The thriving district of Tooting in Wandsworth has a rich and fascinating historical heritage, with the first settlements dating back to at least the Anglo-Saxon period according to the BBC. The long and eventful history of this once-off-the-radar enclave has included a period as a thriving Victorian trading hub and an upscale Edwardian suburb, the result of which is a kaleidoscope of hugely varied architecture.
Some of the highlights of Tooting’s architectural gems come from the 1930s, when the area was graced by some of the most ambitious architects of the British art deco movement. While few other areas in the UK experienced much of this American-influenced style, Tooting seems to have got it in spades.
The crowning glory of art deco architecture in Tooting, and perhaps all of London, is the palatial Buzz Bingo hall, which has recently undergone a loving and painstaking restoration as part of Buzz Bingo’s nationwide rebranding efforts. The result is a gorgeous architectural icon which, rather than falling into disuse and decay, has been revitalized as a thriving nightlife and entertainment hub.
The Buzz Bingo building is an imposing art deco tower that is somewhat reminiscent of the Senate House in Bloomsbury or even the iconic Fuller Building in the heart of the New York borough of Manhattan. While such a style might at first seem out of place in somewhere like Tooting, the new refurbishment has ensured that the architectural style complements perfectly the surrounding area, on the bustling Mitcham Road thoroughfare.
The bingo hall started its life back in 1031, where it opened as the Granada, a theatre and cinema designed to the decadent specifications of the movement in an era where almost every family in Britain visited the cinema at least twice a week. The first-ever screening was the American comedy film Monte Carlo, starring the sultry Hollywood starlet Jeanette MacDonald as the love interest of Monaco royalty.
Following a ten-year span as a popular cinema, the building went on to to host some of the world’s most famous artists during a stint as a live music venue, including The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and the Rolling Stones, causing mile-long queues to be a regular fixture on Mitcham Road. By the time the 1960s rolled around, attendance had dropped significantly and the building was in danger of demolition, only being saved thanks to a last-minute intervention to award the building Grade II listed status.
Since then, the building has experienced a renaissance and renewed interest from locals and tourists alike. The refurbishment has left the gorgeous original interiors largely intact, making it possibly the most ornate bingo hall in the whole of the UK. Young and old people from across London have been keeping the place crowded since the reopening, thanks partly to the affordable range of food and drinks on offer, as well as the opportunity to play a classic game of bingo inside a living piece of history.
The building is undoubtedly a much-treasured piece of Tooting’s rich heritage, and the renewal of the place as a lively entertainment venue means that future generations will be able to enjoy it in perpetuity.