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A lively,  multicultural area – plus the Commons where you can watch the waterfowl or swim at the famous Lido. Two separate routes, one about an hour, the other a short potter.

Tooting Bec station itself is unusual. Designed by Charles Holden  in the 1920’s, it has a cleverly angled ticket hall, with a large chandelier and windows containing the Underground logo.  There's an identical station opposite. Have a look at the top of the pillars – there’s the  logo again! 

The Commons (allow about a hour)
are less than ten minutes’ (rather boring) walk away.   They form a large green area to relax on a sunny day and the two pairs of Egyptian Geese (with bright pink legs and beak) that live by the lake are much loved by local residents.  If you fancy paying them a visit, follow the signs in the Underground station for  Balham High Road.   You will need to cross over  to Tooting Bec Road, but before you do so, look to the left for a view of the ornate facade of the Roman Catholic church of St. Anselm (1933). Soon you will come to the bus stop for the 319 and 249 which go to the Common, so you could cheat! If you do decide to walk down Tooting Bec Road  you will come to No. 21, an eighteenth century building, once a convent - it  now  houses the Christian Education Centre.  Almost opposite at No's 16-22 are some unusual remnants of tiled shop fronts.  No. 10 has the original window and horizontal  tile facing to ground level.   They must have been been a splendid sight when first built.

Further along, on the same side as the shops is a small early nineteenth century building. Currently boarded up, the site awaits redevelopment.  The lodge, once on the estate of a long-gone Georgian mansion,  housed an estate gardener, and until 2010 was part of a garden centre situated on the site of the old glasshouses, thereby carrying on a centuries old horticultural tradition.   As you can see from the photo, taken when The Patio business was still thriving, it is a charming building. Latest news of the property here.
Continue down the road, which now becomes more residential, the houses having a wealth of ornamentation of various kinds.

Tooting Bec Common begins at Elmbourne Road where the houses are adorned with large terracotta plaques. The name of the Common comes from Bec Abbey in France, which was given land in this area after the Norman Conquest. At the beginning of the path into the Common are the remains of some of the trees brought down in the Great Storm of 1987.  If you follow the path parallel with the main road you will soon come to a large circular sunken area of vegetation with a mound in the centre.   This was once an island in a yachting pond. Although  now completely dry, it is a pleasant spot, with a wooden walk-way all round. Further on the common is mainly given over to football pitches and the like, but continuing to Dr. Johnson Avenue takes you to a more enticing area. The avenue of oak trees marks the boundary between Tooting Graveney Common (the name comes from the River Graveney) and Tooting Bec Common. The trees were planted in the late seventeenth century to commemorate a visit by Elizabeth 1, however the road was named after Dr Johnson since he knew the area well from his friendship with the Thrale family at their nearby house, Streatham Park.  

 Go down this avenue and you will soon come to a large lake where there is a great deal of waterfowl activity to entertain you - including those colourful geese.  Further on down the Tooting Bec Road near the end of the Common, (about fifteen minutes’ walk from Elmbourne Road) is the famous Lido, the largest outdoor freshwater swimming pool in England. Opened in 1906 it has been modernised while retaining some of its early features.  Rather than walk all the way back to the Tube you might want to take the 339 or 249 bus mentioned above. (There's a stop opposite Dr. Johnson Avenue). 

Once back at the station  it is worth going  a little way down the Upper Tooting Road. At Noyna Road, look up to see an old Meggezone advert high on the wall. A few minutes more walking will bring you to the wonderful engraved glass of the King’s Head – an excellent example of exuberant Victorian pub architecture - the interior is a  a riot of decorative glass and tiles, though it has been opened up in modern style. Opposite the pub is an old brick police station - now a Sikh Community Centre and  temple. (The Upper Tooting Road is packed with colourful ethnic shops and stalls.) 

Tooting Broadway area - only a walk of about a mile, but packed with interest.
Return to Tooting Bec station and hop on the Tube for one stop to Tooting Broadway  - only a single station this time  - Holden again. Just outside the entrance is a statue of Edward VII paid for by public subscription in 1911. A large flower stall next to it helps to make this a surprisingly attractive corner for such a busy crossroads. Turn down Mitcham Road, notable for its many small shops. In the centre of the traffic island is a magnificent late nineteenth century gaslamp standard. It once acted as a ventilator for a now-vanished public lavatory and has direction posts to 'Wimbledon', 'London' etc.  A little further along, No. 22 has a couple of relics of the early twentieth century. Look up at the curved white corbels and you will see the words 'Agriculture' and 'Industry‘ underneath reliefs depicting men hard at work. At No. 30 comes something quite unexpected - a picture of a ship over the word 'Como' (Lake Como was a popular holiday destination for the few people who could afford it). On the other side of the shop-front we have ‘Travel’ and a steam train.

At No. 50 is the Granada Bingo Club. This was once a cinema and its 'Gothic' interior is considered so architecturally important that it is one of the few such buildings to be listed Grade I. If it is open for a Bingo session you will be able to go into the foyer and catch a glimpse of the opulent surroundings that were popular in the 1930’s. It was designed by Fyodor Fyodorovich Kommisarzhevsky, a Russian set designer and director, and was a real picture ‘palace’, somewhere to escape from the drudgery of everyday life. Tours can be made by arrangement, and it is usually open on the   London Open House weekend which takes place every September.

Opposite  is the neat red-brick Edwardian public library with its own share of decoration in the shape of elegant terracotta  reliefs.   Continue down the road and cross at the lights. No. 143 has an iron  boot-scraper set into the wall - the pavements were not always as clean and dry as they are nowadays. At the junction with Church Lane  you will find a curious monument (1823) commemorating   the fact that an artesian well and pump was paid for by the ‘principal inhabitants’ of the parish. It was in use up to the end of the 19th century. The church of St. Nicholas behind it. This is a Commissioners Church built of stock brick in 1833.

 The graveyard is large and shaded with trees - quite an attractive place - but it is connected with an infamous story of Victorian poverty and neglect, as a stone plaque on the south wall of the church explains.  It commemorates the 118 children who died in a cholera outbreak at Peter Drouet's pauper children's asylum in 1849.  This establishment, situated near the present Tooting Broadway Tube station, was a notorious 'baby farm' containing 1,400  children.   It  had an open sewer running through the grounds. The scandal following the deaths inspired Charles Dickens to draw further attention to such institutions in 'Bleak House'. The memorial was created in 1989 following a petition by the pupils of nearby Broadwater Junior High School, saddened by the fact that that although these poor children are known to have been buried in this churchyard, they have no marked grave.

If you go on for another five minutes you will come to St. Boniface, a Roman Catholic Church (completed 1927).  The façade is a remarkable  mixture of styles – including capitals derived from Egyptian architecture. Next to it is the Priest's house, with  curved  verandah-like window shades.  Time now to return to Tooting Broadway Station, but before leaving the area turn left into Tooting High Street where, just after South Thames College, there are some restored eighteenth century terraced houses worth having a look at – their dignified elegance a contrast to the zingy bustle and colour of the Upper Tooting Road.  

Photos: (click on image to enlarge)
Egyptian Goose
St.Anselm/tiles No.10 T. Bec Rd
Lodge at 100 T. Bec Rd
Glass, King's Head pub 
Glass, King's Head pub/Advertisement at Noyna Road.
Tooting Broadway Underground  
Old gas lamp/signpost plus plasterwork on shop front 
22 Mitcham Road
Interior of cinema (view from circle)
Cinema entrance hall/Old Granada cinema
Site of artesian well/Library, window detail
St. Boniface

NOTE: Various suggestions have been made as to the origin of Tooting's curious name. The two Wicki mentions are (1) It is of Anglo-Saxon origin and might refer to a tribe whose chief was called Tota.( 2) It could be connected with the fact that the settlement was on the road to London, so there may have been some kind of watch tower. (The old meaning of the verb ' to tout' was 'to look out'.) Personally I don't go along (2), as there would surely be a lot more Tootings all round London!

*If you are travelling south outside peak hours you may have to change at Kennington to pick up a Morden train - usually a very quick and easy connection.

Tooting is just one walk from the many to be found at London Tube Rambles. There are architectural gems, beautiful country views, historic places and quirky buildings in the area  covered by the outer London Underground stations. Usually the discoveries are within a mile of the Tube - often only five minutes walk away. If you reached this as an individual page via a search engine, you might like to go to to see the other destinations explored. You'll be amazed at what's out there!

© DR