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Stuart Freedman’s Pie & Mash & Eels

January 17, 2014
by the gentle author

At Manze’s Tower Bridge Rd, London’s oldest Pie & Mash Shop, which opened in 1897

In days like these, we all need steaming-hot pie & mash & eels to fortify us, as we face the vicissitudes of life and the weather. It gave photographer Stuart Freedman the excuse to visit some favourite culinary destinations and serve up these tasty pictures for us, accompanied by this brief historical introduction as an appetiser.

Eels have long been a staple part of London food and were once synonymous with the city and its people. Lear’s Fool in his ramblings to the King, witters – “Cry to it, nuncle, as the Cockney did to the eels when she put ‘em i’ the paste alive, she knapped ‘em o’ the coxcombs with a stick, and cried ‘Down, wantons, down!’”

In a city bisected by the Thames, the eel’s popularity was that it was plentiful, cheap and, when most meat or fish had to be preserved in salt, eels could be kept alive in puddles of water. Reverend David Badham reports in his ‘Prose Halieutics Or Ancient & Modern Fish Tattle’ in 1854 – “London steams and teems with eels alive and stewed. For one halfpenny, a man of the million may fill his stomach with six or seven long pieces and wash them down with a sip of the glutinous liquid they are stewed in.”

Such was the demand that eels were brought over from The Netherlands in great quantities by Dutch eel schuyts, commended for helping feed London during the Great Fire. Although they were seen as inferior to domestic eels, the British government rewarded the Dutch for their charity by Act of Parliament in 1699, granting them exclusive rights to sell eels from their barges on the Thames.

When the Thames became increasingly polluted and could no longer sustain a significant eel population during the nineteenth century, the Dutch ships had to stop further upstream to prevent their cargo being spoiled and the rise of the Pie & Mash Shops was a direct result of the adulteration of eels and pies sold on the streets.

A delivery of live eels at F. Cooke in Hoxton

Joe Cooke kills and guts the eels freshly at the rear of his shop in Hoxton Market

A dish of jellied eels served up in Hoxton

Paddy makes the pie lids at F. Cooke in Broadway Market

Tasty pies awaiting their destiny in Broadway Market

Joe strains the golden potatoes in Hoxton

Joe fills a bucket of creamy mash behind the counter in Hoxton

Kelly dishes up pies & mash with liquor at Manze’s in Tower Bridge Rd

Tucking in at Manze’s in Tower Bridge Rd

Manze’s, Walthamstow

Manze’s, Tower Bridge Rd

Sawdust at Manze’s in Walthamstow

Victorian tiling at Manze’s in Tower Bridge Rd

Original 1897 interior at Manze’s in Tower Bridge Rd

Lisa at Manze’s in Walthamstow

Miss Emily McKay enjoying pie & mash as an eighty-eighth birthday treat in Broadway Market

Clock of 1911 at F. Cooke in Broadway Market

Interior of F. Cooke in Broadway Market

F.Cooke – “trading from this premises since 1900”

Enjoying eels in Hoxton Market

Interior of Manze’s in Walthamstow

Art Nouveau tiles in Walthamstow

Vinegar, salt & pepper on marble tables at F.Cooke in Hoxton Market

Wolfing it down at Manze’s in Tower Bridge Rd

Glass teacups at Manze’s in Walthamstow

Wooden benches and tables of marble and wrought iron at Manze’s in Tower Bridge Rd

Bob Cooke, fourth generation piemaker, at F.Cooke in Broadway Market

Photographs copyright © Stuart Freedman

You may also like to read about

Boiling the Eels at Barney’s Seafood

Some Favourite Pie & Mash Shops

More Favourite Pie & Mash Shops

Tubby Isaac’s Jellied Eels Stall

20 Responses leave one →
  1. January 17, 2014

    I didn’t know any such places still existed. I should try mash and eels sometime. But though I am pretty broad-minded in matters of new tastes, this is a dish I don’t altogether fancy. Someone will have to take me in hand.

  2. Annabel Mallia permalink
    January 17, 2014

    Great to see that you can still get freshly prepared food with local and fresh, seasonal ingredients.

  3. January 17, 2014

    Used to sometimes go to Manze’s during the school lunch break with friends who were keen on pie and mash. Bit of a culinary cultural leap for me but was fascinated by this old tradition that was still going strong in places and looks like nothing has changed!

  4. Greg Tingey permalink
    January 17, 2014

    I know the Hackney Market & Walthamstow shops.
    The Walthamstow one is, unfortunately near the bottom of High St Market – the area has gone down badly in the oast 20 years – unlike the top which is “on the up” – as a result of the gentrification of the area.
    Takes me 10-12 minutes to reach the W”stow branch, from the top of the hill.
    [ And no: – I’ve been here since 1948 … ]

  5. January 17, 2014

    How wonderful to see an old and original interior that hasn’t been killed by modernisation, or destroyed. Valerie

  6. January 17, 2014

    Most interesting! — But by the way: what about an English Breakfast, respectively a portion of Cream Tea in the afternoon?

    ACHIM 😉

  7. Patricia Taylor permalink
    January 17, 2014

    I so enjoyed this blog. I lived in Dalston as a child and my favourite meal was
    pie and mash from Cooke’s in Kingsland Road. I was often sent there bowl in
    hand to collect the pies mash and liquor for a Saturday lunch. Could barely
    reach the top of the marble counter. I went some years ago to the final
    closing night and it was very emotional. Took a bottle of wine thinking it
    would be laughed at but the champagne corks were popping and old ladies
    were crying. I went to school with Fred Cooke and so it was a saying goodbye
    and a reunion all in one. Must go to Hoxton and enjoy it again.

  8. Emdee permalink
    January 17, 2014

    Don’t forget Maureen’s in Wood Street, Walthamstow… DEFINITELY the tastiest pies 🙂

  9. Susan Goldman permalink
    January 17, 2014

    Love those old pie and mash shops. My parents still go to Cooke’s in Broadway Market when they come to London. After looking at the lovely pies now I want one!

  10. January 17, 2014

    Back in 1948/49 every Saturday I’d ride my bike from Beacontree to East Ham High Street to pay off my mothers little nipper gramophone and she’d give me the money for my Pie & Mash, best treat in the world ( we were still rationed back then) and I’d have two pies and mash with parsley sauce; I can taste it now. Heaven!

    Then I’d get on my bike and ride it off, fair old ride from East Ham High Street to Langley Crescent with a tummy full of Pie & Mash.

    I wonder; do they still pour the parsley sauce over the P&M?I think that’s what made the dish so scrumptious 🙂

  11. Gary Arber permalink
    January 17, 2014

    Unfortunately there is a cloud on the horizon, this old favourite is beginning to become scarce.
    The eels arrive in our estuaries from the Sargasso Sea as 8cm. long elvers and have to find their way to ponds and rivers all over the country to spend their lives growing to maturity. There is now a growing trade in catching the little elvers as they arrive and eating them as a delicacy, it takes dozens for just one meal and ever more efficient methods of catching them are resulting in a shortage of mature eels in the rivers and ponds.

  12. January 18, 2014

    Pie and mash!

    Now, there is something that I need to have again, and another great culinary tradition that still prevails.

  13. January 19, 2014

    I used to go to the Broadway every Saturday lunchtime with my grandad. I would carry the jug for the liquor, Grandad the bowl. ( times before styrofoam!)
    Saturday mornings Nan would whiten the front steps and redden the tiles at the front door we never used at 29 Pownal Road.
    I came from a family of licensed victulers , as far as I remember I was born from
    The Bell, Shorditch……..after the war we lived above the shop at
    The Marquis of Granby, Googe St
    The Cock, Kilburn High Road,
    The Gregorian Arms, Jamaica Road
    we then moved to Margate
    The Kings Head ( now I believe The Waverly)
    The Captain Digby, Kingsgate.

    My husband has also been reading your blog….he remembers buying jellied eels on Friday nights to take down to my Mum in Kingsgate .

  14. January 20, 2014

    Deptford High St has two pie & mash shops, Goddards and Manzes, opposite each other. Then there’s Arments off the Walworth Road established 1914 and exponents of classic mashed potato ‘damming’.

  15. Martin Cameron permalink
    January 22, 2014

    Lovely images giving an interesting insight to an old London tradition. I have still yet to try traditional pie and mash – I must make amends. Thanks for the beautiful reminder.

  16. rita m sartori permalink
    January 22, 2014

    what a wonderful site you’ have done here,lovely photographs ,and can’t wait to go visit them ALL :)xx

  17. nik permalink
    March 7, 2014

    Been in Manze’s by tower Bridge a few times, lovely lovely eels.

  18. Ella permalink
    April 7, 2014

    Manze is brilliant and about as British as you can get – I always urge any foreign friends to visit when they’re in London for a taste of real, traditional Britain! So nice to see Manze still doing well after all these years… it just got mentioned in this map as one of the best places to eat in London, which can’t hurt either! 🙂

  19. Arthur Lee permalink
    September 30, 2019

    As a 9 year old living in Bethnal Green, usually on a Saturday night, I was sent by my parents to get pie & mash from a shop in Hackney road, almost opposite the Children’s Hospital, I was told to tell them that Duke Colmer was visiting home & could we have the pies free, evidently Duke had saved the life of the shop owner in the war. Of course I new Duke was never there & I hated it but it did make me a very good liar.
    Recently visiting Cooke’s in the Broadway, a women said she had come all the way from Southend for the pies, I said so, I’ve come all the way from Ibiza, where I now live.
    Keep Rocking
    Arthur Lee (Ibiza)

  20. May 26, 2020

    So good to see Manze’s of Tower Bridge Road featured. I know it well, grew up around the corner in the Old Kent Road nearly opposite Bert’s, the pie and mash shop, long gone. It was a treat and I still know people who come up from Kent to buy it and sometimes have it as a birthday treat!!

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