diamond geezer

 Friday, April 27, 2018

When planners need inspiration for street names, they often turn to the alphabet. For example in Fulham, where the so-called 'Alphabet Streets' are an estate agent's dream...
"The ladder of tree-lined, gems known as the ‘Alphabet Streets’ find themselves cozied in between the River and Fulham Palace Road. Primarily, the area is made up of beautifully refurbished, large semi-detached period homes, perfect for relocating professionals and families however there are various types of properties to suit a variety of living and recreational requirements. Many relocate to the area due to its family friendly nature and community spirit, with many of the homes here significantly bigger than those in surrounding areas."
This much sought-after alphabetical ladder climbs a Thames meander on Fulham's farthest edge, and skips up the alphabet until it reaches L for Langthorne Street. Fulham Palace blocks development at the southern end, with Fulham Cemetery providing a bit of open space to the north. Until the turn of the 20th century this entire area was fields and orchards, but then came the decent-sized villas... and the football club, namely Fulham FC, who first played at Craven Cottage in 1896. Today a much-improved stadium rubs up along Stevenage Road, occasionally feeding thousands of effusive fans through the Alphabet Streets, which the remainder of the time are a peaceful place.

Hedges in Bishop's Park Road are immaculately clipped. Cars parked in Cloncurry Street include Land Rovers, Porsches and an Aston Martin. Wisteria is burgeoning into bloom in Doneraile Street. Scaffolding in Ellerby Street suggests someone's getting an extension, or a basement, fixed. One house in Finlay Street sold for over £3m last year. Gresswell Street is cut short by some out-of-character flats. Few of the houses in Harbord Street have more than one doorbell, because these are still very much family homes, rather than the flats they might have become elsewhere in the capital. Builders are refacing frontages on Inglethorpe Street. The Londis on Kenyon Street is a very ordinary looking corner shop. Recessed porches with tiled infill characterise the length of Langthorne Street. And have you spotted the problem yet?

For a start, there's no street starting with A. Bishops Avenue existed long before the Victorian housebuilders moved in, thanks to Fulham Palace being immediately nextdoor, so presumably it was deemed best to kick off this alphabet from B. But more importantly there isn't, and never has been, a J. The Alphabet Streets leap straight from Inglethorpe to Kenyon, then splutter to a halt at Langthorne. The next street in the ladder is Queensmill Road, not M-something Street, which is odd given it was built at the same time. Alas these Alphabet Streets can only muster 'B to L, with J missing', which means there must be a better set of alphabetical streets somewhere else.

This estate in Queen's Park looks promising.

Not only are there alphabetical streets, somewhat haphazardly arranged, but there are also six numbered streets lined up from east to west. Maybe someone on the planning team was having an off-day, or simply lacking in inspiration, when the lists were drawn up. But again this particular location fails the J test, with its streetnames jumping unnecessarily from Ilbert to Kilravock in the middle of the estate. So I'm afraid there are only nine consecutive alphabetical streets in Queen's Park, with the longest chain running from A to I.

I believe only one place in London can beat nine, and that's Tooting.

Even better, I accidentally blogged about it two months ago, so I reckon I can now cut and paste that particular paragraph and reuse it.

Running east from Tooting station, between the railway and the River Graveney, a ladder of terraced streets stretches down to the Streatham Road. It's unusual in that the 'rung' streets are labelled alphabetically, from Ascot to Jersey, with a 100-year-old primary school tucked in between Frinton and Gunton, and a Chinese takeaway on the corner of Eastbourne. But I wonder how many residents know that this used to be a private golf course, which thrived here briefly at the turn of the 20th century before relocating to Mitcham when the lease ran out. It had a fine reputation, attracting rich and famous players including soon-to-be Prime Minister Arthur Balfour (who once beat the Clerk to the House of Lords by two strokes). But by 1906 the putting greens had been stripped, gravel pits dug into the tees, and a street of small houses called Links Road cut straight down the third hole. Housing pressure on the London outskirts is nothing new.

Returning this week, the trees were looking a lot blossomier even if the sun wasn't quite so bright. I spotted a cat padding round a mattress, and the occasional collapsed fence, but generally these are pleasant desirable homes. It helps that none of their front gardens are quite large enough to be parking spaces, so many retain flowers and shrubbery, and not just gravel or somewhere to dump the bins. These aren't identikit streets either, it's easy to spot material differences in construction from one end of the ladder to the other. The first street even rubs up against the smoker's exit round the back of Tooting Police Station. But somebody really needs to update the community noticeboard facing the final street, whose faded contents are still advertising events taking place at the end of summer 2015.

They make an intriguing selection of placenames, this alphabetical set. Several of the ten are seaside towns, generally on the south or east coast of England. Boscombe's just outside Bournemouth, Frinton's the posh end of Clacton, and Gunton is the next village north of Lowestoft. Jersey doesn't quite fit, being an island, while Hailsham is five miles from the East Sussex coast. But it's Ascot which really breaks the pattern, being absoutely nowhere near the sea (and the only one of the ten with a famous racecourse). It seems this is simply a list of placenames, semi-randomly selected, and nothing more.

So A-J is the best alphabetical sequence that London can manage... unless of course you know different. But outside London, surely somewhere stretches to K or beyond. If you're aware of any longer chains of alphabetical streets, do please let us know.

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