diamond geezer

 Thursday, September 19, 2019

UnFlickrd London: Central Sutton

I have, or rather had, a gaping Flickr desert down the centre of the borough of Sutton. Sutton had the misfortune to emerge from my random jamjar just before I joined Flickr, so I missed out then and have generally missed out since, often passing straight through on the bus. But this week I made a special effort to go back and walk around properly in the hope of adding to my stash of photos. Strong sunshine meant only certain angles illuminated appropriately, but I've selected a dozen photos to share with you (and to fill in the hiatus on my map).

New photo: Rosehill Court on the Rose Hill roundabout is the epitome of 1930s suburban design. It's one of a handful of blocks of flats on the St Helier estate, the Becontree of the southwest, which devoured 825 acres of former lavender fields to the south of Mitcham and Morden. Rose Hill Farm made way for a central gyratory, now a six-way junction which requires traffic lights to keep Sutton flowing. The shops beneath the streamlined prow now sell used cars, dentures and wine, while the Gaumont cinema round the back has become a Mecca bingo hall and The Rose public house has been demolished in favour of a Lidl. Berkeley Homes had a go at rebuilding the southside flats in 2003, but in an eminently forgettable way.
New photo: The shopping parade on Wrythe Lane provides a broader selection of purchasing opportunities, its timepiece courtesy of a Funeral Directors, and is just high enough up the retail pecking order to merit a Costa and a Superdrug.

New photo: St Helier Hospital serves a large swathe of outer London/inner Surrey, and stands out like a stack of white boxes on the skyline. Queen Mary laid the foundation stone in 1938 and Sir John Major was born there five years later - both have memorials beside the front entrance. The building's age now counts against it, as you can tell simply by stepping into reception, but healthcare mandarins' current preference is for muted makeover rather than merging services or closing A&E altogether. I'd be surprised if it reaches its centenary. The hospital faces onto St Helier Open Space, technically two separate open spaces ever since the Sutton Arena was built in the centre and David Lloyd stuck a fence up. In total, judged by its most prominent feature, the Open Space is five electricity pylons in length.

No photo: Rosehill Park, divided by a main road into East and West, is another large, sparse, pylon-stalked greenspace. Beneath the power lines I observed a lady fumbling a hula hoop fitness regime. In the shelter I saw enough empty laughing gas capsules to power a 19th century operating theatre. Outside the fortress of a cafe I spotted pensioners soaking up late summer coffees. And pinned to the gates of the disused sports pitches I found umpteen artificial bouquets and laminated signs repeatedly screaming Save Our Park. The government wants to build a free school here on land earmarked for greenfield development, but thankfully last week the council threw the plans out ("a monolithic rectilinear box design with sheer sides and uniform height of four storeys ...is neither exemplar or exceptional design").

New photo: Angel Hill is the continuation of Rose Hill down the old turnpike road into Sutton. Where it dips into a brief cutting a narrow footbridge spans the gap. This area was once known as Ben Hilton, then Benhilton, as attested by the name of the parish on the noticeboard outside All Saints. I would have grabbed you a proper photo of the church, with its flinty tower and clock stopped at half past six, but alas it's obscured on all sides by trees. Further up the road is the Korean Catholic Church in London, but that's minimally photogenic too.
New photo: Sutton Common station, like most of those on this side of the Sutton loop, is an island platform accessed at one end via a long flight of steps, served by ticket machines where the station building no longer is, used by not many passengers a year. The newsagents nextdoor has closed down, but the sunbed salon is still going, even if half its lettering has dropped off.

Sutton town centre is essentially a very long high street, padded out as far as two parallel streets which act as a ring road. Here are five snapshots along the way.
New photo: The Prince Regent pub is the oldest building at the northern end of the street, dating back to the late 18th century, but has been so changed over the years that its listing has been revoked. It closed in 2015 and was bought up by the same developers who created the apartment monstrosity across the road, but whose repeated attempts to build something similar here have been refused by the council. The former job centre nextdoor deserves demolition, but remains in similar limbo, and will no doubt end up as flats above a gym or supermarket eventually.
New photo: The Red Lion (rebuilt 1907) is still going strong, but has been renamed The Winning Post as a nod to the Sky Sports crowd. The Rolling Stones played several gigs here, including their very first with band members Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.
New photo: The St Nicholas Centre is the three-storey retail mall shoehorned into the western side of the High Street in 1992. Debenhams replaced Allders in 2005. It isn't buzzing in 2019.
New photo: Gallery Gifts, who sell crystal lamps, Disney figurines and porcelain gypsy princesses, can be found along the high street's sole remaining Mock Tudor section.
New photo: The Cock sign is a Grade II listed lamppost/innsign/fingerpost combo at the junction with Carshalton Road. It dates back to 1907, just after The Cock pub was replaced by The Cock Hotel. Alas Sutton has been Cockless since 1961, other than this particular erection.

New photo: Sutton United FC play fifth tier football at Gander Green Lane, a lowly-looking stadium alongside West Sutton station. Thus far they're having a Played 11 Won 2 kind of season, potentially buoyed by this weekend's home match being against Played 11 Won 1 Chesterfield. Thanks to a complicated groundshare arrangement, Sutton Common Rovers and AFC Wimbledon Ladies also play here. Although The U's chief sponsor is Angel Plastics (Trade Supplier of Fascias, Soffits, Gutters, Drainage, Roofing & Plumbing Products), I was excited to spot a poster outside advertising Diamond Geezer Ink, who will of course be my tattooists of choice next time I feel the need for a full-on tube map sleeve.
New photo: The Starfish Bar once served fish and chips to departing football fans, much as The Plough nextdoor once served them beer. A sign on the chippy's door says "We will be closed until further notice", which judging by the menu above the frier has ever been since cod cost £3.80.

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