diamond geezer

 Thursday, October 07, 2021

In the classic 1976 sitcom The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, every morning at 12 Coleridge Close started with breakfast, the checking of Reggie's suit for fluff and a walk through the Poets Estate to the station. The repetitive nature of the series meant we got to see his walk day after day... down Coleridge Close, right into Tennyson Avenue and right into Wordsworth Drive. The train journey normally involved a crossword and a handkerchief, plus a persistent 11 minute delay, and then it was off to work at Sunshine Desserts.

In episode 1 it was confirmed that Reggie's local station was Norbiton in Kingston, and every subsequent rail excuse confirmed that his journey was through southwest London. But the house used for filming was in fact on the other side of the river, in zone 3 rather than zone 5, because Reginald Perrin actually Fell And Rose in Ealing.

Coleridge Close was in fact Beaufort Close W5, a brief cul-de-sac of a dozen houses on an incline up from Beaufort Road. Reggie lived at number 6 - not the house in the centre of the photo but just to the right in front of the tall tree. It's still recognisably the same house as it was 35 years ago with its Mock Tudor styling, projecting gable, oriel window and half-timbered first floor. The carriage-style garage doors have been upgraded and all the windows have been replaced but there have also been some more significant changes, notably the smart tiled porch over the front door, the paving over of the central flower bed and the erection of a satellite dish. Reggie doesn't live here any more.

It's a lovely cul-de-sac, officially a 'keyhole' close with houses grouped around a turning circle at the top end. All the houses are subtly different within the same Tudorbethan genre and almost everyone's sacrificed their front garden for parking. Houses don't sell very often but the going price would now be comfortably over a million. Number 1 has retained a pair of impressive palm trees out front. Number 11 is seeking planning permission to replace a conservatory with a two-storey extension. The inhabitants of number 4 have asked Google Maps to erase them from StreetView, because they didn't get where they are today by letting all and sundry scrutinise their frontage.

The first backdrop on Reggie's daily commute saw him waking down Coleridge Close. I think this photo shows the same fence, which is to be found along one side of the genuine Beaufort Close, the telltale clue being that it's very much on a slope. Please note that I've Photoshopped a modern street sign onto one panel, roughly where the BBC originally pasted a strip of semi-convincing paper.

I didn't manage to locate the filming location for Tennyson Avenue because a row of bricks with a clipped hedge above it wasn't much of a clue. Also most of the street corners on the estate have been repaved since 1976 to include dropped kerbs, so the original paving slabs are no longer present so there was nothing to go on. Sorry, bit of a cock up on the identification front. I had more luck with Wordsworth Drive.

This photo was taken on the corner of The Ridings and Audley Road, where Reggie regularly swung right while waving his umbrella. The sloping tiles above the ground floor windows were a nice confirmatory touch, but the clincher was the built-in garage which still has exactly the same set of black wooden doors. What's completely vanished is the low wall out front and the pristine clipped hedge, replaced by a single row of bricks and some scrappy plants growing through barely-tended soil. Counting the number of weeds, I can confirm that the current owners are nowhere near as garden-proud as in Reggie's day.

The next stop on Reggie's commute was the station, although in real life Norbiton is eight due miles south. The nearest station to Beaufort Close is actually Park Royal, meaning Reggie should by rights have been a tube and not a rail commuter, but a trip on the Piccadilly line wouldn't have made for such fine comedy. having attempted to follow Reggie's walk I can confirm that turning right into Audley Road would actually be taking him in the opposite direction, towards North Ealing station instead, because that's what happens when you prioritise good looking filming locations over geographical reality.

By rights Reggie should have walked to West Acton instead and caught the Central line because Sunshine Desserts was located on the Westway Estate near East Acton station. Alas the sleek brick warehouse on Telford Way used for the exterior shots was demolished in 2015 and replaced by some particularly anodyne warehouses so it really wasn't worth making the pilgrimage. I think Reggie would appreciate that one of the bland grey boxes is now occupied by ToolStation. And just for completeness' sake, the beach on which Reggie discarded his clothes and faked his own suicide was at West Bay in Dorset, but that's a bit far for a 2021 day trip.

What I can recommend if you're a lover of interwar architecture is a trip to Beaufort Close and the surrounding streets. This is the Hanger Hill (Haymills) Estate, a commercial concern covering a semicircle of hillside with leafy crescents and spacious homes, built on the former site of Hanger Hill House. A mix of typical Thirties styles is featured, most notably neo-Georgian and Mock Tudor, but interspersed with flat roof clusters and collections of Moderne semis with streamlined windows. It's the variety and quality of homes that makes this patch of North Ealing special, as Conservation Area documentation confirms, and the BBC's location scout did well to find a pitch perfect suburban backdrop at the top of a halftimbered hill. Super! Great!

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