Thirty years ago Wolfie Smith, the self-styled leader of the Tooting Popular Front, roamed this area of south-west London proclaiming “power to the people” in the BBC comedy Citizen Smith, starring Robert Lindsay as a young anarchist.
Tooting will always be linked to the antics of Wolfie, but today it has a more established hero in its local MP, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan. The son of a local bus driver and product of the local comprehensive, Khan was a leading civil rights lawyer before becoming MP for Tooting in 2005.
Tooting lies just one stop down the Northern line from Balham, where house prices have boomed during the last 10 years as people were priced out of Clapham and Wandsworth. Now the same is happening to Tooting, with first-time buyers and young families who are unable to afford Balham moving there.
According to Robert Cornthwaite, of the local branch of estate agents Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, unlike many other areas of London, house prices in Tooting are still five per cent lower than at the peak in autumn 2007.
Victorian splendour: property in Tooting
Tooting has mainly Victorian, Edwardian and Twenties terrace houses and purpose-built maisonettes. Houses range from £2 million on the Heaver Estate, the conservation area between Balham High Road and Tooting Bec Common, and the ladder of roads south of Burntwood Lane and west of Trinity Road — although residents might say they live in Wandsworth — to modest three-bedroom terrace houses for about £400,000.
In addition to the attraction of lower prices for first-time buyers and young families wanting to put down roots, there is a strong rental and buy-to-let market in Tooting, especially close to St George’s Hospital, the area’s largest local employer.
Most of Tooting falls within the SW17 postcode. Furzedown and Streatham Park, south of Tooting Bec Road, are in SW16, but neither postcode has any influence on price.
The most expensive house currently for sale is in Wandle Road, one of the roads off Trinity Road, where Knight Frank (020 8682 7777) is selling a seven-bedroom house for £3.5 million. On the Heaver Estate, the most expensive house is an eight-bedroom double-fronted house, which estate agent Heaver is selling for £2.25 million.
In the heart of Tooting, south of Upper Tooting Road, the best roads are Chasefield Road, Gassiot Road and Eswyn Road. In the Furzedown area south of Rectory Lane, house prices are boosted by proximity to the popular Graveney secondary school. Estate agent Aspire (020 8769 7900) is selling a five-bedroom house on Nimrod Road for £650,000.
Up and coming spots
King George’s Mews (estate agents Lauristons, 020 8772 9373) is a development of nine one- and two-bedroom houses on Himley Road, close to St George’s Hospital. Prices start at £285,000 for the one-bedroom houses and £450,000 for the two-bedroom houses, which will be complete in October.
The Quadrangle (020 8222 7200) on St George’s Grove is a Bellway development on the borders of Earlsfield. There is only one three-bedroom flat in the current phase, at £367,000, but more are due to be released soon.
The Totterdown Fields conservation area between Upper Tooting Road and Church Lane is a hidden former LCC garden estate built in Arts & Crafts style. Roads to look out for are Cowick Road, Coteford Street, Okeburn Road, Derrington Road and Lessingham Avenue. Two-bedroom houses here sell for around £250,000.
Two primary schools in Tooting, both Roman Catholic, are judged “outstanding” by Government education watchdog Ofsted: St Boniface RC in Undine Street and St Anselms in Tooting Bec Road. There are three comprehensive schools: Graveney (co-ed) (“outstanding” and oversubscribed), Burntwood (girls, but co-ed in the sixth form) and Ernest Bevin (boys, but co-ed in the sixth form, rated “good”). All report above average exam results.
There are plenty of private prep schools in Wandsworth and Clapham. Streatham & Clapham High (girls, four-18) is a private school. The senior school is in Abbotswood Road close to Tooting Bec Common. Broomwood Hall, a girls’ prep school in Balham, has a junior school (co-ed, ages four to seven) in Garrad’s Road, near Tooting Bec Common.
Tooting High Street and its continuation, Upper Tooting Road, and Mitcham Lane leading from Tooting Broadway station, are busy shopping streets with mainly independent businesses and some high street names such as M&S, Primark and TK Maxx.
Stores selling saris and salwar kameez and jewellers selling delicate filigree goldwork make a colourful contribution to otherwise drab streets. The fruit and vegetable shops are where south Londoners go to buy sweet Alfonso mangoes.
It is also a good place to eat curry. Al Mirage, Mirch Masala, Lahore Karahi, Radha Krishna Bhavan, Spice Lounge, Dosa n’Chutny and Jafna House are all worth trying. Tartine is a popular café with a Moroccan twist; The Antelope is the best gastropub, and Rick’s Café is a long-time favourite.
Tooting Bec Common has 220 acres of semi-wild open space with a running track, tennis courts, a riding arena, playing fields and the Tooting Bec Lido, one of London’s most famous outdoor pools with its iconic coloured changing room doors.
The Balham Leisure Centre in Elmfield Road is the nearest council-owned indoor swimming pool. The Tooting Arts Club is a new theatre company which puts on plays in various venues around the neighbourhood. The Gala bingo hall in Mitcham Lane is a Grade I listed cinema with a Moorish fantasy interior which will be open as part of London Open House on Sunday, September 18, 2011.
* MORE ON THE BOROUGH OF WANDSWORTH:
For more local restaurants, pubs, bars, theatres, cinemas or attractions; or to book a table or tickets for a night out, visit LondonLive.co.uk/Wandsworth.
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Travel: Tooting Broadway and Tooting Bec are on the Northern line, with trains to central London and the City. Tooting train station on the southern edge of the area has services to Waterloo and Blackfriars. All stations are in Zone 3 and an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,288.
Council: Wandsworth (Conservative controlled); council tax Band D in 2011/12 is £681.64.
Buying in Tooting
One-bedroom flat £223,000
Two-bedroom flat £289,000
Two-bedroom house £309,000
Three-bedroom house £421,000
Four-bedroom house £619,000
Renting in Tooting
One-bedroom flat £850 to £1,200 a month
Two-bedroom flat £1,100 to £1,500 a month
Two-bedroom house £1,300 to £1,600 a month
Three-bedroom house £1,400 to £1,800 a month
Four-bedroom house £1,700 to £2,500 a month
Five-bedroom plus house £2,000 to £2,700 a month
Source: Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward
Photographs: Graham Hussey