Goddard’s Pie & Mash Shop is closing

 

Goddard's iThe 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.  Apparently, 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.

DSC_2538Tony 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.

DSC_2520Simon 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’.”

DSC_2514Keith enjoying his pie

Goddard’s is in a council property and it seems 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.

DSC_2535The 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!”

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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!”

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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!”

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Last day of trading: Sunday Oct 7th 2018. Let’s all go down there and give them a proper send-off!!

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“The end of this shop would be the beginning of the end of my life in London”

DSC_1771Stefan (right) and Adrian (left) in Green Onions

Stefan Finnis owns Green Onions Healthfood & Records on 6 Clifton Rise, New Cross, together with his business partner Adrian Ovari. Green Onions specialises in organic food, including a range of vegan and gluten-free foods, vinyl records, houseplants and garden essentials. The design of the shop has been carefully and lovingly thought through by Stefan and Adrian with the help of friends and family. For our conversation we sit in the corner of the shop by the window from where you can see across to the new development on the other side of the road. At first, Stefan and Adrian were planning to serve tea and coffee here but realised it would be too much work on top of everything else. Instead, they made this cosy corner for work meetings and chats like this one. As we chat and sip tea, I ask Stefan how he feels about the redevelopment plans in New Cross, and it is immediately clear from the response how strongly he feels about this:

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“The regeneration of this area has an impact on all aspects of people’s lives, which is something the new communities that are coming in are less aware of. They just move into an area, wanting everything completely new, as though everybody can start anew at a whim. It ends up damaging for existing communities. We need a more gradual process of change! Change itself is not the issue, but how it happens and how it is being forced upon us, the way it is dictated and not negotiated, that is the issue. It feels very aggressive and it is designed by people who have little or no connection to the place they are changing. Money is the prime motivator now and decisions are influenced only by how much money can be made. The perverse idea that an area can be left to decline and suddenly go from degeneration to regeneration in a very short space of time doesn’t work. Good change can only happen over a long period of time and it can only work if people who are already in the area can stay to develop it rather than being moved on, because these people take with them everything an area such as New Cross is, leaving behind a shell.”

Stefan has experience with such processes and is very aware of the gap between the decision-makers and those on the ground. He used to be part of a bee-keeping project in Kennington Park, which needed to make way for a ventilation shaft in relation to the extension of the Northern Line. “It became very clear that, despite the consultations where developers and councillors acted as if they cared, decision-makers would always get what they wanted”, Stefan remembers. Stefan came to New Cross with this background, seeing history repeat itself in the early consultations about the redevelopment of Clifton Rise. “Three councillors attended one of the earlier meetings of the Achilles Residents Group, and the way they twisted and turned everything to their own advantage…the way they put down their arguments, it’s very clever. It felt so pre-planned and you could feel the mechanism to advance their own political careers. And basically, you’re up against people who are able to come into a room full of people without answering a single question. They appear to have an interest but they only come to get an idea of the opposition they’re facing. And you really get a sense of what you’re up against; there’s never going to be a fair outcome with people like that in the room. You do also feel that they are the ones sent from above to carry the message, but they’re also there for themselves, as this is how to establish their credentials as politicians. You feel there’s an agenda they know about, that there is a real plan that only they are privy to, and which they can’t let people know about, at any cost; they have to maintain a smokescreen. You’re dealing with people who are meant to represent the community, but you never feel this is what they’re doing. It’s a new generation of politicians being born in front of your eyes.”

We change the conversation to talk about the shop. Stefan explains how he and Adrian ended up in Clifton Rise, as this is a very important element of their business. “Adrian and I used to be involved in a shop called Dig this Nursery, situated between the former Hobgoblin pub (now The Rose pub) and the railway bridge, opposite New Cross Gate Station. The shop was a hybrid of healthfoods, plants and records, and we had a casual arrangement with the owner, who provided Adrian with a space to sell his records and offered me a workshop space in which to develop hand-made paper products, which I sold in the shop. The place became very important to the local community over a number of years, so when the Hobgoblin was sold on to new owners, the owner of Dig this Nursery was forced to move on. He relocated his shop to the site of Green Onions on Clifton Rise but moved out a few months later, leaving an empty space. We saw this as an opportunity to establish ourselves in our own business but we also wanted to keep something going that had been started: a place important to the local community. It takes time to establish something like a community space and it takes people time to get used to something new in their area, so we wanted continuity.”

As we chat, Ismail comes in and starts talking to Stefan. The two appear to know one another well, and they talk about the products Ismail is buying. Ismail comes in several times a week to buy herbs and other ingredients that are hard to find in the area. I introduce myself to him and ask him whether I can photograph him with Stefan. He immediately agrees and smiles at the camera. After I tell him where I was born, he recommends kombucha, a drink made of fermented tea which has similar health benefits to kefir, a drink he knows to be commonly consumed in Austria. He is clearly very knowledgeable about health foods.  As I spend more time in the shop, I notice that many customers are regulars.

DSC_1468Stefan and Ismail

Stefan and Adrian rebuilt everything themselves, and for them Green Onions is more than just a shop. It is a space where people can meet and a space that can involve others such as the local artists and makers whose work is sold in the shop. “We wanted to make sure there was somewhere in the area that provides healthfoods, and one of the reasons we saw this as a good opportunity was that this particular location suits itself to our type of business”, Stefan explains. “Clifton Rise has a special energy; New Cross in itself has its own energy, but Clifton Rise is special. If New Cross has a centre, you could say it’s somewhere round here. It has something to do with how people move through the area, it’s a meeting of worlds, of historically richer and poorer communities; Clifton Rise is somewhere in the middle of those two.”

Stefan is aware that for some others their shop is a symptom of the gentrification in place, but he’s very clear that it’s necessary to keep in mind the processes involved in setting up such a business, particularly considering its history next to the Hobgoblin. “We were always very careful about the way we present a shop like this to people: we debated a lot about what to name it and it was important to avoid using words that would immediately exclude people.” Stefan and Adrian are well aware that their shop would be the first move of regeneration in this area but they did not anticipate the kind of regeneration that is happening now. “It’s a dilemma, because as a business we have to develop and with other businesses coming into the area we’ve had new customers too, but we did not see this kind of development coming. But in a sense our shop is also the antithesis of what is happening in the area. When we set up, there was this active intention, our philosophy if you will, that the shop would demonstrate a healthy community, a sense of continuity and of how you can do something on a budget through the use of existing materials that would otherwise have ended up in landfill. Most units in the shop are from recycled wood, prepared and installed by friends: the counter top is from an old night club, and the unit from a brand-new kitchen discarded in its original wrapping due to excessive overspending during the new development across the road.”

Ever since they found out about the plans to demolish all the shops on Clifton Rise, Stefan feels to be living in limbo. “It happened so soon after starting in 2015, although I guess we should have seen it coming.” Stefan has experienced something similar before, when he lived in Brixton, which he moved on from once it became more expensive. He now wonders whether he should stay with what they’ve built up in New Cross or whether to go somewhere where life feels more ‘normal’, having to take the risk of starting afresh. Many of his friends have already left London but he tries to keep positive: “I try to come back to my primary motivation which was an opportunity to take things to another level – to be self-sufficient…and deal with continual financial pressures. I do not want to see the energy that has been put into the shop go to waste. It also gave me purpose as I had found it difficult to put down roots in New Cross at first but now I feel more at home here. I live in one of the local housing communities and I have invested quite a lot into the life of that community as well.”

When I ask him what other motivations he has for keeping the shop going, he replies with: “People appreciate a shop like this in the area, it brings people together. I am proud because we employ three local people, and most of the artists and makers we work with live in the local area. If I want to measure the success of our business I can say that we have created jobs for ourselves and jobs for local people, and we are also giving local people the opportunity to put their work out there. One or two of the people whose work we sell have even gone on to bigger things since we opened the shop. The shop has provided them with a platform to establish themselves in the same way that we were given the opportunity in Dig this Nursery. That was a tradition Adrian and I agreed we should keep going, and this gives us a real sense of what you can do when working together; it’s a microcosm of how we see a healthy community functioning. If you take this away, you immediately feel the impact on other areas of life.”

This impact becomes clear when Stefan talks about the profound, life-changing impact closing the shop would have on his life, and listening to this gives me the goosebumps. “This will be a huge loss of something, of something I have invested a lot of energy in. It can’t be recreated. The end of this shop would be the beginning of the end of my life in London, it would be the final straw. It would be the end of a person living in London who has wanted to contribute and get actively involved in his local area and community. This loss of people who want to contribute is brain drain; it is a loss to London as a city and to the communities living in areas such as New Cross that make up the city. This process is threatening an organism, the diversity of the city, and people leaving is doing serious damage to areas.”

At this point, Stefan needed to get back to work, and as I was leaving, the shop was packed with customers from all different backgrounds in terms of age, gender, class and ethnicity. A woman expressed interest in the bags hanging at the front of the shop, bags I had been admiring when waiting for Stefan. She bought two bags and Stefan explained that the maker is a local artist who makes the bags herself at home. I buy the one that had caught my eye earlier and Stefan tells me that he met the artist, an elderly Jamaican lady, at an art fair and invited her to sell her bags in his shop. He sometimes visits her to have tea and a chat. Having witnessed the kind relationship Stefan has with his customers, I leave with a very warm feeling in my heart.

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