Having recommended various borough-hosted walking routes I thought I'd better go out and follow one for myself. I picked the 'Leyton and Leytonstone' walk from Waltham Forest, a 2 mile trail round residential streets "past the former homes of our borough’s celebrities and inﬂuential people". When I read that these local celebs included Damon Albarn, Fanny Cradock and David Beckham, I was sold.
START: Leyton Midland Road station
Harry Beck, tube map designer 14 Wesley Road, E10 6JF
A strong start. Who wouldn't want to see the house where the designer of the iconic tube map was born? I certainly did which is why I've already been and blogged about it, back in 2013 when its plaque was unveiled. You should go back and read that if you want more detail. What I will say is that Harry only lived here up to the age of 2 so likely remembered nothing about the place, instead spending the majority of his life in Highgate and Finchley. It's nice to see a blue plaque written in New Johnston typeface though. A strong start.
David Bailey, 60s photographer 69 Wallwood Road, E11 1AY
Stop number two brings a slight improvement in authenticity because David Bailey lived at this address until the age of 3. But in 1941 a German bomb flattened the flat nextdoor forcing the Baileys to move out, in this case to East Ham, and David subsequently went to school in Ilford. It was National Service which encouraged him to pick up a camera, and within a couple of years of being demobbed he'd become a fashion photographer for Vogue. His portfolio captured the London of the swinging Sixties, especially the East End, and broadened to cover top models, film stars and the rock glitterati. David's still shooting so can't yet be awarded an official blue plaque, which is why Waltham Forest stuck up one of their blue heritage ellipses instead.
Wallwood Road ↰ Fairlop Road
Fanny Cradock, brusque TV chef 33 Fairlop Road, E11 1BJ
The life of TV's first celebrity chef began here in 1909, just up the road from Leytonstone station. At the time this was a grand house called Apthorp, but that was knocked down in 1930 and replaced by a block of flats called Fairwood Court. A plaque has been attached above the communal doorway upon which the Waltham Forest typographers have managed to spell Fanny's surname incorrectly twice. It's unclear how long Fanny spent at Apthorp but, given the family moved to Herne Bay, Swanage, Bournemouth and Wroxham before she was 18, it's unlikely to have been long. Fanny's groundbreaking BBC cookery show began in 1955 as she and husband Johnny brought a taste of exotic cuisine to a startled nation. She ruled the roast for two decades until her haughty nature brought her down, but once seen never forgotten.
Damon Albarn, lead singer with Blur 21 Fillebrook Road, E11 1AY
What an eclectic journey this is becoming. Blur's frontman was born at Whipps Cross hospital and grew up in a much bigger than average terraced house in Leytonstone. His parents were artists, his upbringing bohemian, indeed there's still something screamingly middle class about this street. But yet again we're celebrating someone who moved out of Waltham Forest before they were ten, in this case in 1977, ensuring that all the formative Blur stuff took place on the outskirts of Colchester instead. Damon came back for the unveiling of his plaque in 2014 and grinned out of a bedroom window, mainly because he had a solo album to promote. Waltham Forest's walking trail effuses about Damon considerably more than any of the other ex-residents.
Fillebrook Road ↰ Drayton Road ↱ Grove Green Road
Stuart Freeborn, movie make-up artist 4 Chertsey Road, E11 4DG
...and not just any movies but the original Star Wars trilogy. That means Yoda, Chewbacca and Jabba The Hutt are all Stuart's creations, which is sufficient in itself to place him in the upper echelons of sci-fi geeklore. It's also why the walking trail takes us to see a mural featuring several Star Wars characters painted on the railway viaduct alongside Grove Green Road rather than leading us two streets back to see the plaque on his house. I'm annoyed because I only found out about the plaque after I got home, and because the mural had a bit of scribble over it.
Grove Green Road ↰ Dyers Hall Road South ↑ footbridge over A12 ↱ Norman Road
David Beckham, footballer and global icon 155 Norman Road, E11 4RJ
David Beckham is another Whipps Cross birth, and the second of our commemorated residents to flee the locality at the age of three. Becks did most of his growing up (and all of his obsessive football training) in Chingford instead, which fortuitously for the council is also in Waltham Forest so they can genuinely claim him as their own. But they haven't graced his first house with a plaque - it's the only unmarked home on this trail - which may be because the current owners are reticent to attract visitors. They snapped up the property in 2009 for a fraction of the £850,000 asking price, because it turns out people aren't willing to pay over the odds for a notionally-famous three bedroom terrace. Next time you're passing the bottom of the garden on the Central line, give them a wave.