Monday, November 3, 2008
In Our Neighbourhood
I moved to London in 1992. At first I stayed with friends at their microscopic flat in Belsize Park. Now we're in Leytonstone, having lived in Holloway, Islington, Bethnal Green and Shoreditch. Time Out once described Leytonstone as "Shabby Chic", which sums the place up quite well. It's by no means posh, quite a lot of the place is run down, but there's a definite "something" about the place. It's got a good community spirit, a few decent places to eat and couple of good pubs. There are lots of open spaces, it's mostly quiet and you can keep "London" at arms length, but you can be at Oxford circus in 20 minutes. The area is defined by its rows of Victorian houses, put up by speculative builders at the turn of the 20th century. The bigger ones are in Upper Leytonstone and Bushwood (sash windows, rugby, Waitrose), the smaller ones fill the rest of the area (uPVC, footy, Tesco). We've got one of those, built in 1895. We've been renovating it for five years. The previous owner was a cretin. Apart from repairing a wall with a bit of cardboard, he never did a scrap of maintenance. The front window had a tree branch growing through it when we moved in. For reasons unknown he'd installed five phone points in one of the bedrooms.
Our neighbour over the back fence was born in the house next door, and him and his mum were in an Anderson shelter the night the Luftwaffe dropped an incendiary bomb on their house. His dad came home from work to find their roof on fire. The house survived, though. Each terrace behind ours has a post-war house in each row from one 'stick' of high-explosive bombs dropped in 1940.
I found this flyer for a long-gone department store when pulling down a lath and plaster wall. It's been dated by the good folk on flickr to about 1911. At that time, our house was lived in by a clerk and a dressmaker. I wonder what they'd make of the area now?