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There’s only one Lenin but Clem Attlee gets everywhere!

Posted on January 1st, 2015 in News

We take a dialectical Marxist approach to the history of street names in our search for the special and strange.

And today we have naming of blocks. Politicians from Alderman Rumbletummy to the greatest of names adorn our streets and estates. But who was really favoured? Let’s start at the left wing heavyweight end, with Karl himself. Surprisingly, his name only crops up twice in the entire country, both in ex-mining areas. In the town of Clay Cross, now part of NE Derbyshire, where they still speak with pride of their 1972 rent strike, (and where, by the way, they came within an inch of naming a street ‘Rental Rise’), there sits a very nice little sheltered scheme called Marx Court. When its name was proposed to the members of the Clay Cross Housing Committee in 1979, the Tory member (there was only one) asked “Would that be after Groucho or Harpo?”. In Stanley, County Durham, Derwentside Housing Association not only has a Marx Terrace, but a Lenin Terrace too. Neither Joe Stalin or Leon Trotsky ever made it onto a road sign.

Home grown names are much more common. Kier Hardie crops up in several places. Pride of place surely goes to Robert Addison, who has dozens of streets named after him, all built in the late 1920s after his Act that led to their construction.

And what of modern times? Who was the last British Prime Minister to have a street named after them? Commemorating top politicians in this way is a bit out of fashion, although the exceptional standing of Donald Dewar, the first First Minister of the Scottish Parliament has enabled his name to go on a nice new development in Aberdeen (which is off Provost Fraser Drive, by the way, showing that the art is still well alive in Aberdeen). None of the Wilson or Heath Roads appear to be commemorative. If there were any Thatcher Avenues, they have been renamed, like the pubs. We believe the answer is Harold MacMillan. He has a Close on a fantastic example of the genre in West Brom, with an inexplicably eclectic collection of streets named after, amongst others, Lord Palmerston and Manny Shinwell.

And finally, our all-time favourite. A name that combines resonance with obscurity so completely as to leave generations assuming they live in a spelling mistake. On the Clem Attlee estate in Fulham (Clem Attlees are everywhere, of course) is a block that rejoices in the name of Chuter Ede House. Naturally, all our readers will naturally know that he was Home Secretary in 1945, but in-depth research has found that the last tenant who had actually heard of him left in 1978. Still, as one tenant said, “I don’t know who he was but we do have a lot of problems with the Chutes in this block”. Of course our readers will all have their favourite examples.

E-mail them to info@is4.co.uk and we will publish the best!

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