Colliers Wood looting

Published on 9 August 2011 in , , , ,

Colliers Wood. You’ve probably never heard of it. It’s a small place nestled between Wimbledon, Mitcham, Morden and Tooting. It’s in the borough of Merton and in the historic parish of Merton. It has a pig ugly tower painted black and some out of town style shopping centres. Nothing really happens here. Normally.

Last night something did. Sirens were blazing, reports coming in thick and fast of looting and arson. Colliers Wood was caught up in the London riots. Reports were coming in of looting at JD Sports, of Harveys and Mothercare being in flames.

Earlier in the day I’d read that the police were warning businesses of potential trouble, and that our giant Sainsburys and Marks and Spencers had closed up just after lunch, just in case.

Reading those reports at the time, it seemed like a complete over-reaction. Nothing happens here. The Borough of Merton has something like the fourth lowest crime rate in London. We get regular newsletters from our local police where the worst that is mentioned is a stolen bicycle or some minor graffiti. About nine months ago a Police Community Support Officer popped round to tell us to be alert as an ironing board had been stolen from next doors shed. The shed, incidentally, had been left unlocked. The chances that anything would seriously happen in the area felt slim.

Yet as the evening went on and as we watched in disbelief the various reports on the TV, the number of sirens in the area increased dramatically. Reports on Twitter from a local journalist told us attempted looting was going on at JD Sports, PC World and Argos. Soon neighbouring Harveys furniture store was on fire.

We live a few minutes walk from the two out of town style shopping centres of Colliers Wood. Outside, at various points, small hooded teenagers were milling around. As I stood at the window, one shrunk into the shadows as a car went past before heading out to boast to two teenage girls that “I woz at Brixton last night”. Nothing much was happening – why draw attention to themselves by moving the focus of police activity from the shops? – but the amount of shouting and running around in the area was noticeable.

By about 11 o’clock all had died down. Ironically this was just the time things really started kicking off in a big way in other parts of London.

The next morning Catherine and myself headed out on to the streets to survey the damage and to see if there was anything we could clean up. Thankfully the area was pretty unscathed.

The damage was highly targeted at a few stores. A small number of JD Sports coathangers on the pavement suggested that they’d got in there and apparently the nearby Argos was looted too. Clearly people had tried to rob Jessops, Currys and PC World but mostly failed. Instead most of the damage was on nearby stores – presumably attacked in frustration. Both Harveys and Mothercare are sandwiched between Currys and PC World. Both looked gutted by fire.

Similarly near Jessops the Coral betting shop had had its windows smashed in. But the neighbouring travel agent, Nandos and Starbucks were all intact, and Starbucks was busy serving coffee like nothing had happened, whilst two police man blocked off access to the main shopping centre car park. We’d come out to see if we could help clear anything up. Bar a few coathangers there wasn’t much to do.

Looking at it, it was hard not to conclude one thing and one thing only. Colliers Wood was certainly not the victim of riots. This was no mindless violence. It had nothing to do with protesting and nothing to do with someone being shot in Tottenham. Colliers Wood was the victim of highly targeted attempted (and no doubt, in some cases, successful) robbery and nothing more.

A lot of London has been severely damaged the last few days. Surveying the damage this morning, Colliers Wood has got off lightly. The fact that the police were, compared to most areas, relatively prepared, knew this was planned, no doubt helped.

As a policeman at the Tandem Centre told us, “There’s not much to do. Just keep smiling.”

It’s hard to do when your community has been attacked. But important. Colliers Wood, London, Britain. We must keep smiling. We must keep going on. We must not let these scumbags defeat us. They must not be allowed to and will not be allowed to win.

Update 11:36am – after a slightly closer inspection Harveys doesn’t seem to be as affected as I initially thought, however Mothercare certainly looks a mess.


  • Hilary Patterson says:

    What an excellent blog… totally expressed all my sentiments exactly. I did the same as you and thought they were overreacting when I saw all the shope were shutting, then listening to all the sirens and shouting and noise I was gobsmacked that it could be happening here. All for a few pairs of trainers …

  • GC says:

    So glad I found your blog – gradually getting an accurate picture of what’s been happening in the area (while we’ve been away).
    You’re spot on about twitter being full of mistruth and exaggeration – if everything I’ve read in the last 2 days were true, there’d barely be a building standing.
    Would you still say that CW wasn’t the victim of riots? Sources you would assume to be reliable talk of a hundred youths involved, missiles thrown, police forced to retreat, looting, burning and fighting. Certainly nothing to do with protest, but surely more than robbery?

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    There’s no denying at all that we got hit but I wouldn’t call it rioting at all. It was targeted and organised robbery/looting on a huge scale. They went after a small number of shops and left everything else mostly alone.
    I must say I didn’t go out that night but from what I’ve read from some of the Wimbledon Guardian’s journalists who were on the scene, there were a couple of hundred people around at one point.
    The burning wasn’t as bad as was made out that night – there were photographs of Jessops and Harveys with smoke coming out of them but whatever happened was minor and Jessops was open today. Mothercare on the other hand is a charred mess and won’t be open for some time.
    All in all we escaped lightly compared to places like Ealing. The fact is that most shops were open today as normal and outside the Priory and Tandem Centres, the whole area is unscathed. Bar Mothercare and Harveys, the targets were electrical retailers, sports shops and the Total petrol station. Most other shops were left well alone. There was little in the line of mindless violence so I’m convinced it was robbery and little more.