The history of Pie and Mash shops in London dates back as far as the 1800s – and one of the oldest shops still stands at 107 years old.
Roy Arment, 61, worked at his family’s business since he was 16. He and Cheryl, 61, who grew up partly in Walthamstow, met each other on a night out in Croydon aged 23.
The pair got married and took the helm of the family-run Arments Pie and Mash shop together in Walworth, South London.
Since then, Roy and Cheryl have kept customers returning from as far as Manchester and Kent, just to have a slice of beef mince pie with chilli vinegar and pepper in it, as well as a good pouring of liquor – otherwise known as parsley sauce.
Cheryl said: “We have a guy come from Manchester regularly. He will come down once a month from Manchester. We’ve had a lot of people from Kent.
“I can honestly say people make pilgrimages to us.”
The character of the beloved shop is what the owners also credit with their success with locals and out-of-town visitors.
The Londoner said: “In the shop you get a different ambiance. The atmosphere, it’s the banter, the clatter of the pie dishes, the smell of the pies cooking. You can’t quite reproduce that in an online box.
“We were awarded a blue plaque in 2013 and we had a celebration in the community.
“We asked people what they liked about us and to get an idea of how far they come and people said it’s got so many memories for them. A lot of nostalgia plus good food.
“It really taps into the emotions of people, food is quite emotive anyway, it taps into more than just sitting there eating a dinner.”
Though the couple have since divorced, they still maintain a good relationship and continue the shop’s legacy which was passed down from the First World War in 1914, in which Roy’s Grandfather served.
A time when eels were fished out of the Thames to fill the pies and “they would make soups and mash” because meat was extremely short then.
The shop has seen different lifetimes as it carried on the family business over the years. This established identity seems to be reflective of the clientele they receive, including the elderly who have visited the shop for decades.
Cheryl said: “You’ll find they will meet and you’ll get a few generations of the family there.
MyLondon’s brilliant new newsletter The 12 is packed with news, views, features and opinion from across the city.
Every day we’ll send you a free email at around 12pm with 12 stories to keep you entertained, informed and uplifted. It’s the perfect lunchtime read.
The MyLondon team tells London stories for Londoners. Our 45 journalists cover all the news you need – from City Hall to your local streets.
Never miss a moment by signing up to The 12 newsletter here.
“It’s the hub of the community. People that had moved away and then they might have a gathering and sort of message each other and say ‘Pie shop, one o’clock on Saturday’.
“It’s not unusual to see three or four generations of families sitting together enjoying pie and mash.
“It’s very much part of the community that we’re in and that’s why we want to be part of the community and help where we can.
“Sometimes the older folk in the area, we might be the only people they see all day.
“Some of them that come in for their meal and they might come in three or four times a week but we might be the only face they see, so we get to know our regulars.
“We have had some characters amongst our regulars as well.”
At the core of the shop is a spirit of helping communities and those less fortunate, which has been carried down through the family lineage.
The 61-year-old said: “Historically, we’ve always helped to support different charities or people less fortunate and it was something that we know Roy’s grandmother Emily was really passionate about.
“One of the stories that’s been handed down to us is that she would see people looking in the window, poor children and she would feel sorry for them”
“She would take them out a bowl of mash and liquor and she would feed them. Particularly during war time when there were really poor people, children especially.
Since taking over the business, Roy and Cheryl have been committed to helping local charities.
Cheryl said: “At the start of the pandemic last year, we took hot meals to the NHS hospitals and we took food to them to help the NHS staff because they were so under pressure.
“Their food was short and they couldn’t go out to get it so we sent hot meals in.
“We do like to give back to the community that we’re in.”
The Londoner says pie shops developed in market streets near the river where boats and traders would sell their goods.
Cheryl said: “The pie and mash shops grew up around the River Thames, because of markets and because the boats used to come up and early import business.
“Supplies used to come up the River Thames, that’s why you had a lot of London markets and pie shops would shop off of them.”
Though the business has evolved with the times over the years, Cheryl and Roy still aim to keep it authentic but also offer vegan and vegetarian options as well as a delivery service.
The 61 year-old said: “The food we try and keep authentic and traditional. We also try and keep abreast of modern needs and customer demands.
“You’re not just sitting back and doing what you’ve always done. You try to adapt your business accordingly so that you can still serve your customers wherever they be.”
Overall, the owners of the long standing Pie and Mash shop hope to keep its traditions alive whether people eat their pie with a fork or a spoon, which is a hot debate among pie lovers.
Cheryl said: “People who are passionate about their pie and mash say there’s a lot of rituals of how to eat it.
“Chilli vinegar or ordinary vinegar are served alongside it, that’s the tradition.
“There’s different theories whether you should eat is with a fork or a spoon or a knife and fork and spoon so we give both.
“We don’t like to change the recipe because we want it to remain as true to its origins as it possibly can.
“We really pride ourselves on turning out the best possible pies”.
What’s your favourite pie shop? Let us know in the comment section below.
Need Your Help Today. Your $1 can change life.