Hair today and gone tomorrow - Tolworth shopping experience

13 years ago...

The other day, my brother and I decided to count how many hairdressers and barbers can be found on Tolworth Broadway. Between the Roundabout at one end and Budgens at the other, we made Roop the tenth 'hair' business to be opening up. Do the people of Tolworth have particularly fast growing locks?

I also notice that the two bakers that opened up within months of each other didn't seem to get much trade - one has since closed down and the other looks as though its about to follow. I do wonder whether there was a failure to exploit the available window space by displaying appetising speciality bread and patisserie to compete with M&S. Instead, one displayed expensive handmade special occasion cakes and the other had two tables and some handwritten posters advertising lunch meal deals.

Much publicity has been given to the proposed Tescos on the the old MAFF site and the probable negative effect it will have on the broadway, but I can't help but wonder if this is already being achieved with the renting of commercial premises to duplicate businesses. Are we getting shops that are right for the town, or is it a case of leasing to whoever can stump up the cash? It could be argued that Surbiton has a plethora of cafes, yet they all seem to stay in business and it does feel as though there's plenty of pedestrians wandering up and down the high street on a Saturday morning. In comparison, Tolworth is just missing the tumbleweed to turn it into a proper Ghost Town. Perhaps the proposed regeneration of the broadway and surrounding area might attract the customers where new businesses have failed, in which case I'd like to know what has happened to all those plans? And on a related subject - what's happening to the old Red Lion Pub site? I see a Car Hand Wash crew have moved in and the digger/crane hasn't moved position in months. Are all those big plans for shops and flats dead in the water?

I guess my final questions would be - what shops DO the citizens of Tolworth want to see? Which high street chain or specialist shop would have them returning to the broadway? Do the M&S Shoppers venture further than the carpark, or do they escape as quick as possible from the vaguely depressing sight of so many hairdressers and takeaway eating places? I'll carry on doing my bit to support local businesses, but its the parking convenience and not the shopping experience that keeps me going back. Oh, that and the Sunshine Cafe breakfast No. 7.


Well, when I was a lad all I was interested in was the model plane shop on the road leading up the back of Tolworth Tower - another thing - why did they build the tower?, I was quite happy with the Odeon picture house that was there before, couldnt beat that in the summer, Saturday mornings in the flicks and the afternoon at Surbiton lagoon - suppose thats gone too? also enjoyed flying my plane at the King Charles wreck - that still there - Oh happy days living in Beresford Avenue!

Number of Hairdressers in Tolworth - I can beat that!
One day, on my regular bike ride to work, I decided to count how many Estate/Property Agents there are in Surbiton between Majestic Wine on Brighton Rd, upto Victoria Rd, and down to Claremont Rd Clock Tower.
Unbelievably I counted 16!! According to my bikeometer this distance is 1km. How can it be justified that there are 16 of them in a 1km stretch of road. Outrageously, from the corner of Claremont Rd/ Victoria Rd to Clock Tower, a mere few mts, there are no less than 6.
Disgraceful overindulgence and example of capitalist greed.

Which can't be said for the sheer number of charity shops in the same strip - so I will be doing another count soon on them.
I don't think they'll beat the Esatate Agent count, but it could be a close-run thing

Whilst Surbiton might be a small area, the continual conversion of houses to flats combined with a relatively transient population probably means that there are as many property transactions as a much larger town further out into the provinces.

I still don't understand how estate agents continue to exist as it appears to be one of the functions that could be very easily done online. How can it be viable to rent a high street premises to put a few pictures in the window?

Reply to Anonymous - My post was not aimed at the business validity of having so many Estate Agents in Surbition - but the emphasis on greed and vicious capitalism spoiling our village

Nothing wrong with charity shops Smabey esp Cancer Research & Heart Foundation ones. Not sure why Fara still deals with Romanians as they are now part of the EU!?!

Tolworth is now the PITS. Local shops whinge on about the proposed Tesco - on the MAFF/MOD site - affecting their trade but if they all closed tomorrow no one would miss them. Even the FARA charity shop has now closed. The only reason I can see for not having a Tesco if the traffic issue.

When I moved to Tolworth in 1980 there was a Woolworth, Co-op, MJM record shop, 2 shoe shops plus butchers + off licence. All gone but more to do with Kingston & more recently the Internat than Tesco.

Tolworth Broadway is exactly like any other small town. All over the country, small independant stores are closing as the big names open up in central areas. If people want to shop, they want to go to one place (Kingston) and go to all the big brand names.
In recent years we've had the trend of mobile phone shops opening, nail bars, coffee shops, cafes and hairdressers.
And like people have said, the internet has also played a big part as well as mass production. Why buy a TV from Victor Towler (now a nail bar) when you can get one delivered for less off the internet.
As for mass production and lowering prices, just think how many professions are disappearing. Where are the electrical repair shops these days, the cobblers? Even the milkman is all but gone.
Tis sad, but a sign of things to come.

Hi there, I see you mentioned Victor Towler in this post. I am a descendant of Mr Victor Towler and I'd absolutely love to find the location of his old shop. Would you happen to know the street address?

Any guidance is much appreciated!

Hi Stenno

This is all very true, but why does Surbiton seem to do better than Tolworth? And if this is an irreversible trend, why are Kingston Council consider spending so much money on regeneration? I remember going to Walton a couple of years ago and being impressed with the types of store that were opening there after they began a regeneration plan. They had pedestrianised an area that had some 'big names' trading there and the place seemed far more vibrant and a much nicer place to shop. I haven't been there lately, so can only hope that it is continuing and wonder whether this is what regeneration would do for Tolworth.

Surbiton does better than Tolworth because of the type of people that live there - London commuters who stop to shop in Waitrose or M&S on their way back from the station, or maybe have a quick drink and a meal out some nights. These are the only type of retail outlets that are flourishing in Surbiton, the others are turning into estate agents, charity shops or new restaurants at quite some rate.

Tolworth has a completely different demographic, and will always be different to Surbiton because of it's lack of a station with frequest trains in the centre of the town.

Walton is a good case in point, as the 'Heart' development has undoubtedly improved a town centre that was as bad as Tolworth in some ways. I think that key difference is that Walton is a fair slog for the nearest shopping 'destination' town (Guildford or Kingston) where as Tolworth is only a couple of miles. Also, despite it's down at heel town centre, Walton still had a 'posh' reputation compared to Tolworth which has the opposite.

The downside with developments such as the Heart is also clear in Walton, though. It hasn't done much to improve the rest of the town centre, which if anything feels slightly more tatty in comparison to the new centre standing in it's midst.

True. Surbiton station is pretty much in the middle of Surbiton and it's high streets. Tolworth station on the other hand is right on the edge, the wrong side of the A3 and to me has always seemed like quite a dingy station that you don't want to hang around at at night.
If it wasn't for congestion, I'd be fully behind a new Tesco's in order to spruce the area up.

I see that ~£2,100,000 is to be spent on Tolworth Broadway, getting rid of the railings in the middle of the traffic and installing a 'boardwalk' sort of thing down the middle - it'll be difficult to browse through the windows of the shops with 2 lanes of traffic between you and the shops. Good use of money or not - what do you think?

hello there Cranes Park,if the Eu are funding it fine,if I am funding it then not so good.

Oh you're paying for it Poppy - we're all paying for it if we pay taxes.

How many coffee shops do we *really* need in 1 sq km?
How many charity shops do we *really* need in 1 sq km?
How many hair dressers/barbers do we *really* need in 1 sq km?
How many pizza takeaways do we *really* need in 1 sq km?
How many opticians do we *really* need in 1 sq km?

There's a good reason why places like Tolworth Broadway are full of cafés, charity shops, hairdressers, pizza takeaways and opticians. Everything else — food, clothes, housewares etc can be bought over the internet, often at a substantial saving over High Street prices, and delivered to your door the next day. We live in changing times.

hi DavidJ1

Whilst I agree with you that one good reason so many of the shops on the broadway may be suffering is because of the Internet..... how come Surbiton or Kingston shopping centres appear more successful? Certainly there are less empty premises to let in those particularly shopping centres. Is it because there aren't that many places you can buy 'stuff' to take home in Tolworth? Some of the biggest premises in Tolworth have been converted into a radio station, financial services place and a children's nursery to go along with the eating establishments of every nationality, charity shops and hairdressers. I see that a Cash Converters place has opened up now which rather suggests another nail in the coffin of Tolworth and how its perceived by people. I guess the irony will be evident if all that cash that gets converted is spent anywhere other than the Broadway.

Not sure I'd agree about Surbiton being that successful as a shopping centre. Victoria Road is very nice when compared to Tolworth Broadway, but it is stil quite scruffy when you consider the relatively affluent community it serves.

Sure, being a mile from Kingston is always going to be a problem when attracting 'real' shops to Surbiton, but there are the same problems as in Tolworth Broadway, just to a lesser extent (empty shops, nail bar, 'cash your payday cheque' place, too many takeaways, betting shops and charity shops).

I don't think that any town centre is truly prospering in this environment, and if Tolworth Broadway could be brought up to anything near the standard of Victoria Road it would be great, but Surbiton should not be held up as an example of a good shopping area in my opinion.

oohhhh, fellow Anon

I'm not sure I was going as far as saying that Victoria Road was a decent shopping area - only observing that it seems to have more 'footfall' than Tolworth, despite having just as few 'high street names'. Its a similar size and and in the same area as Tolworth, hence the comparison. I heard it described on one of these BBC house-selling programmes as "the town with a village feel" and , "a coffee shop culture" - apparently two qualities that attract the young professionals. (Their words.)

Someone else has mentioned the regeneration plan and I agree that it was quite disappointing seeing what was in the pipeline - not sure that the painted green tarmac in the middle of the main road is going to attract quite the amount of cyclists and shoppers stopping for a relaxing sit, as the artist's impression would have you believe. At least, not when you consider the noise and exhaust fumes generated by what is one of the main routes through to the A3/Ewell Bypass. I suspect that nothing short of pedestrianising (is that a word?) the whole area would regenerate Tolworth Broadway.

There are two factors that attract the 'young professionals' to Surbiton. One is the fast train link into Waterloo and the other is the general 'nice' feel of the place. Most of these people would have moved to Richmond or Wimbledon ten years ago, but the massive rise in house prices mean that they have to move out a bit further, and Surbiton is much cheaper whilst still being quite nice.

The village feel and the coffee shop culture followed these people into the town, I think. I moved to the area 15 years ago, and there was no Waitrose, one coffee shop, and the nice area around Maple Road had nothing going on at all. Prior to that, the town centre was even scruffier, despite being the 'traditional home of stockbrokers and investment bankers' (another weird claim on BBC Newsnight a couple of years back.)

The same could happen in Tolworth, but it seems unlikely. I don't want to bash the area like others on here, but it has no river, no open green space, an infrequent train service and rows of 1930's semis that are cheap compared to Surbiton, but still too expensive for first time buyers to afford.

I think many millions would have to be invested to turn it round, and I am not even sure I would know how to spend it!

Anon, Tolworth does have a river - The Hogsmill - and there are a number of fields and green spaces around it where you can walk. In theory it has a lot going for it, in pratice it seems to have lost its sparkle. I think one of the major contributors to this is the traffic: The A3 and Tolworth Roundabout junctions have become such major routes that you can barely hear yourself talk when walking down the broadway for the thundering traffic roaring by on its way to London or the M25.

Since my earlier suggestion of pedestrianisation would be impossible to achieve,I guess I'll just have to hope that some new businesses revitalise the broadway. I'll just have to wait with anticipation for the re-opening of the recently vacated bakers as hairdresser's number 11.........

Perhaps people living in Tolworth would rather catch a bus or drive to Surbiton or Kingston to do their shopping, Tolworth does seem to have a charisma bypass. I live in Surbiton and wouldn't go out of my way to shop in Tolworth. The only store worth visiting is M&S, but I would rather go to Kingston as Tolworth M&S is very limited on its clothes department, and Surbiton has M&S Food anyway. Tolworth seems such a large depressing space, give me Surbiton or Kingston any time.

Tolworth is not a wealthy suburb so M&S is a bit pointless,perhaps a Primark in the same shop would attract more footfall and fewer 4 X4's clogging up the car park and local roads?

Poppy, I think that's a little bit of a generalization. I used to live on the outskirts of Tolworth many years ago and I can tell you that the a lot of the people around those parts are far wealthier than you and I. The M&S and is far from pointless and does a very good trade.
Primark would probably double the 4x4 drivers and would be a good addition to the Broadway, but not to replace M&S.
I agree the Broadway is in need of a 'variety' of shops and would do very well do add some high street brands which would in turn boost the smaller independent business.

Will this ever happen? Probably not, Tesco will get its way and destroy the Broadway but thats life!

Destroying the Broadway, that's a good one... not much to destroy really. They could knock the whole lot down and cause millions of pounds worth of imrpovements. Tolworth Broadway is a DUMP

You may be right anon,wealth is always relative and often displayed by spectacular meaness,something I regret to say does at times apply to me,but I would rejoice if Tesco did get its permission.

That seems most unlikely now that Tesco is seen as the great retail satan which must be resisted at all costs and villified for being both a national and international titan,success is always loathed in this country.

Have you been into the Tesco metro on the Broadway or Tesco New Malden recently?
They are filthy, run down places selling borderline fresh food.
I never shop in them.

Letting Tesco get their way with the MAFF site is not the answer to Tolworth's problems.

Welcome to England Ionkontrol!
Fresh produce is rarity in any supermarket and I think you'll also find 'filthy' and 'run down' places where ever you look, it's been this way since time began.
I certainly wouldn't describe Tolworth as a dump, but rather as work in progress. It has the potential but unfortunately it may be some time before we see it shine.

It certainly should have the potential! Tolworth is a half hour train ride from Waterloo, a minute from the A3 with good housing stock that can be as little as half the price as in central Surbiton. OK, Surbiton has the river, parks and faster trains but I bet the difference in price would be much less if Tolworth was tidied up a bit and lost the bad reputation that it has now.

There can't be many places in the south east of England that are so conveniently placed yet so unloved and shabby as Tolworth.

I noticed on the news this morning that Tescos are introducing hairdresser salons into their shops...... so if the proposed superstore did go ahead, then that would put half the broadway out of business straight away! I think calling it a dump is a bit harsh, though its certainly gone downhill in the last 20 years. Having lived in the area for 40 years, I remember when we had 3 jewellers, 2 shoe shops, a woolworths and a record store. I even remember when Victor Towlers wasn't just a sign painted on the side of a building..... Personally, I think that Primarks would be a step in the wrong direction - then we'd just need a Lidl's and a pound superstore to really go downmarket. A good clothes shop would be a welcome addition however. Not necessarily expensive, but one that you can go into without walking round mounds of clothes and shoes chucked on the floor, getting grubby, like I experienced the one time I ventured into Primark in Kingston. To go back to the original posting - does anyone know the latest regards either the regeneration plan or the Red Lion pub redevelopment?

The Red Lion redevelopment of 50 flats plus shops (probably a Waitrose or Sainsbury) will be awaiting when CNM estates find some money to complete or start all their 6 sites in Surbiton. At the moment they illegally leased the site to Car wash/ car sales who have been refused planning permission so now have an enforcement notice to get off the site by 15 Feb. After that who knows who will take up residence.

Great isn't it. They start something without planning permission yet they're given 1 month to quit. Turf them out now I say!

Cannot do that Stenno,they are Polish and have human rights.

Please tell me your comment is tongue in cheek!! Otherwise I'm setting up a meth lab with Polish workers and demanding a months notice before the police raid it.

Kingston could have agreed a "stop notice" as part of the enforcement action but chose not to as they thought it would cost Kingston a lot of money. But the law states that the occupier must bear the cost! Anyway it is nearly 15th Feb, the car sales have gone and hopefully it will all be boarded up soon or CNM WILL start in MaY. That what they said but somehow I don't believe it as nothing is happening on any CNM sites.

A little TIC but may have got the accent incorrect

I know the answers to all you have commented on.

You need lots of estate agents to sell empty homes which nobody can afford anymore and without a home you need the coffee shops to spend your social security and keep out of the rain and later their doorways to sleep in at night. Then you need the charity shops to obtain cheap clothes or better still pillage the clothing bins, but don't do as others have done and get stuck halfway.
Not sure about the hairdressing shops but they are a good source of employment on the minimum wage. It is the same everywhere.

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