London may be notorious for its pricey lifestyle, but a day out in South London doesn’t necessarily have to cost a fortune. This feature presents a brief history of a few key areas in South London, their population statistics, important places of worship, community centres, and places of entertainment to visit.
Real or imagined, there is a big divide between North and South London, especially as far as the residents are concerned. To put succinctly, North Londoners generally don’t go south, unless they can't help it, and yet South London has a lot of points of interest. One area that stands out is Greenwich, with its riverside setting, nautical associations, Baroque architecture, and Royal Observatory. Residential, multicultural and always surprising, South London covers a vast swath of the city, including rough and ready Brixton, suburban Clapham and often-overlooked Battersea. Stand outs also include Dulwich, whose public art gallery is even older than the National Gallery, and, on the very edge of London, the Arts and Crafts Red House, William Morris’s former home, and Down House, home of Charles Darwin.
Tooting has always been a great place to eat, enjoy a drink and browse some unique shops, but now it’s so much more than that. It’s a warm, close-knit community with an atmosphere all of its own. Tooting has been a diverse multi-cultural community, well-known for its textiles and curry houses. However, it has increasingly become a hipster hangout as hordes of graduates head for Tooting for cheap rent. This has transformed Tooting High Street as independent coffee houses line up to feed the hungry and often hungover youngsters looking for a quick bite. However, this recent food evolution should not overlook the curry culture that has dominated Tooting for decades. Instead, the combination of the two has cemented Tooting as the place for food. Visitors can shop till they drop, then relax with a drink and a meal at the market in Tooting High Street. Tooting Market has been established over 100 years as South London’s premier indoor market. The market hosts a variety of tenants selling, fresh foods, ladies and men’s fashion, music, hair & nail salons, arts and crafts, furniture, a food court and hundreds of other products to choose from so you’ll be sure to find what you are looking for. It still has the familiar market stalls that people love, but is now also home to trendy bars, boutiques and restaurants. It is also a mecca for the arts, with frequent live music, craft workshops and performances adding to the lively atmosphere. The newly buzzing market is just part of a recent renaissance in the town fuelled by a lively arts scene, new restaurants and retailers and transport improvements. Local pubs have been given protection and new and refurbished pubs have opened, giving beer lovers a great choice. Tooting Market is located within easy walking distance between Tooting Broadway and Tooting Bec Underground stations.
Dulwich and around
Dulwich is just two stops from Brixton on the railway, but light years away in every other respect. This affluent, middle-class enclave is one of southeast London’s prettier patches – its leafy streets boast handsome Georgian houses and even a couple of weatherboarded cottages, while the Soane-designed Dulwich Picture Gallery is one of London’s finest small museums. If Dulwich has a fault, it’s the somewhat cloying self-consciousness about its “village” status, with its rather twee little shops, rural signposts and fully functioning tollgate – the only one remaining in London.
Wandsworth’s history has been shaped by its position on the Wandle and the Thames and on a major east-west road (probably of Roman origin). The Wandle provided power for mills, which were numerous by 1086. At first they were usually flour mills, but from the seventeenth century new uses were found - iron working, copper working, gunpowder making, leather working and oil pressing. The Wandle’s abundant clean water was used by the dyeing, bleaching and calico printing industries, and other industries were brewing, malting, distilling, chemicals and hatmaking. The Ram Brewery existed by 1576 and closed in 2006. From the 1680s there was an important community of French Protestants, or Huguenots. The Surrey Iron Railway, from Wandsworth to Croydon, opened in 1802, run by the first railway company in the world, but closed in 1846. A station on the Richmond Railway opened near the current Wandsworth Town site in the same year. Wandsworth Prison opened in 1851. Suburban development accelerated in the 1860s and 1870s, and spread southwards. The twentieth century contributed King George’s Park, Council estates, the one-way system, the Wandsworth Shopping Centre and the first of the riverside flats.
Gujaratis in Balham and Tooting
The Borough of Wandsworth in South London is not one of Britain’s more renowned areas of migrant settlement, despite the fact that over 20 per cent of its residents were born outside the UK. This is largely because Wandsworth’s ethnic minorities are so diverse in origin and pattern of settlement. There are Indians in the Borough, plus ‘other Asians’, a category which likely includes a large proportion of East African Asians. Indians have major concentrations in the Balham and Tooting areas. Most are Hindu Gujaratis, whose numbers represent a substantial mixture of Lohanas, Patidars, and Brahmins, among others. Over time Tooting has also seen a rise in Muslim population and also increase in the number of mosques in the area.
Basaveshwara statute in Lambeth
Another attraction for Indians in Lambeth is the statue of Basaveshwara. In 2015 Lambeth saw the installation of the bust of the 12th century social reformer, Basaveshwara, on the lawn between Albert embankment and the river Thames. The bust overlooks Peninsular Heights apartments, where Lord Jeffrey Archer is among the residents. Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the granite bust of Kannadiga social reformer on the banks of river Thames in London on November 14, 2015.
Dharmaj Society of London
Dharmaj Society of London (DHASOL) was formed in South London in 1968-69 by a dedicated group of new arrivals of Dharmaj origin, mainly from Kenya, with the primary objective of continuing social and cultural intercourse experienced in East Africa through similar organisations set up by initial migrants from Dharmaj village in Gujarat. At present, there are around 1,400 families of Dharmaj descent residing in the UK.
National Association of Patidar Samaj
NAPS’ (Tooting) charitable objectives are – the advancement of the Hindu religion throughout the UK; the relief of poverty, sickness and distress; the advancement of education.
Shops & Charities
There are various business shops set up by Indians and other British Asians which are doing well in South London as well as several charities catering to the various British Asian communities.
South London Eateries
South London is now home to many of the innovative and impressive chefs and its Indian restaurants cater to all tastes and budgets with an ever-increasing selection of innovative and interesting restaurants.
Greenwich is the one area in southeast London that draws tourists out from the centre in considerable numbers. At its heart is the outstanding architectural set piece of the Old Royal Naval College and the Queen’s House. Most visitors, however, come to see the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park.
*Temples and Mosques in South London
South London is home to many beautiful temples and mosques of different faiths. To help you plan out your itinerary, here is a list of temples and mosques in South London.
Sree Ganapathy Temple, Wimbledon
The Sree Ganapathy Temple, Wimbledon, opened its doors in 1981 as the first consecrated Hindu temple in Europe. While the temple performs all of the traditional functions of a Hindu temple, from religious services to birth, wedding, and death ceremonies, the site also adopts an expanded holistic approach. Visitors can partake in discussions by religious experts, philosophy talks, yoga & meditation classes, and health seminars.SW19 8PU
Wat Buddhapadipa, Wimbledon
Wat Buddhapadipa was the first Buddhist temple ever to be built in London. SW19 5HJ
The South East Hindu Association temple, Woolwich (Greenwich), SE18 6ER
Greenwich Hindu Mandir, SE18 1ER
The Radha-Krishna Temple
The Radha-Krishna Temple in Balham is the most prominent Hindu institution in the Borough, one especially known to serve Gujaratis. The Radha-Krishna Temple was established in 1975 along with the Shyama Ashram. The former occupies the ground floor of a remodelled shop while the latter is on the first floor of the building.SW12 9AL
Hindu Society Centre, Wandsworth, SW17 0NP
Shree Swaminarayan Temple, Streatham, SW16 5JZ
SKS Swaminarayan Temple, SE18 7RL
Sri Vel Murugan Temple, Lewisham, SE13
Sri Sakthy Ganapathy Temple, Croydon, CR7 7JJ
Sivaskanthagiri Arulmigu Murugan Temple, Croydon, CR7 6BD
Sivayogam Muthumariamman Thirukovil, Tooting, SW17 7EJ
Sri Ranga Thiruppathy Arulmiku Astalakshmi Temple, Tooting, SW17 0RN
Jegatheeswaram Arulmihu Meenakshi Sunthareswar, Wimbledon, SW19 1AW
London Sivan Kovil Trust, Lewisham, SE13 5ES
Sikh Gurdwara, SW18 5SP
Gurdwara Sahib Woolwich, SE18 6QW
Khalsa Centre, Tooting Gurdwara, Tooting, SW17 7TW
South London Anglo-Indian Association, Croydon.
*Mosques in South London:
The Baitul Futuh Mosque, also known as the Morden Mosque, is a mosque complex in Morden, London. It is Britain’s largest mosque, while some news reports credit it as being the largest mosque of western Europe. Completed in 2003 at a cost of approximately £15 million, the full complex can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers. It is located in the south-west London suburb of Morden, London Borough of Merton, next to Morden South railway station.
South London Islamic Centre, SW16 6NN
Wimbledon Mosque, SW19 8DS
The London Mosque, SW18 5QL
Balham Mosque, SW12 9AW
Islamic Culture & Education Centre, SW11 2NY
Masjid Uthman, Croydon, SE25 5JJ
Hyderi Islamic Centre, Streatham, SW16 5PQ
Greenwich Islamic Centre, SE18 7DW
Baitul Rahman Masjid, SE1 4NX
Idara-E-Jaaferiya, Tooting SW17 9PP
Masjid ul Qudus, Lambeth, SW9 6AT
Brixton Mosque & Islamic Cultural Centre, SW9 7PH
Croydon Mosque & Islamic Centre, CR7 6AR
New Peckham Mosque, Southwark, SE5 0HU
Camberwell Islamic Centre, Southwark, SE5 0ED
Baitul Aziz Islamic Cultural Centre, SE1 4JL
Brixton Mosque, Lambeth, SW9 6AT
Tooting Islamic Centre, SW17 7TJ
Greenwich Islamic Centre, SE18 7DW
Lewisham & Kent Islamic Centre, SE13 6NZ
Khatemun Nabiyeen Mosque, SW9 9HZ
Croydon Masjid & Islamic Centre, CR7 6AR
*Entertainment in South London
Besides English, want to watch Hindi, Malaylam, Tamil and Telugu movies, go to Cineworld London – Wandsworth. Multiplex cinema showing the latest international blockbusters in 2D and 3D formats.
Scale the O2:
The O2 Arena is a multi purpose entertainment venue situated in Greenwich, formerly known as The Millenium Dome. It is one of the largest indoor arenas in Europe with a seating capacity of up to 20,000 depending on the event.
Crystal Palace Park Boating Lake, Bromley:
There is so much to do with young children. There are the dinosaurs to visit, visitors can hire a pedalo to pootle past them, plenty of photo opportunities there. Open 10.30am-5pm weekends.
Meet the walrus at the Horniman Museum: The present museum in Lewisham opened in 1901 and the 130-year-old over-stuffed walrus is still its star attraction!
Go stargazing at the Royal Observatory: Visit the Royal Observatory Greenwich to stand on the historic Prime Meridian of the World, see the home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), and explore your place in the universe at London’s only planetarium.
Birdwatching at London Wetland Centre: Venture out to leafy Barnes (Richmond) in the south-west and, as well as a picturesque landscape, there’s the opportunity to spot kites, sandpipers, kingfishers and more at London Wetland Centre.
(Source: The Rough Guide to London – Merton Library & Heritage Service; Wikipedia; timeout.com; wandsworth.gov.uk; www.timeandleisure.co.uk; http://www.friendsoftootingcommon.org.uk/history.html; https://books.google.co.uk;)
Croydon has come a long way
By Nitin Mehta MBE
Croydon is the largest London borough by population. It has an estimated population of 3,63,400 (2011 Census). That is more than the city of Leicester. If it was a city it would be the 8th largest in the UK. Croydon has been home to many famous people. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author and creator of Sherlock Homes, Top Shop Mogul Sir Philip Green and comedian Sir Ronnie Corbett lived in Croydon. Nish Kumar who is making a name on the national stage as a comedian is also from Croydon.
Though Croydon has a reputation for being a concrete jungle, it has many beautiful parks. The Croydon Ecology Centre is spread out on acres of greenery and is an oasis of peace and tranquility.
Croydon also has one of the biggest Gujarati communities in the country. Most of them arrived in the 1970s and worked in the factories and warehouses like Philips. Today most of the factories are gone and in their place there are car dealerships and mega stores like B&Q. The children of those early Indian settlers have achieved unprecedented success in many fields. There is a sea change in the demographics of Croydon. A huge number of nationalities now reside in Croydon, including people from Poland, Lithuania, Romania and many other countries of Eastern Europe.
It is fascinating to see how the businesses changed hands. In the seventies the Indian community replaced the local English people in running the corner shops and other small businesses. By the nineties the Tamils from Sri Lanka took over from the mainly Gujarati shopkeepers. Their arrival was a blessing for the Gujarati shopkeepers as they were able to sell the businesses and secure their retirement. It was assumed that Gujaratis were master businessmen but the Tamil community changed the concept of corner shops by transforming them into supermarkets. They have survived in spite of supermarket chains like Tesco which has opened smaller outlets everywhere. Increasingly now we are seeing East European shops as well as Turkish shops and they are changing the face of Croydon shopping areas.
In the service industry like restaurants, coffee bars you will invariably be served by East Europeans. In the building trade again it is the East Europeans. They are hard working and cheaper! Motor bike riders delivering pizza or motor parts to garages are almost entirely Brazilians! It is easy for them to come to Portugal due to the common language. From Portugal as European citizens they come over to the UK! These new arrivals also create a demand for everyday consumables which is very good news amongst other things for the motor car industry.
A significant number of Indians have entered the buy-to-let market. Being canny businessmen they have realized that it is almost impossible for young people to be able to buy a house and so they have to rent and are at the mercy of buy-to-let landlords.
Day Lewis, the largest chain of private pharmacies owned by Kirit Patel, has its headquarters in Croydon. A new generation of Indians also have settled in Croydon in big numbers. They are IT professionals, bankers and engineers. They have brought with them the vibrancy of Indian culture and traditions.
Diwali is now celebrated in Croydon High Street and the Hare Krishna devotees hold the Lord Jagganath festival every year. Croydon will have its first Hindu school starting in September 2016. It will be run by Krishna Avanti Trust and anyone having a child between 3 and 5 years can enrol. A brand new shopping centre being built at a cost of £1.5. billion will open early next year. It will also comprise 600 new residential flats.
These are exciting times for Croydon. The old Croydon is transforming into a new Croydon. Change is an eternal part of life, nothing remains stagnant. We have to embrace change while holding on to our core values.