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Alfred Hitchcock in Leytonstone

September 24, 2013
by the gentle author

Sebastian Harding, Illustrator & Modelmaker, made these models of buildings in Leytonstone associated with the great director to celebrate Hitchcock’s East End, a year’s worth of events produced by Create London and Barbican Film, commencing Saturday, 28th September, with a screening of ‘Vertigo’ at St Margaret of Antioch Church, just a stone’s throw from where he was born.

Hitchcock Birthplace, 517 High Rd

Alfred was born above his father William’s greengrocery and poultry shop on 13th August 1899. The prosperity of this thriving family business permitted his parents to enjoy the luxury of regular trips up to see West End shows. Yet, unlike his elder brother and sister, Alfred never worked in the shop and described himself in retrospect as a lonely, complicated child, inhibited by obesity. Unfortunately, the terrace with the Hitchcock family home was demolished in the nineteen-sixties and the birthplace of the world’s most famous director is now the site of the Jet Petrol Station and ‘Chicks’ fried chicken shop.

Leytonstone Tube Station, site of the former Eastern Counties Railway Station

When the Eastern Counties Railway arrived in 1856, it transformed Leytonstone, connecting it directly with central London and, in the other direction, to Epping and Essex. In Alfred’s childhood, the horsetrams were being replaced by electric-powered ones and he developed an early fascination with automated transport systems, claiming to have travelled every route and memorised all the timetables by the age of eight. In 1909, just a year after Alfred started school in Battersea, Alliot Vernon Roe made the first British powered flight in his plane over the Walthamstow Marshes. Later, means of transport were to become integral to Hitchcock’s storytelling method as a film director and, in his frequent cameos, he was often getting on or off different forms of transport, or seen at transport termini. The station was rebuilt in the nineteen-forties, before being reopened as part of the Central Line in 1947, and today it contains a series of mosaic murals depicting scenes from Hitchcock’s life and work.

Harrow Rd Police Station, 616-618 High Rd

This is the location of the most famous of Hitchcock’s childhood vignettes, recounted here by François Truffaut in his ‘Definitive Study of Alfred Hitchcock’: “I must have been about four or five years old when my father sent me to the Police Station with a note. The Chief of Police read it and locked me in a cell for five or ten minutes, saying, ‘This is what we do to naughty boys.’ … I haven’t the faintest idea why I was punished. As a matter of fact, my father used to call me his ‘little lamb without a spot,’ so I truly cannot imagine what I did …” It is apparent that William Hitchcock was a strict disciplinarian, instilling the lifelong sense of guilt and fear of the police that underscore his son’s films.  The site of Harrow Rd Police Station opposite Harrow Green is now occupied by a Costcutter shop.

Leytonstone Express & Independent Offices, 6 Church Lane

During Hitchcock’s time, this was the offices of the local paper and a place of great interest to young Alfred who was to get his first job drafting adverts after leaving school, contributing articles to The Henley Telegraph regularly from 1919. Later, journalists and investigative reporting became frequent motifs in his films, reflecting Alfred’s fascination with print media that began here in Leytonstone. Today, this building houses Leytonstone Library and an Argos shop. In 1919, after the death of his father when Alfred was fifteen, he left Leytonstone to work as a draftsman for a cable company, never to return.

Models copyright © Sebastian Harding

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. September 24, 2013

    I think I’ve seen every Hitchcock memory. It’s interesting to think of him as a child. How strange that his father had the policeman lock him up even for a few minutes.

  2. September 24, 2013

    Wonderful models and story .

  3. September 25, 2013

    Love the model buildings

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