The shop front in 2010
I have recently found out that Goddard’s Pie & Mash Shop is closing its doors this autumn. I immediately went down to the shop on 203 Deptford High Street to find out whether it was true or not. As soon as I walked in I knew it was true; everyone in the shop was talking about it. Lewisham Council is not renewing Goddard’s lease. Rumour has it, it will become a Foxton’s Estate Agents.
I went in on a Tuesday late morning. There were three mums with their babies having pie and mash, Keith from the Evelyn Tenants & Residents Association and his son Simon were there, and Simon, the person running Goddard’s, was serving a customer who was ordering a whole load of pies, mash & liquor to take away. Not long after that, a couple came in to place a large order and had a cup of tea while waiting for Simon to get the fresh pies out of the oven. Then Tony came in, ordered his meal and sat peacefully in the corner, eating and reading the newspaper. All the conversations that took place revolved around the closing of Goddard’s. Disbelief, sadness and anger were in the air. How could Lewisham Council allow this? How could they shut one of the last remaining Pie & Mash shops in London whose history in Deptford goes back 128 years? All customers asked how much longer Goddard’s will be open, how much longer they can come for their pie and mash. Goddard’s will have its last trading day on October 7th 2018, and will vacate the building in mid-November 2018. There is a slight possibility that Goddard’s will set up again somewhere in the borough of Greenwich, but nothing is definite. In all their frustration they joke about giving Goddard’s a proper send-off, something like a funeral procession calling it ‘The Death of Deptford’. But joking aside, for Simon and Goddard’s customers the news is heart-breaking.
Tony enjoying his lunch in his usual place
Simon has been working at Goddard’s for over 20 years. “I only came down here one day to help clear the tables and I’ve been here ever since”, he tells me. Up until a few years ago, Clive, the business owner, was still working here and still does all the book-keeping from home (I photographed him in 2010 and the photographs are still hanging on the wall). Clive’s daughter Karen, Simon’s other half, was here until a few years ago, but like her dad, her ill health is stopping her from being able to come to the shop. Because of this, Simon has been running the shop by himself for a couple of years now. “It’s hard work all on your own! I get up at 5 o’clock every morning to get here for about half 6 to prepare everything (I live in Bromley). I actually make and bake everything here by myself. I make the dough, I sort the meat, I make the liquor gravy. I have a spuds machine that peels the potatoes but we use proper spuds here, none of that powder crap, and I make and bake as I go through the day. That’s why sometimes when customers come in and I’m busy, they might have to wait 10 minutes for the pies to come out of the oven.” In the past, when Goddard’s was really busy, the pies were all baked and left on the rack and heated up when customers ordered them, but now, with fewer customers, Simon makes and bakes as he goes through the day so the pies are always fresh. If he has any left over at the end of the day, he freezes them and sells them as frozen cooked pies.
Simon in Goddard’s
“When I first started here, the area was thriving – there was your florist’s, your baker’s, the queue in here was hanging out the door, we had 4 people just serving, that’s how busy we were. And now I’m doing it all by myself because the clientele ain’t here no more.” Simon’s mate Simon, Keith’s son, thinks there are still enough people who like a pie & mash but says the problem is that these people don’t live here anymore. “I mean, think about it, we had people from America come here, then we had three German guys, they were unsure about the pies at first but then really liked it. And all the customers that used to live here and come back once or twice a year to take back whole loads of pies. So there is clientele but not from round here no more. If you look at Deptford Market, I mean it’s nothing like it used to be! When I was a kid, it was packed right from where St Paul’s is all the way to the top!”
Simon (the shopkeeper) agrees. “You walk around the market now and you’re done in 5 Minutes. When I first started here it took 1.5 hrs, easy. Deptford’s changed so much! They say up-and-coming, I’d say it’s going straight down the toilet to be honest. Last Tuesday you could have heard a pin drop outside that shop, it was that quiet. Even George across the road in Manze’s – we were both standing outside the shop going ‘Where is everyone?’ The clientele is not here no more because all the Deptford Boys, they’ve all moved out. Most of the people that are moving in now, they prefer deep-fried chicken or bistro or somewhere where they can get a burger for £11. They don’t want old-school pie and mash, they want a Flat White from Costa for £3.50. And I understand not everybody likes pie and mash, you either love it or hate it, but people come in here and have a home-cooked meal for £3.50! I’ll even throw in a cup of tea, know what I mean! We had Professor Green come in here recently, even he said, ‘the people out there, they haven’t got money to pay £3.50 for a Flat White’.”
Keith enjoying his pie
Goddard’s is in a council property and Lewisham Council has decided not to renew the lease. Goddard’s have experienced this scenario before when they had to vacate their shop on Evelyn Street, their original location, for the same reason in the early 60s (there is a picture of the original shop hanging on the wall). Goddard’s moved to 203 Deptford High Street in 1964, but all in all, Goddard’s have been in Deptford for 128 years. “We should have bought the building all them years ago but it all boils down to money, doesn’t it? We don’t have that sort of money. All I make in here, I put back in, just to keep it running…it’s fucking hard work!”, Simon tells me. “The terms of the lease were: pay a certain amount each quarter and manage the upkeep and maintenance of the building. The building is so old now, there are leaks here and there and I would fix it all myself but I haven’t got the money. And rent and rates have gone up in the air, I can’t afford it. I don’t know what’s the matter with the council – it’s all about money now. Money talks. But even if I had the money, they want the building back, no matter what I do, they don’t care about us little fish. They want something fancy now. I’ve heard it’s going to be an estate agent’s called Foxton. It’s such a shame, 128 years we’ve been down here and it’s all disappearing. It’s heart wrenching! I’ve had people come down here saying, ‘Si, if you’re closing this shop I won’t come down to Deptford no more’.”
Photos I took of Goddard’s and Clive, the business owner, in 2010.
Simon (Keith’s son) has been coming to Goddard’s for years. “I was practically born in here”, he jokes. He is really good mates with Simon and helps out in the shop when things get really busy. He loves Goddard’s and what it stands for and seeing Goddard’s go is like losing a family member for him. “I’ve been coming here for over 30 years and I bring my kids in here as well. My son wasn’t too keen at first but one day he ate 5 pies at once! My record is 9 pies, one after another! I hate processed food and here everything is homemade – you can really trust the food.” Like everybody else in the shop, Simon feels emotional about the fact Goddard’s is closing down. “It’s part of our heritage, you won’t get any better heritage than this. The whole thing is ridiculous!” Simon the shopkeeper says he would be happy if the council offered him other premises in the area, something along the lines of ‘Unfortunately, the rents are going up but as you’ve been here so long, we’ll give you other premises’, but he says that the council aren’t interested in people like him. “And all that talk about heritage, it’s all just talk, all mouth and no trousers that’s what I call it; all the talk but nothing to back it up with.
The three Musketeers: Simon, Simon and George
The irony is that Simon was expecting a film crew the day I came in. They’d called as they were looking for a traditional pie & mash shop to use as a location for their film, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another pie and mash shop that is more traditional than Goddard’s. It contains all the original features from when it was set up, and furniture from Victorian times (the benches used to be in a Methodist Church). So while heritage and tradition live on in films and photographs, the actual object of historical significance is being devalued. As such, heritage becomes mere representation while it is being erased from real life. Simon then remembers when the Great British Bake Off asked Clive to recreate an eel pie. “We had Great British Bake Off come in here many years ago. Mel (from Mel and Sue) came in, and Clive had to create an eel pie, because that’s what they used to do probably when they first started. After that – obviously it went on TV – we had all these Chinese people come in here wanting an eel pie and we said ‘sorry, we don’t do them no more’! And they’d say, ‘but I’ve just seen it on TV!’, and we had to explain that we had to recreate it and that we don’t do them no more. I don’t bloody like ‘em anyway – slippery little things!”, he jokes. “And the irony is, when I have my St George’s flag hanging in the shop, people don’t like it and tell me to take it down! But that’s also part of my culture and heritage like pie and mash is and I’m not taking it down!”
Simon is currently trying to fill the freezers with frozen cooked pies. He’s not sure but he expects that on the last days before final closure, people will be queuing out the door to order whole loads of frozen cooked pies. He remembers one fellow who used to come once a year to buy 12 bags of frozen and 2 trays of cooked pies and take them up north. There are still lots of customers who have moved away but come down occasionally and take back lots of pies with them. Simon has a really good relationship with his customers, and it is because of his customers that Simon wants to come to work every day. “Sometimes I wake up and think I can’t be bothered but the thing that keeps me going, that makes me want to come in, is my customers, they and the banter with them make my day, really. They really can’t believe that we’re closing. They say to me, ‘Si, you’ve been here how long?’” Customers are also asking Simon for the original recipe but that will remain a secret. “I don’t care how much money you got, you ain’t having the recipe”, he laughs. But according to him, it’s not that simple anyway. “It’s not like you’ve got the recipe and know what you’re doing! I still get things wrong sometimes!”
When I ask Simon about his own future, and whether he has had any thoughts on what he’s going to do, his face turns sad. “I’m 49 this year and I haven’t got a clue what I’m gonna do. Back in the day I was a bit of a bad boy, you know, and I ain’t going back down that road, and I don’t really want to go and sign on. I might sell pies out the back of my car (he laughs), mobile pie & mash! I was thinking about it but it’s down to money again, innit? And that’s one thing I haven’t got. And Clive has had enough too, he can’t continue putting his hand in his pocket; he must have done this for about 40 years and now he needs to look after himself. He’s not well. But he’s really sad to see it go. It’s gonna be sad, really really sad. I’ll have a tear in my eye and I don’t cry over nothing!”
At least Simon hasn’t lost his sense of humour yet. The fact that the film crew is coming in today will provide him with a bit of extra cash, so he says: “Oh well, this might pay for my holiday. I haven’t had a holiday in 4 years! I used to go every year, used to take my kids down to Camber (Cambersands) – I might open a pie & mash shop down there!”
Last day of trading: Sunday Oct 7th 2018. Let’s all go down there and give them a proper send-off!!