At the very start of 2017 I visited Newyears Green, London's shabbiest village. I wanted to end the year by making a similarly appropriate visit, but there is no Newyears Eve Green, nor a Hogmanay Street anywhere in the country. But London does have an Eve Road, indeed it has four, scattered around the northern half of the capital. So I've been to the complete quartet, and have unearthed some unnerving similarities between them, which hopefully you can help me explain.
Eve Road E11 is an insignificant street of late Victorian two-storey terraced houses, barely 100 metres in length, in the lower reaches of Leytonstone. It bends off the High Road near the former Thatched House pub, between a takeaway called Caribbean Flavours and a printers I'm chuffed to see is called DG Signs. For the first few steps it belongs very much to the shops, with a row of garages for deliveries and a grubby door leading to flats above. But then it becomes somewhere built for thirty families to live - one telegraph pole, two streetlamps, six trees. All of the original houses have bay windows and arched porches, some with original plasterwork flourishes more recently highlighted in jarring pastel colours. Three houses still have an old Victorian nameplate on the front - something anonymously pastoral like Belgrave Villa - while another is now inadvisably covered in stonecladding.
A handful of modern houses fill the gaps where bombs fell, these even have garages, but everyone else parks out on the street. When a deliveryman calls, his van unavoidably blocks what's left of the central carriageway. Most of Eve Road's front walls appear to have been rebuilt at a variety of times in a variety of bespoke styles, not necessarily attractively. Front gardens are small and narrow, frequently almost-filled by a cluster of Waltham Forest bins, there being no way to wheel these round the back. A tarmac stripe is still visible where some former cable company dug up the pavement. At the far end is Steele Road, whose residents sometimes nip down this way to the shops, but nobody else would ever have need to walk this way. Eve Road is a true residential backwater, but also the very backbone of the capital's housing stock. Neighbouring streets: Steele Road, Belton Road, Ranelagh Road, Napier Road
Eve Road E15 is an insignificant street of late Victorian two-storey terraced houses, approximately 200 metres in length, below the Greenway close to West Ham station. It runs almost due north, initially arrow straight - two telegraph poles, six streetlamps, no trees. Its houses are relentlessly uniform, each in London brick with redbrick trim, each with bay windows upstairs and down, each topped off with a pointy roof to give the street some character. Houses appear to be of generous width, but closer investigation reveals that each porch leads to two front doors, suggesting closely-packed council maisonettes within. Every front wall is ten bricks high, such is the street's preserved homogeneity, but some residents have attempted to brighten up their frontage with lamps, pebbledash or a swarm of artificial butterflies.
Although house numbers rise beyond 100 they only start at 52, confirming that some serious rebuilding has been going on. The northern half of Eve Road no longer exists, having been demolished in the 1960s to make room for Manor Way, the chief connecting road hereabouts. At the breakpoint a low blue wall seals off direct access, as if awaiting additional redevelopment, and then the road bends sharply right past a row of somewhat bleak parking spaces. What used to be Eve Road, and isn't now Manor Way, has been covered by some typically ordinary Newham flats crammed into whatever space was left over. Here the only public space is a fenced-off lawn, upon which a small trampoline awaits better weather. Eve Road is a curious residential hybrid, but also the very backbone of the capital's housing stock. Neighbouring streets: Steele Road (demolished), Napier Road, Ranelagh Road
Eve Road N17 is an insignificant street of late Victorian two-storey terraced houses, barely 100 metres in length, a few streets back from Tottenham High Cross. It has only 25 houses, with rather more on one side than the other thanks to being squeezed inbetween two longer streets which merge together further south. The houses bear a striking resemblance to Eve Road in Leytonstone, with similar bay windows and plaster detail, although these porches are flat-topped rather than arched. The road's on a slight uphill slope, with the two corner houses at the top end boasting ornate doorways which suggest these might once have been shops or pubs. A speed bump marks the central point - one telegraph pole, two lampposts, no trees.
Some wag has painted a white line down the centre of the road, although it'd take some careful manoeuvring to pass an oncoming vehicle now that the parked car is king. One resident owns a motor bike and is part of the gig economy, while another isn't yet, as his TX4 taxicab proclaims. Front gardens are once again tiny, and awash with bins, although certain objects too large to fit inside have been left out on the pavement. Several sheets of timber, a soggy mattress and a pink plastic toddler trolley await post-Christmas collection, or perhaps abduction by some local resident who can see a better use of their own. Eve Road is a brief humdrum backstreet, but also the very backbone of the capital's housing stock. Neighbouring streets: Napier Road, Ranelagh Road, Steele Road, Belton Road
Eve Road TW7 is an insignificant street of late Victorian two-storey terraced houses, approximately 200 metres metres in length, tucked inbetween Isleworth and St Margarets. Again it forms part of a small cluster of similar streets, whose names should be becoming more familiar as we progress. This time one of these streets actually joins halfway down - four telegraph poles, five lampposts, a dozen trees. Look from one end and you might imagine we've been here before... the bay windows, the cars parked down either side, the speed bump in the centre, all seem remarkably familiar. But some sections of this terrace are flat-fronted, some of the intermediate villas are bigger, a greater proportion of houses have original rustic names, and the whole place just scrubs up a little better.
In fact the houses on the eastern side hide a secret. Their gardens are much longer than those on the west and run down to the River Crane, indeed some residents even have their own small boat moored up on the bank! Number 5 has been temporarily boarded up whilst major renovation works take place, the name of the interior decorator proudly emblazoned on the hoarding. Even the Christmas wreaths are smarter, and more numerous, than those seen earlier on my travels. But there is a hidden reason why this particular Eve Road might not actually be terraced nirvana. One of the two Heathrow flightpaths passes very nearly overhead, and only by visiting during the quiet half of the day did I miss the noise pollution which must blight daily life in this otherwise endearing street. Eve Road is a contradictorily desirable address, but also the very backbone of the capital's housing stock. Neighbouring streets: Napier Road, Honeywell Road, Steele Road, Talbot Road
Which brings me to the mysterious similarity of London's Eve Roads. All four are terraced streets built at around the same time, I'd say 1880s or 1890s, and all were clearly named after the same person, place or thing. It cannot be a coincidence that every Eve Road lies close to a Napier Road and a Steele Road, that three are in the vicinity of a Ranelagh Road and that two rub up against a Belton Road, but the precise connection between Eve, Napier, Steele, Ranelagh and Belton I have not been able to determine. I did wonder whether the link was Commanders-in-Chief of the armed forces, or naval officers in the British Raj, or even places in Lincolnshire, but whatever combination of names I typed into Google failed to come up with a convincing connection. Any conclusive ideas?
Update: Mystery solved. Thanks Andrew! He says... "The directors of the United Land Company Limited in 1883 were Lord Ranelagh, K.C.B. (Chairman), Col. E. Chaplin, E. Eve, Hon. M. Napier, Lieut.- Genl. A. F. Steele, N. W. J. Strode, and G. F. Talbot. and the company secretary was C. Belton."
The United Land Company were responsible for buying up and building on several pockets of suburban London in the late 19th century, and it seems they liked nothing better than to name their new streets after themselves. I haven't yet found evidence of the 1883 line-up online, but the geographical evidence stacks up compellingly... Ranelagh: N17, E11, E15, E6, HA0 Napier:N17, E11, E15, TW7, E6, HA0 Eve: N17, E11, E15, TW7 Steele: N17, E11, E15, TW7 Belton: N17, E11, NW2 Chaplin: N17, E15, NW2, HA0 Strode: N17, NW2, E7 Talbot: TW7, E6, E7, HA0