diamond geezer

 Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Random borough (21): Waltham Forest (part 3)

Somewhere random: Leytonstone station
Leytonstone stationWhen you think of the great film director Alfred Hitchcock you probably think of Hollywood, but you should instead be thinking Waltham Forest. Not quite so glamorous, admittedly, but the great film director had his humble origins in Leytonstone. If he'd followed in his father's footsteps he'd have been a greengrocer on the High Road, but dad's footsteps died out when Alf was only 14 and he ended up at an East End university instead. His career moved rapidly from draftsman to silent movie title designer to film director, and in 1929 he lurched into the limelight with "Blackmail", the first British talkie.

There's no sign of number 517 High Road today, just a rather ordinary petrol station, so Hitchcock stalkers should instead make tracks to Leytonstone tube station. A rather magnificent mosaic tribute was installed here in 2001, and the two sloping subways leading up from the ticket hall now resemble a subterranean art gallery. There are 17 mosaics altogether, lovingly constructed from over 80000 vitreous glass tesserae, and each depicts either a famous Hitchcock movie or a scene from Alfred's life. Some even manage to combine both, which is rather appropriate given that the old man loved to make a cameo appearance in his own films.

PsychoThe BirdsSuspicion

Blimey they're good, even if subdued lighting means most aren't displayed in optimal conditions. That's partly to your advantage, however, because you can try to guess which film each mosaic represents before squinting to read the small plaque positioned immediately above or beneath. For example, the celluloid inspiration for the first two illustrations above is obvious. That lady in the shower must be from Psycho, and the woman with peckable spaghetti hair can only be enduring The Birds. But what's that butler doing on the stairs, any idea? You can confirm your suspicion by hovering over the third picture for an answer.

If you can't make it down to Leytonstone, the wonders of the internet allow the entire gallery to be viewed online. You could go direct to the manufacturers, the City Arts & Greenwich Mural Workshop, but if you yearn for finer detail I recommend the excellent Joy of Shards. But nothing quite beats seeing the tiles in the flesh, even if to view them you have to keep stepping out of the way of every would-be passenger rushing down the subway. No murderous thoughts, please, there'll be a better view once the lady vanishes.
by tube: Leytonstone

Somewhere pretty: Chingford
One thing Waltham Forest does well, which I've not seen replicated in any other London borough, is to produce a high quality series of detailed leaflets documenting its architectural treasures. And not just the grander listed buildings, but also residential streets in heritage clusters. If you live in one of the borough's conservation areas (Leucha Road, Ropers Field, Walthamstow Village, etc) there's probably a leaflet documenting its geographic extent, ornamental features and all necessary planning regulations. There are also four Millennium Heritage Trails, each printed on luxury folded cardboard, for borough residents to get their hands on. I picked up a full set at the Vestry House Museum (grab now, before council cutbacks bite), and followed Trail 1 to the heights of Chingford. It's not all Norman Tebbitt, you know.

Corbis Cottage on Chingford GreenThere are at least 23 buildings of architectural note in Chingford, apparently, including a 400-year-old dovecote and a late Victorian terracotta-clad pub. The oldest is Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge on the forest edge, which I've visited before (and which is also Londonist's "Museum of the Month"). Nextdoor is the Butler's Retreat, a listed barn used to serve refreshments to Forest-bound visitors, although alas currently closed for refurbishment. Of the remaining buildings of note, most are clustered around Chingford Green - a thin triangle of grass surrounded by one of the borough's larger conservation areas. A wide range of architectural styles are on show, from faux Tudor to faux Gothic, although my favourite was the genuine weatherboarded tweeness of Carbis Cottage. Before the railways came Chingford was but a small hamlet of similarly rural homesteads. It's very different now.

Forest ViewThe leafleted trail doesn't shy away from more suburban highlights. There are some particularly grand homes along The Drive, for example, and a few equally over-turreted mansions facing the golf course along Forest View. The north end of Chingford is where Waltham Forest's better off residents come to live, not quite gated luxury but still a million miles away from conditions in the tightly packed streets of Leyton far to the south. For a topping treat, however, trudge up to the highest point of the estate where you'll find a short footpath leading to the summit of Pole Hill. Not only is there a great view through the trees towards the City, but there's also an obelisk or two marking an unlikely geographical coincidence. The Greenwich Meridian passes directly through the top of the hill, so as you stand beside the trig point you are precisely due north of the Royal Observatory. Further details are included in my special Meridian postings from five years ago (including Waltham Forest's series of carefully aligned pavement tributes). Pole Hill's a lovely spot - even Lawrence of Arabia thought so - and all the better if (like me) you get the entire mound completely to yourself.
by train: Chingford

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream