The Tottenham Snail is one of the most enduring pieces of street art in London. Much loved in Tottenham it has survived decades. Any attempt to deface it, is always rectified. The snail itself has become an icon of the area. A symbol of home for those living near.
Many sources suggest that the Tottenham snail was painted in 1976. It’s claimed that is was first painted as part of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations and given the name of Sid. This may well be true although the Queens Jubilee year itself was 1977 so the date could be a little uncertain. Either way it looks like the snail was painted at some time in this period. The jubilee itself was a big deal in the area with street parties and festivities happening around London.
Sid the Tottenham Snail
Sid the Tottenham Snail seems to have also gone by a number of other names. For some it’s known as the St Anns Snail presumably as it’s in the parish of St Ann’s Church just a short walk away. It was also known as Brian by many. This was a nod to the fact that at the time the snail was painted, the Magic Roundabout was still showing on TV. One of the most memorable characters was Brian the Snail.
To look at, the mural of the Tottenham snail is fairly simple. Minding it’s own business it has a wry self contented smile. Unbothered by the world around and the bustling road nearby, Sid (or is it Brian) just slides by. Grey in appearance the snails home is carried on it’s back. A large spiral shell painted in various shades of brown.
The Mystery Snail Street Art
In terms of it’s provenance it remains completely uncertain. Many people remember the snail and it seems to have been painted not long after the properties themselves went up. Many former residents remember the compulsory purchase and demolition of the homes and shops which occupied the space before. Many others remember the snail with fondness growing up. It’s a good gag in the area to reflect on the fact that it hasn’t actually travelled very far.
A tongue in cheek joke might indeed be the real reason why the snail was painted in the first place. The areas redevelopment had taken longer than expected with lots of delays. Indeed there are numerous reports of building firms going bust and things taking a long time to complete. Stories from those living in the area at the time said that the snail was painted to signify just how long the whole estate development had taken. Who painted it though is a complete mystery. Maybe it’s one of those things that will just stay that way.
The Tottenham Snail was visited on 18 October 2020. Many thanks to Anj and Laura for showing me the snail and for the tour of the area. You can see it on the corner of Seven Sisters and Culvert Road in South Tottenham .
For other similar articles on Inspiring City, take a look at: