Meet the petrol station with a Costa Coffee machine, a takeaway next door, and a special Alfred Hitchcock tribute.
For good reason, Alfred Hitchcock remains regarded as one of – if not the – best film directors of all time. As such, since his death, the area of London where he grew up and the locations on which his films were shot have become tourist attractions in their own right. A London walking tour of his film’s settings will set you back at least £100 for a start (ranked the 580th best London tourist option on that trip rating site that lots of people use at the time of writing).
However, not all of us have got that kind of money. But no matter. There’s at least one piece of Alfred Hitchcock heritage you can observe when you go to fill up your car/buy an overpriced drink/get some windscreen wash.
For in Leystonstone, East London, the birthplace of Hitchcock is marked – as you’d expect – by a ceremonial plaque. The only twist here is that it’s on the site of a Jet petrol station.
The plaque was officially unveiled on August 13th 1994, at a ceremony attended by primarily locals who were interested But also, a special guest was attracted to said petrol station for the official unveiling of the plaque.
The late Barry Foster, who starred in Frenzy for Hitchcock – but later found more fame in the TV show Van Der Valk – was duly invited to be the official unveiler of the Hitchcock tribute. He wasn’t in the best of shape as he did so, at the time having to use crutches due to an injury he sustained getting off a plane. But that wasn’t going to stop him releasing a bunch of balloons that were covering up the official plaque. And as he did so, the tribute was officially in place.
As Empire and the Waltham Forest Gazette reported at the time of the unveiling, Foster was said to have been a little bemused to have been chosen for the honour. “I’m hardly the most famous actor from any of Hitchcock’s films”, he conceded. But he was the actor the organisers wrote to, with the thinking that they wanted someone British, for what was a British event. Foster made it to the top of the list.
The backdrop to the ceremony was, of course, that Hitchcock wasn’t actually born at a Jet petrol station. Rather, the petrol station is on the site of his birthplace and first home, with the house long since being pulled down. “I suspect he would have made some dreadful joke about exploding with laughter or this being a volatile occasion”, Foster wryly noted on the day of the unveil, as cars around him filled up with Jet’s finest unleaded.
Post-the ceremony, there were further festivities. A screening of The Lodger took place in the afternoon, and a Hitchcock quiz charging £1 per person in the evening (the local cricket club the beneficiary to the tune of £30).
And crucially, the plaque lives on. Thus, if you want to take in a little piece of film history, it’s located on the wall of the Jet petrol station on the High Road in Leytonstone. Right next door too, there’s a chicken and pizza fast food outlet if you get peckish…
Images: Spudgun76 (CC)
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