Sutton High Street

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Sutton High Street
Sutton, Surrey London Sutton High Street -.JPG
A view of Sutton High Street within its Conservation Area section
Length 0.9 mi[1] (1.4 km)
Postal code SM1
north end Angel Hill
51°22′18″N 0°11′40″W / 51.3718°N 0.1945°W / 51.3718; -0.1945
south end Brighton Road
51°21′33″N 0°11′29″W / 51.3593°N 0.1913°W / 51.3593; -0.1913

Sutton High Street is a high street[2] running north-south through the town of Sutton in the London Borough of Sutton. Sutton is one of the eleven major metropolitan centres identified in the London Plan,[3] and the town benefits from very low crime by London standards (see Crime in London).

The High Street area constitutes the sixth most important retail centre in London, and is home to many restaurants and major retail names. It is pedestrianised for most of its length, and a conservation area runs down a three hundred yard section. There are three examples of public art in the street, and two parks at either end of it. Along with Wimbledon Studios, it is a hub for filming in south-west London.[2]


Painting of The Cock inn by Thomas Rowlandson in 1789.[4]
High Street, Sutton, Xmas Show Week, Christmas 1910
The London and Provincial Bank Building constructed in 1894 (today occupied by Barclays)

In the late seventeenth century, long before Sutton was part of London, two toll roads intersected at what is now the junction of Carshalton/Cheam Road and Sutton High Street, leading to the development of a small settlement around the tollhouse. In the mid-eighteenth century a law was passed to allow widening and maintenance of the roads, providing a further spur to development. By the beginning of the 19th century Sutton had become a fully-fledged village, and the road that is now Sutton High Street was dotted with a number of houses, pubs and craft-based shops from Sutton Green southwards up to the Cock crossroads. The overall population of Sutton was 569 at that time, and there were about forty buildings that started to form the High Street; this number gradually grew to a hundred by 1850.[5]

Being on the main road ("turnpike") from London to Brighton the village's two large inns, the Cock and the Greyhound, served coaches travelling through the village.[6] The Cock was a coaching inn whose sign straddled the Brighton road. Its proprietor was the champion pugilist, "Gentleman" Jackson.[4] The building was demolished in 1898, shortly after a new Cock Hotel had been constructed on a directly adjacent site to the north.[7] Its name originated from the cock horses needed along this part of the road. Twenty horse and carts passed up and down this stretch in a day. Regular contact beyond the town brought both expansion and sophistication. Small businesses opened up, at first directly related to travellers on the turnpike – bakers and brewers to feed visitors, seamstresses to provide running repairs, leather workers to make or mend harnesses – and then to provide trade goods for neighbouring communities.[8]

When the railway arrived, Sutton's people had become travellers themselves.[8] The population of Sutton grew and the village turned into a town.[6] The High Street near the top was known as Cock Hill until the 1880s – the shops on the east side were built in 1880, ten years later than those on the west side.[9] A notatable building to appear around this time was the grand and decorative 1894 London and Provincial Bank building (now home to Barclays Bank), which stands over the historic crossroads.[5] By 1900 the High Street had become heavily built up.[6] By the late 1930s the shops had altered, but the buildings above remained much the same. One new building at this time was Ernest Shinner's new department store,[9] which replaced a Baptist church that had been built in 1886.[6] This later became Allders.

The oldest retail business currently operating in Sutton dates back to the 1860s – Pearson Cycles was originally a blacksmith shop, but in the 1890s changed to bicycle making and repair. The Pearsons have run the cycle business from the same High Street location ever since.[10]

Crossroads and conservation area[edit]

Historic crossroads in the Conservation Area

The high street includes a conservation area, the Sutton Town Centre High Street Crossroads Conservation Area,[11] which was designated on 9 May 2011, following a review of the town centre, which highlighted the historic importance of the highway network at the crossroads of Cheam Road/Carshalton Road and the High Street, as well as the associated buildings and spaces. The conservation area focuses on the area around the historic crossroads, and stretches from the Station down to Trinity Square. The local authority noted that the buildings, especially their upper storeys, were worthy of preservation and enhancement. "Treasuring and enhancing" the area would help to promote a stronger local identity; the regeneration of Sutton town centre; increased visitor numbers; and support for retailers and a vibrant town centre[11] Gordon Rookledge in his "Sutton Architectural Identifier" remarks on the "vivid, Victorian, polychrome brick and stone façades" in his description of Sutton High Street.[12]


A patisserie in Sutton High Street

Sutton High Street began as a shopping street in Victorian times, and Sutton town centre now has over four hundred retail outlets occupying more than 120,000 square metres of floor space.[13] It is London's sixth most important retail centre, and attracts shoppers from a wide area. It is often the chosen location for new retail ventures.[14] Many of the country's main High Street names are represented in the central area,[15] as are banks, building societies and estate agents.

Sutton High Street has in recent decades gained two covered shopping centres, both of which are situated in the central High Street area. The larger of these is the St. Nicholas Centre, opened in 1992[16] with three main levels,[17] and five levels for Debenhams, the main anchor store[18] which opened in 2005 after the collapse of Allders.[19] It attracts an average of 20,000 visitors per day Monday to Sunday, 35,000 on Saturday, and twice this during December.[20] Times Square is the smaller of the two;[21] it opened in 1985,[10] and was granted planning approval for a refit in June 2014. Major high street names are expected to take space in the refurbished centre.[22]

Restaurants and bars[edit]

A French restaurant in Sutton High Street

The Sutton High Street area also has a number of restaurants, patisseries, coffee houses, gastro pubs, clubs and bars, including the country's first branch of All Bar One.[23] The central area is pedestrianised, facilitating the setting up of outdoor tables by several establishments.

Sutton's range of restaurants has expanded in recent years, with culinary offerings from around the world including French, Spanish, British, Mexican, Malaysian, Thai, Pakistani, Portuguese, Turkish, Italian, Indian and Chinese cuisine.[24][25] These include a French restaurant which is listed in The Good Food Guide and is Michelin-listed.[26][27]

Rolling Stones gigs in High Street pub[edit]

There is a pub in Sutton High Street called the Winning Post, at the time known as the Red Lion, in which The Rolling Stones played several gigs and where they were spotted in 1963 by Giorgio Gomelsky,[28] a noted music manager, who was in the audience during a historic early gig there.[29][30][31] It was also at the Winning Post that, on 23 January 1963, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman became permanent members of the band.[32]

In 2011, the Winning Post was added to a list of buildings and structures of local significance.[33][34]


There are currently three large supermarket stores in the town centre, the two largest – Asda[35] and Morrisons[36] – at opposite ends of the High Street, whilst a large Marks and Spencer is at the midpoint of the High Street.[37]


View north down Sutton High St showing the armillary in front of bookshop

There are a number of book retailers in the town centre including Waterstones. Its site once was an independent department store when it was built and opened by Ernest Shinner in 1935, and was taken over by Allders in 1979. Allders moved to the then new St Nicholas Centre in 1992.[10] This branch of Waterstones was the first branch to have a cafe installed.[38] W H Smith also has a branch in the high street.[39]

Public Art[edit]

Sutton town centre features six major examples of public art, three of them in the High Street.

Two of these are building-height murals. One consists of a set of seven individual murals on one side wall depicting Sutton's European twin towns. The murals were designed and painted (on to plywood) by professional artists Gary Drostle and Rob Turner and were unveiled in 1993 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Sutton's twinning with Wilmersdorf.

Sutton Heritage Mosaic

There is also the Heritage Mosaic measuring 9 metres (30 ft) high and 5 metres (16 ft) wide, and covering the whole of another three storey wall in the town square near the Waterstone's bookshop. Commissioned to celebrate Sutton's heritage, the Drostle and Turner mosaic was made from small tiles made of glass and clay, and put in place in 1994. It was designed by Rob Turner, and shows several aspects of Sutton's heritage and local history. The centre-piece is the depiction of Henry VIII's palace at Nonsuch. [40]

Main article: Sutton armillary

In addition to the murals, there is the "Millennium Dial Armillary", which was dedicated to the town in the year 2000 by the Rotary Club. The Millennium Dial Armillary is a popular feature of the town and continues to provide an iconic focus for the town centre.[41] It was originally installed in the centre of a small "Millennium Garden", but was slightly re-positioned in 2011, since when it has stood on the edge of the new central square, directly in front of the Waterstones bookshop.

Other features of interest[edit]

As well as public art (described above), there is also a Green Wall, designed both for aesthetic reasons and to improve air quality and encourage biodiversity. This "vertical garden" covers the façade of a large High Street store, and is in bloom all year round.[42]

The high street and town square also host street performers whose range includes live music, arts and theatre. In addition, markets are held from time to time, including French, Italian and Continental markets, as well as arts and crafts fairs.[15] In August and September the high street plays host to the outdoor "Sunset Cinema," where popular films are shown in the evening after the shops have closed to an audience seated in deckchairs.[43]

Future development[edit]

A 2007 retail study found a need for 25% more retail floorspace as well as new mixed use development to accommodate office space, leisure, cultural and residential facilities.[44]

There is co-ordination among the businesses in the town centre in the form of a town centre manager, who works in partnership with local businesses, the police and transport providers to promote the centre and its future development.[45]

"Opportunity Sutton"[46] and Sutton Chamber of Commerce[47] also play a part in promoting future economic development in the town, which, prior to the current activity set out below, was characterised by developers as "one of London's hidden gems".[48]

Old Gasworks (Sutton North Central)[edit]

Sutton High St near the northern end. The Old Gasworks site is 300 yards further north.

An initial public consultation took place in mid-2012 on plans for a further supermarket, a 123,270 sq ft branch of Sainsbury's,[49] in the town as part of a planned redevelopment of a large (6 acre), mainly disused site bordering the northern end of the High Street, which would also include homes, retail units, and a new public square with a water feature.[50][51] A public exhibition for the development (initially dubbed "Sutton North Central" but in later reports referred to as "The Old Gasworks"[52]) was held in late autumn 2012, in conjunction with which plans of a more specific nature than previously, including indicative images, were made available. Slightly revised plans, taking account of suggestions from local residents and other local stakeholders, were released in June 2013. Following further revisions, a formal town planning application was submitted in October 2013 for an increased number of apartments, the large supermarket, a mix of retail units and a landscaped square.[53] On Wednesday, 18 December 2013 those plans were accepted in a council vote. Concerns were raised about the lack of affordable housing created within the plans.[52] Work on site commenced in Spring 2014 for what will constitute the biggest single regeneration of the town centre in a generation.

Sutton Point[edit]

CNM Estates are redeveloping a site formerly known as South Point at the southern end of the town centre, adjacent to the railway station. The new development to be known as "Sutton Point" will be for mixed use and include a hotel, a health club, apartments, shops, restaurants and offices.[54] The scheme will also include a car club to reduce the need for individual car ownership.[55] The scheme was granted planning approval in mid-2013, and work on-site started in Spring 2014.[56]

Sutherland House[edit]

In addition, a planning application has been put in to redevelop the large Sutherland House office building in Brighton Road, just south of the railway station, into apartments, restaurants and cafés around an illuminated piazza.[57] The local council refused planning permission in 2013 over its concern about the lack of affordable housing. This refusal went to appeal, but was upheld by an inspector from central government. In 2014 the developers, Criterion Capital, having put in a revised application, decided instead to use the permitted development mechanism, which allows developments to go ahead providing they meet specific criteria.[58]

Subsea7 new UK Headquarters[edit]

A 630-space car park on Brighton Road just past the top of the high street was bought by sea engineering company Subsea7 from the council and is being replaced by a five-storey, 17,500 square metre, set of offices of modern design to become the company's new Sutton base and UK headquarters.[59] Following judicial review, building work commenced in Spring 2014.[56] Four hundred professional jobs will be added in Sutton, mainly by graduate recruitment.[60]


Before the railway arrived in 1847, transport was by horse and carriage. The London to Brighton stagecoach began in 1760, and the Cock Hotel in what is now Sutton High Street was the 9 a.m. breakfast stop for coaches leaving the city two hours earlier.[8] Sutton railway station is at the top (southern end) of the High Street and Sutton Common railway station just west of the Angel Hill footbridge. The fastest services from the former to London Victoria take 24 minutes.

There is a one-way system around the High Street and two main public car parks – Gibson Road[61] and Times Square[62] – with a third serving the St. Nicholas Centre.[63] The street is served by many buses, most of which are operated by Transport for London.[64] There are also express coach services to both London Heathrow and London Gatwick airports.[64][65]

As of mid-2014, a consultation was taking place into options for the route of a proposed Tramlink extension from Wimbledon to Sutton, with one option being to run the line down Sutton High Street.[66]


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  2. ^ a b "Filmmaking renaissance for borough of Sutton". BBC. Retrieved 2 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Mayor of London (February 2008). "London Plan (Consolidated with Alterations since 2004)". Greater London Authority. 
  4. ^ a b Charles Harper (1922), The Brighton Road, Cecil Palmer, pp. 158–159 
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  6. ^ a b c d London Borough of Sutton – Article
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  27. ^ "Brasserie Vacherin ViaMichelin : Useful information and online user reviews". 4 October 2013. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  28. ^ Dr R F Schwartz. How Britain Got the Blues: The Transmission and Reception of American Blues Style in the United Kingdom. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 149. 
  29. ^ London History Tours, Adrian Sill, Jeremy Tipton. "The Stones at the Red Lion". Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
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  31. ^ Schwartz, R. F. (2013). How Britain Got the Blues: The Transmission and Reception of American Blues Style in the United Kingdom. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 9781409493761. 
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  34. ^ By This is Croydon (2011-05-13). "A CELEBRATED music pub which helped the Rolling Stones on their road to fame will be preserved for posterity.". Croydon Advertiser. Retrieved 2014-02-15. 
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  40. ^ Drostle and Turner fine tiles — Sutton Heritage page
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External links[edit]

Media related to High Street, Sutton, London at Wikimedia Commons