Thanks to National Lottery players, the café on Tooting Bec Common has celebrated its 120th birthday with a party for the local community.
Image: Yusuf-Mikhail, Aisha and mum Ismahan enjoy the party
The party was organised by the HLF-funded Tooting Common Heritage Project in partnership with the Tooting History Group, the Friends of Tooting Common and Wandsworth Council and was attended by more than 200 people.
The Tooting History Group has been researching the café’s history as part of the Tooting Common Heritage Project. Originally park users got their refreshments from a milkman on foot, and later from local baker John Barry from a tent. When his tent blew down he asked the London County Council for something more permanent, which resulted in the construction of a building in the Arts and Crafts style, with elements of Tudor architecture. It opened to the public on 1st September 1898.
Image: The Mayor cuts the spectacular cake
In the thirties, the café was extended and refurbished and it had another major facelift in 2017. It’s now owned by Wandsworth Council, run by family catering company San Remo Ltd., and enjoyed all year round by families, dog-walkers, bird-watchers and many more visitors to the common.
Local people were invited along to the party on bank holiday Monday, attended by the Mayor of Wandsworth Cllr Piers McCausland and cabinet member for community services and open spaces Steffi Sutters. The mayor unveiled a new history panel for the café, and cut a cake cooked by café staff.
Image: Janet Smith explains the history of the fossil tree to the Mayor, Cllr Sutters and other guests
Afterwards Janet Smith of the Tooting History Group led a walk to the fossil tree near the lake. The tree was also placed on the Common in 1898 and its surroundings have recently been restored.
Cllr Sutters said: “It was a delight to attend this party. The research into the history of the café and its birthday celebrations are just part of the work being carried out by the Tooting Common Heritage Project to explore and celebrate the rich history of the common. The project as a whole will help make sure its historical features and biodiversity are protected for years to come.”
The Tooting Common Heritage Project is funded by Wandsworth Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is being delivered by Enable Leisure and Culture in partnership with South London Swimming Club, idverde, the Tooting History Group, Wandsworth Historical Society and The Woodfield Project.
Work in the pipeline, or already completed, includes
Restoring and expanding acid grasslands
Renovating the lake
Restoring the Woodfield Pavilion
Replacing diseased trees and planting additional ones
Providing accredited training and learning opportunities in horticulture and conservation for local people
Researching the history of the common and developing a heritage trail
Renovating the 1930s drinking fountain
Restoring the fossil tree enclosure
Restoring the Lido
Tooting Common covers 220 acres and is the largest open space managed by the council. It has been designated by the GLA as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation – and is ranked in the top tier of these protected spaces – a site of Metropolitan Importance.