I was not a potential murderer in the making, just enthralled by her lack of concern at her stained attire as she crossed the road at regular intervals to deliver eel pieces to Harrington’s in Selkirk Road.”
Ron Newman 

On researching Doris: Finding clues in heritage sources.

She, Doris Adams 1912-1989,  married into the Harrington family as her husband was Victor Harrington 1910-1968.  

The tiny clue of her name being Doris  was so helpful as I found the Harrington family grave in Morden via the Findagrave site and could just make out Doris Edith Harrington on the bottom of image. The text re family grave mentioned ‘partners’ so I concluded that Doris had married one of the sons.

Interesting to note in the clips re Bertie Harington’s funeral (Doris’ father-in-law) that he was  a pioneer of live eel importation. 

The real find was the detailed information re Harrington’s I found on the Tooting Arts Club site which includes some snippets on Doris could we link to this perhaps?

Last but by no means least I found Doris’ probate record….. wait for it….. estate valued on her death in 1989 as  ………£267,968.


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Shopping in Tooting

“Photo was taken by a street photographer with my mate, I am on the left, but that was after the war and I was about 18 then.”
 Les Scaife
“My father and his mother at Gassiot Road where he was born. He is 2 years 6 months here so that would have been May 1920.”
Pam Goodyer (maiden name Black)

“In the main, our food during the war consisted of anything that could go into the pot and stewed, I used to go to Frost’s, just before Garratt Terrace, with my mother and get the “rations” – two ounces of butter per person, some corned beef if it was available, some brawn, and any sausages that were in stock. There was also dried egg available and we also had hens in our garden that gave a few eggs. Add to that, the bread and dripping, and bread and jam, and that almost completed our diet, but at times just before pay day I have had dried apple rings from Gunn’s grocers in the High St (opposite the Conservative Club, or was it the Constitutional Club?) and a glass of water to fill our stomachs.

“There were nine children in our family and my mother must have performed miracles to bring us up. I can remember having cardboard in my shoes to cover the holes in the soles. Times were hard but we seemed to be happy. On a Saturday night we used to go to Crawford’s, the home made sweet shop, to get four “penny bags” this consisted of broken pieces of sweets and any left overs when they cleared the shop window for the weekend. Then off to Bobby’s the Greengrocer to get a bag of speccy fruit (damaged apples, oranges, and bananas) then sit in front of the fire and listen to the radio with my parents in the two armchairs. The eldest would be on the settee and the rest on the floor between the legs of those on the settee. But we were happy.”

 Les Scaife

“My parents moved to Moffat Road when I was 6 weeks old in 1946. My father worked as a fishmonger for Fred Romaine in Tooting Market and up until I started school my mother used to clean for Mr and Mrs Jones who had a grocery shop on Tooting Bec Road, opposite the side of St Anselms. 

“I went to Franciscan Road Infants and Juniors and then on to Ensham Secondary School. 

“On occasions we had a cup of tea in Joe Lyons café, just before the Broadway. We used to shop for greengrocery at a stall on the corner of Kellino Street and Upper Tooting Road. The corner shop was Mrs Payne’s off licence then there was Barker’s Chemist with Dr Kerr’s surgery above. Then there was Beale’s Butchers, a bit further on Miller’s Bakers and on the corner of Totterdown Street there was the David Grieg shop . My mum used all these as well as the market. 

“We used to go to Tooting Bec Common a lot and Clapham Common pond; also, Mitcham Common Fair every August. We went to the pantomime at the London Palladium and then after to the bacon and egg in Lyons Corner House at Marble Arch. My father also used to take me there for treats for my mum and nan for Mothering Sunday. My mum used to take my nan to Harrington’s in Selkirk Road for stewed eels and liquor . I found this quite disgusting.”

Pam Goodyer (maiden name Black)

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Cinemas & Theatres of Tooting

Year Granada Cinema History
1972 Grade II Listed
1973 Closed
1976 Reopened as Granada Bingo Club
1991 Became Gala Bingo
2000 Upgraded to Grade I Listed
2015 Selected as an Asset of Community Value
2018 Became Buzz Bingo

“I remember the old and grand Granada Cinema before it became a bingo palace!

“It was kept very clean and in perfect condition. A big, imposing, colonel-like elderly man with a white moustache and wearing a very smart light-blue uniform with brass buttons and including a smart official peaked hat which made him look even bigger. His job was to march up and down the white steps in front of the swing doors to prevent unruly under-age children trying to get in to watch ‘A’ or ‘X’ films!”

“The Granada had a famous organ which came up in the interval and was played by a gifted organist, while we sang songs to the words which came up on the screen – happy times! Sometimes there was a show in the interval. I remember a line of pretty showgirls doing the can-can on one such occasion.

“And it was all such good value. just the price of a cheap ordinary ticket – for which you would always get two films – the main advertised film and a lesser, shorter one. As well as the films there would be a Pathé Newsreel and the trailers of next week’s films. Tubs of ice cream sold in the interval and sometimes cups of tea available during the film, brought to the row by the usherette and passed along to whoever had asked for it!

“It was always a wonderful, affordable occasion there ‘going to the pictures’!

“Those were the happy days before TV.”

Keith Carpenter

“Saturday Kids Cinema was a regular event for lots of youngsters in Tooting. The Tooting Grenadiers as we were known turned up in their hundreds to watch the old black and white westerns and classic cartoons. There were also competitions for us to take part in such as singing, impersonations, and yo-yo. It was a fantastic thing to look forward to each Saturday morning.

“We used to go to the Granada on a Saturday morning. Sixpence used to get me a ticket for the film and a Coke. We’d see a cartoon, the feature film, and what they used to call a serial, which was normally something like Zoro or Batman getting into scrapes and ending on a cliff-hanger that would be continued the next week.

“I did collect records myself. I’m a huge Beatles fan and have lots of memorabilia. My greatest regret is not being able to see The Beatles when they played The Granada. I was desperate to see them but the tickets were 7 and 6 each and my mum just couldn’t afford it. I do regret that. I would have loved to have seen them. I remember they stayed in Trevellian Road when they played there.

“In my early teens I used to go with friends to watch the wrestling (English professional wrestling) at the Granada. I remember Rebel Ray Hunter and Mick McManus. It was in the evenings. They also did “midget wrestling” which you wouldn’t do these days.”

Roger Hunter

“I remember the cinemas (picture houses):

  • The Classic
  • The Mayfair*
  • The Vogue*
  • The Granada
  • The Astoria*

*These ones we knew how to sneak into because we had scoped out the staff door out the back and you could sneak in without paying and see the films for free. 

“At the Granada you got to stand up at the front and get free gear and snacks if it was your birthday. I got caught out when it was my birthday four times in a year! After the cinema at the Granada, everyone would queue for doughnuts at Hutchin’s the Bakers next door.”

Danny Blue 

“At the Granada we watched Saturday morning movies, also other movies. In the early 60’s many popular pop groups appeared there including the Beatles and Rolling Stones. The high street was very different then in that there were shops like the butchers, green grocers. Smiths on the corner of Vant road and Franciscan was a two story department store. Everything closed down on Wednesday afternoon. Only the off licence was open on Sundays. Where M and S is now was a huge building and I can’t remember the name of it now, but Ensham school had a prize giving there , Harry Secombe presented the prizes. Our choir teacher stopped us mid song , to start again and properly that time!

Woolworths was almost next door. You probably know about the changes at the Broadway. Public baths were across the road from the public loos.

It was a good place to grow up in.

Anne Patricia MacLeod

The Granada being built
The Granada today

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Flowers of Tooting

Over 160 years ago, the “Daffodil King” moved to, then rural, Tooting to open a nursery.

“Peter Barr must have been an extraordinary man. He not only ran a very successful nursery but he was almost obsessive about plants. He didn’t just collect, catalogue and hybridise them (particularly daffodils) but he went plant hunting, not aimlessly in search of just anything new, but to track down new species of his favourite plant families. He looked pretty extraordinary too. Not just another Victorian with a big bushy beard, but a big bushy beard, wispy hair, little round glasses and sporting a natty little beret.
“He found a job with a Glasgow seed merchant, rising to become manager at the age of 20, before moving to similar jobs in Newry and Worcester and finally Covent Garden, very close to London’s premier fruit, vegetable and flower market. In 1861 Barr branched out in partnership with Edward Sugden, taking on a florists, garden and seed shop in King Street, almost next door to the market. He then opened a nursery in then rural Tooting to supply the shop.”
Read more here: The Daffodil Society

Here’s some of the other associations people have with flowers and Tooting:

“My mum Lena. She had a flower stall corner of Broadway Market from 1956 -1989-or early 90s.”

Terry Howells

“Bill Champion was a poppy seller for 25+ years at Tooting Broadway. He lived in Tooting for over 60 years and lived to be a 100.”

Kathy Brown

“An iconic feature of Tooting for me is the flower stall outside Tooting Broadway Station. The guy was there every single day, rain or shine, no matter the weather. If he wasn’t there you knew he was ill. It was convenient for visiting people in St. George’s, to have flowers there before you went across the road to the hospital. I’m sure it’s still there today.” [It is].


My original knitted patch was to show the daffodil connection with Tooting, Peter Barr travelled so many countries bringing back different daffodils, apparently years ago there were fields full of daffodils in Tooting before it became so built up, it must have been a wonderful sight. Mitcham Lavender was famous right next door to Tooting, there were lavender fields close to Tooting so I thought I would include lavender in my knitted patch.”

Jill Hopkin



You can see more of The Tooting Tapestry here:

During Sugar & Spice, a new crocheted post box topper was unveiled today on the corner of Upper Tooting Road and Letchworth Street!

Ramila, Jill and Heather (pictured) decided to make the topper (with some help from Eric, Jill’s husband) to celebrate Tooting’s past and present. The topper celebrates the people, the places, and the spaces of Tooting, and includes nods to St. George’s Hospital, Tooting Bec Lido, Harrington’s Pie & Mash, and Peter Barr, ‘The Daffodil King’ of Tooting!

The team of crocheters told us,
“we really hope Tooting enjoys this topper and it brightens the day of everyone who sees it! We also that the community looks after it, and to please not remove it!”

Unfortunately, the topper was taken before the project ended. Pictures of it did reach Time Out’s social media though and we are pleased to celebrate the spirit of what it stands for here.

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Iconic Jobs in Tooting

“I remember my Mum talking about her Dad and brothers going to Billingsgate on the fish run in the 1930s. Nan lived at 93 Charlmont Road and the lorry yard was behind it, my aunts and uncles and cousins all lived in Brightwell Crescent.

“My Aunt Clara’s husband, Ted, was the local milkman with his Horse and cart and some of the milk was pasteurised in bottles with a metal and marble like stopper and some was in a container and was decanted into peoples own jugs from his measuring ones. I used to collect the horse dung for Nan’s roses.” 

Vivienne Iilsle

“He would drive this electric milk cart (milk float) that was controlled with buttons and a lever. He would stop the cart and get off to deliver the milk and one day I strolled up and pushed the button – and the cart started off fairly quickly by itself. I remember the milkman racing over to stop the thing and he gave me a telling off.”

Roger Hunter 

“No one yet has mentioned the Crumpet Man. He used to wheel his cart through the streets , Sunday 4 pm was crumpet time, loved it with Butter/Jam or Marmite, try this one for tea one night, a piece of toast brown or white, spread it with Mustard or your favourite spread, add a slice of ham, beef or anything you fancy with melted cheese on top and a bit of Black Pepper”

Rodney Davis

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Missed Icons

“I really miss Silkhance Fabrics (4 Tooting High Street). They were such a lovely family and so patient and helpful with a treasure trove of fabric, trims and buttons. They supplied many of the materials for Crafty Pint workshops and all the red and blue polka dot fabric for the Seaside Sisters Jubilee workshops in Battersea Park. I am still sad that I missed their closure while taking time out to care for family, so never had a chance said good bye and thank you before they closed.”
Gillian Elam