Memories of Chatsworth Road by Mike Gray, Brian Walker, Alan Rossiter and Bob Lee
From 1972 I used to live in Dunlace Road which like several other streets crossed Chatsworth Road. As I remember it there were always a few stalls in the road and it was a major shopping centre for the area including the large Clapton Park and Kingsmead Estates. But it was on Saturdays that it became a street market and it was always busy.
Among the shops there was a Turkish kebab house that I used to frequent a lot and got to know the Turkish Cypriot family that ran it (and took photographs of them.) One day it was closed and I heard the sad news that the parents were killed in a car crash on holiday in Turkey. The two children survived and were looked after by their uncle.
Hello Mike. I read your email to the Fragile Archivists with nostalgia, like you I remember the market and the early days of the carnival and sadly remember the tragic death of Ossie of the kebab shop, and the tears shed for this lovely little man and his family. Turkish restaurants were quite unusual in this area at that time so I remember the impact that Ossie’s establishment had on me when I first entered it. It was so exotic, just like being abroad with all the Turkish carpets adorning the walls, the pictures of Istanbul and most of all, the live band playing that hypnotic eastern music.
One Saturday I was in the market when I saw a young lady struggling with two sacks of coal. I, being a gentleman, offered to help her by carrying one sack for her back to her house in Clifden Road. She made me a cup of coffee and told me that she was an actress. Her name was Julie Covington. I hadn’t heard of her but later I saw that she sang the part of Eva Peron on the record that came out before the show opened. Later she became well known for her part in the popular TV series Rock Follies. She knew I was a photographer and she said she needed some publicity photographs. I regret now that I didn’t take her up on the offer but I did make a note of her address.
Later when the campaign for Chats Palace began I went to her house to ask if she would make a contribution to the fund and support the cause to turn it into an arts centre. Another girl answered my knock and said she was upstairs in that room at the top of the stairs and said’ go up’. So I did and knocked on the door. ‘Come in’ she said. I was rather taken aback as it was a bathroom and she was in the bath with a man with blue hair! It was blue, she said, because he was playing Ariel in the Tempest at the National Theatre. Well I didn’t know quite what to say!
One night, at Chats Palace Music Hall, Julie Covington, then at the height of her recording fame, came in to enjoy the show. She was charming and gave her autograph to all who asked her for it. I never had the experience of seeing her in the bath!
I remember coming to Julie Covington’s with you and the incident of the bath, very theatrical. As you know I used to make my way up to Chatsworth Road past your house in Dunlace Rd when I worked on the adventure playground. We would go the Italian cafe that made great ice cream. The waitress was always sullen but very attractive in a Melina Mescouri kind of way. Great liver and bacon.
Your project is doing me a lot of good, helping me drag out the past through making contact again with old Hackney friends; all is grist for the mill as they say.
Another shop in Chatsworth Road was, before the war, a radio shop run by a man called William Joyce. In 1939 Joyce went to Germany (I was one at the time) and became the leading spokesman in English for Nazi propaganda to the allies, on the radio. He became known as Lord Haw Haw. After the war I think he was executed as a traitor, but during the war in the radio programme ITMA (It’s That Man Again) with Tommy Handley, Jack Train played the part as ‘Fumf speaking’, a typically British war time comic parody of a major enemy. South Hackney was a bit of hotbed for Fascist anti-Semitism at the time because in Clapton and Stamford Hill there was a large Jewish community.
I faintly recall hearing the story of William Joyce having a shop in Chats, but generally my wartime memories of the turncoat are strong.
In the fifties, Lord Mosely and his dreaded thugs, the Blackshirts would go to Ridley Road on Saturday evenings to antagonise the mostly Jewish traders with his preaching of his Nazi beliefs. Along with the many anti fascists who arrived to oppose him were a lot of young men who came just to have a good old punch up. Of course the police were there in large numbers so Saturday nights in Ridley were always lively!
Someone told me, at my exhibition in the Hackney Marsh Festival, that the music hall performer Marie Lloyd once lived in Chatsworth Road, so I wrote to the GLC to suggest a blue plaque for her. She lived at several addresses in Hackney but the GLC historians, who approved of my proposal, came up with an address in Graham Road (which was where the plaque went up), to which she would have been able to stagger home after the show and champagne in the Hackney Empire round the corner!
Two of Marie Lloyd’s nieces turned up for the unveiling ceremony! At Chats Palace we held a celebratory music hall concert, chaired by Prof. (John) Alexander. ‘The boy I love is up in the gallery’ and ‘One of the ruins that Cromwell knocked about a bit’ and ‘My old man said follow the van’ were sang with enthusiastic audience participation in the packed hall!
Clapton Stadium – cars and dogs. Mike I am not sure if you lived in Hackney long enough to remember Clapton Stadium, it stood in Millfields Road and was almost exclusively used for greyhound racing. Most local born people have fond and proud memories of this grand Art Deco building.
I remember Clapton Greyhound Dog Stadium very well. I went to the car auctions there on a regular basis. The auctioneer was a part time professional jockey and he used to say when selling a wreck of a car “there’s nothing wrong with that car that money won’t cure”. One day Brenda our neighbour told us that her boss at the car auction had put a stack of money (£500) on a particular dog and that we ought to invest likewise… I went and placed a modest bet (£10) and the dog came in last!
Bob I forgot about the car auctions but enjoyed your memory concerning the betting. So you lost a tenner eh?
Yeh Brenda’s boss ran the car auction and was a bit of a gambler. He made and lost thousands of pounds. One of the East End characters that no longer exist.
Brian Walker was closely associated with the Hackney Marsh Fun Festival and Chats Palace. He used to be one of two ‘Plastic Pearlies’ a music hall act singing cockney songs dressed in the costumes of the pearly kings, but the buttons were made of plastic! I used to say did you sow them on yourself, “no they replied we sewed them on an old suit”!
Bob Lee used to live in my house in Dunlace Road. He first met his wife; we called her Welsh Linda, at Chats Palace. We had a drink together in what they called the Black House nearly opposite Chats (Venerdi’s/Thang Long/Clapton Park Tavern). It was called the Black House because hearses for some reason used to stop there on their way back from a funeral. Bob and Linda now live in France, ex- Hackneyites like me.