F.Cooke: Our story
Robert Cooke was born in 1841 in East London and grew up in a family of pipe makers. Robert went on to be one of Londons most successful entrepreneurs and when he was 21, he opened his first outlet on Sclatter Street, Brick Lane. This was the first time he started trading under the Cooke brand that we see today and F Cooke was born. It was at this point he made a name for himself by selling stewed eels with mashed potato and liquor.
In 1890 Robert opened up a second shop at 40 Watney Street, E1 and by 1892 Robert ventured south of the river to Bermondsey where he opened up at 87 Bermondsey New Road, which is now known as Tower Bridge Road, SE1.
Robert and his wife Martha had three children, Robert, Amy and Fred, to add to their existing offspring. As soon as they were old enough it was natural for the children to follow in their fathers’ footsteps and open their own shops, keeping the family legacy. In 1900 they had opened up in Broadway Market, Hackney E8. This shop was shut down for seven years in 1940 after the original facia was blown out during the second world war. From there Robert went on to 158 Horseferry road, SW1, while Fred opened yet another shop in Kingsland High Street, E8 in 1910.
By 1939 the Cooke brothers had a total of five shops. In 1991, the shop on Kingsland High Street became a grade II listed and the Broadway market shop followed suit and became grade II listed in 2018.
In 2010, Bob’s daughter Emma Cooke opened up in Romford and in 2020, Bob’s son Robert Cooke opened Chelmsford’s first traditional pie and mash shop on Moulsham Street. This was the first time the Cooke’s have ever opened up outside of the London borders.
The Cookes are without a doubt the oldest-established family in the business. The family name has never altered and in every F. Cooke shop, you will find a Cooke in charge.
Timeline of events
Robert Cooke was just 21 when he was on his way to becoming one of London’s most successful entrepreneurs. He started his trade selling eels and mash potato and soon went on to add meat pies to the dish. It is believed that Robert Cooke was the first person to put a minced beef and kidney pie on a plate, accompanying it with mash potato and liquor. After roaring success and meeting his wife, they went on to open another outlet.
After an outstanding reaction to the first branch on Sclater Street, and meeting his wife, Robert went on to open another outlet. Robert and his wife Martha ran this shop where they soon came to become established as East London’s most popular takeaway.
It was the first time F. Cooke had ventured south of the river to Bermondsey and as fate would have it, the shop was right next door to the Manze residence and the two families soon became friends. Robert’s flourishing eel and pie business was admired by Mr Manze who fell for Robert’s daughter Ada. The two married in 1897 and took over this shop together in 1902. Originally opened by Robert Cooke but now a Manze, this shop remains the longest serving eel and pie house to exist.
Opened by Frederick Cooke, 9 Broadway Market remained in the Cooke family for 120 years. Managed by Fred’s son Bob from 1947 and to 1975 and then by his grandson also called Bob from 1975 until 2019. Most customers knew Bob and would look forward to seeing and chatting to him on their visits. This shop was shut down for seven years in 1940 after the original facia was blown out during the Second World War. Bob’s children all worked here at some point growing up and Bob’s son Robert even lived above it.
Frederick Cooke opened Dalston and it went on to be managed by his son who was also Fred and his grandsons; Fred and Chris. Because of its lavishly decorated, elaborate interior it is often described as ‘the Buckingham Palace of pie shops. It has been featured in books on London’s most beautiful buildings. Most people will remember the live eels swimming around on display at the front.
Owned by Robert Cooke, this was one of the main shops, however unfortunately little is known about it due to its early existence.
Owned by Robert and Fred Cooke, the Stratford branch is remembered by many Cooke customers. It was the sister shop of the Dalston shop and had immaculate tiling throughout. Unfortunately this shop was forced to be closed due to a CPO (compulsory purchase order) enforced by Stratford council.
Opened by Robert and Fred Cooke, this was a popular F. Cooke shop where many hungry generations were fed. The Cooke family went on to sell this to Robins who kept it running as a pie and mash shop.
Robert Cooke’s daughter managed this shop for years before its closing in 2001. A firm favourite with locals it went on to win a well-recognised award from the pie and mash association. The front emulated the traditional Cooke look with large glass windows and a tiled front.
Managed by fourth generation Cooke, the Hoxton shop remains serving the same recipe since F. Cooke was first established, as so do all the other shops. Everything is produced from scratch: and not much has changed over the years.
This was the first eel and pie shop to ever become a listed building. Although it may be covered up, the original sign must remain no matter who takes it over. The original tiled walls and marble floor still remains. The mosaic COOKE eel still marks the entrance, to remain for many years to come.
The great great granddaughter of Robert Cooke, Emma went on to open a branch in Harold Hill, Romford. Emulating the traditional green and white tiles with tiled flooring, the shop continues to tell the Cooke tale. Black and white photos line the walls telling the Cooke story from years ago.
The second F. Cooke to become listed, the original sign will remain for years to come as will the marble flooring and tiled walls. The prominent blue and yellow walls will stay as they have been for over 100 years, ready for the next chapter of this outstanding building.
Fifth generation Robert Cooke finds himself continuing the family legacy and following in his great great grandfather's footsteps. Venturing to Essex where most original F. Cooke customers now reside, the F. Cooke empire opens outside the London borders for the very first time. Continuing the Cooke theme, green and white tiles fill the walls with the original black and white photos that were once at the Broadway Market shop. The Cookes are without a doubt the oldest-established family in the business. The family name has never altered and in every Cooke you will find a Cooke in charge. Robert stands to tell the story that once started 160 years ago to the interested customers who have mostly visited one or two eel and pie houses over the years. A precious story that will continue to be told for generations to come.