diamond geezer

 Friday, May 05, 2023

London doesn't have a Coronation Street.
But it does have three Coronation Roads.
I've been to all three.

Coronation Road, Plaistow E13 [map]

This celebratory thoroughfare can be found on the Upton Park side of Plaistow, just north of the Greenway close to Newham University Hospital. Most of the housing round here consists of dense terraces packed onto former marshland, built as the area transitioned from agriculture to a manufacturing economy at the turn of the 20th century. Plaistow duly morphed from genteel village to full-on dormitory, initially to the north of Barking Road and then (relevantly here) to the south. First they built New City Road as a spine, then multiple streets bearing off to either side hemmed inbetween the Northern Outfall Sewer and the West Ham borough boundary. The shortest of these which was Coronation Road, completed in 1902 and named in honour of Edward VII's big day, or so I assume because none of the neighbouring streets bear any royal reference at all.

It's archetypal Newham. Squat bay-windowed terraces with a recessed porch. Walled front gardens just big enough for the bins and maybe a shrub or two. A few long-established trees offering summer shade. Parking down both sides of the street for permit holders only, leaving room for one-way traffic down the middle. What was probably once a grass verge completely concreted over. Speed bumps. Net curtains. A typical two-bed, no chain, for £400,000. Kitchen and bathroom added on at garden level later in life. Satellite dishes, some still insistent that T-Mobile provides the signal. A 'Sam says' sign featuring a snail saying "20 is Plenty". A dozen discarded Budweiser bottles around the foot of a treetrunk. Part loved, part shabby, but still the very bedrock of the borough's housing stock.

What marks out Coronation Road from the norm is that 25% of it is playground. New City Primary is one of Newham's many three-storey Victorian redbrick schools with classes piled high to make best use of limited space. BBC London dropped by last week to film preparations for the Coronation, drawn here of course by the name of the street, and Ofsted were similarly gushing when they descended last year. In an unusual move they've named their school dining room "New City Bistro". At the other end of the road is the entrance to a church, or rather an asbestos-roofed hall where the Fountain of Revival meet, or rather met because it's currently up for sale with development potential. Expect the population of Coronation Road to have risen by the time William V gets his turn.

Coronation Road, Park Royal NW10 [map]

For a total and utter and coronation contrast let's shift our focus to the Park Royal industrial estate. This manufacturing mainstay first grew up along the Grand Union Canal but spread south after WW1 to fill a considerable expanse between Harlesden and Acton. Coronation Road is on the newer side, closer to the A40, and one of the four main roads that branch out from the central crossroads. It starts by the hospital, or rather the giant Asda, and stretches west towards where the Guinness Brewery used to be. And because that iconic brewery was built between 1933 and 1936 I'm fairly confident that the Coronation in question must be that of 12th May 1937, pencilled in for Edward VIII but actually used for his brother George VI instead.

It's not a friendly road, more functional, lined by employment units large and small. The north side was once goods sidings and is now huge sheds, part Segro Park, part Matrix Industrial Estate. Think minor independent food distributors and other logistics management, mostly stashed out of public sight. The interesting side is across the street, a motley run of kitchen suppliers, Middle Eastern restaurants and shady motoring dens, plus half a dozen semis looking completely out of place. There are always umpteen cars being underbonneted, retyred, valeted and MOTted by mechanics who'd rather you didn't watch. Vehicles may be stashed anywhere across the pavement so watch your step. Only the Huqqa Lounge has the flags out, with an image of the King on a Union Jack flapping above their waterfalled windows. And if dates, meze and shisha aren't your thing, the Diana snackvan offers a far greasier selection for a working lunch.

The road changes abruptly beyond the roundabout with a sharp jolt into the 21st century. This used to be where the entrance to the Guinness Brewery was located until production ceased in 2004, and the site has subsequently been redeveloped into a John Lewis Distribution centre and Ocado hub. Meanwhile their former recreation ground has been occupied by the inevitable flats, a wedge of sanitised lakeside and the new HQ of Diageo plc, creating a neighbourhood the Evening Standard property supplement occasionally gets excited about. Now you too can live in a brick tower above a Co-Op, conveniently located for Park Royal tube station, and need never visit the hubbub of the real Coronation Road where London's essential everyday work still gets done.

Coronation Road, Hayes UB3 [map]

And finally to an outer suburban street in the London borough of Hillingdon, just far enough from Heathrow that aircraft aren't an issue. The nearest station is Hayes & Harlington but the real transport presence hereabouts is the M4 which carved through in the early 1960s and changed the area utterly. This had once been the edge of open countryside but then Junction 3 embedded itself in the Crane Valley and suddenly this corner of Hayes found itself divided from Cranford, from Heston and from Southall. The river still flows on a diverted course through muddy woodland, should you have a dog to walk, but 13th century St Dunstan's church now finds itself severed beyond a subway eight lanes wide.

Coronation Road crosses a whorl of streets adjacent to Cranford Park, or what's left of it. It's interwar, so the relevant coronation is 1937 again, and is very different to its Plaistow counterpart. That was terraced, this is semis. That was brief, this is twice as long. That was flat, this gently climbs. That was ethnically mixed, this is majority Asian. That had street trees, this is bereft. That pre-dated cars, this has ample front gardens keeping the roadway clear. That was cramped, this feels much more spacious with a decent gap between neighbours. And even though house prices are much the same, here you get an extra bedroom plus a garden you could actually play a ball game in, so a lot more bang for your buck.

Oh and you get a bus. The E6 negotiates the lower end of the street on its tortuous approach to the big Tesco, but alas it's Hail and Ride around here so no 'Coronation Road' bus stop exists. The locals seem friendly enough - I got asked once whether I was lost rather than being asked to bugger off for loitering suspiciously with my camera out. I also noted a few showy porches, one decent burst of pink blossom in a garden that hadn't been turned over to parking and some kind of hawk hovering high overhead. If you fancy a selfie taken beneath a truly topical street sign it's the best of the three Coronation Roads to visit, but other than that best leave it be.

n.b. Elsewhere in London are a Coronation Avenue, a Coronation Drive, a Coronation Walk and two Coronation Closes, but let's save those for William.

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