Alfred Hitchcock joins shortlist for East End’s People’s Plaques

Alfred Hitchcock, 1899-1980... master of Silver Screen suspense

Alfred Hitchcock, 1899-1980... master of Silver Screen suspense - Credit: Archant

The master of film suspense Alfred Hitchcock could soon be commemorated with a plaque where he grew up in London’s East End before he shipped off to Hollywood.

Clara Grant and her 'Fathing Bundle' queue in Fern St, 1934

Clara Grant and her 'Fathing Bundle' queue in Fern St, 1934 - Credit: TH Archive

The creator of Psycho, The Birds and The 39 Steps, among other Silver Screen suspense blockbusters of the 20th century, is on a list of 17 historic figures, places and events being voted on for the East End’s commemorative People’s Plaques.

The public is being asked by Tower Hamlets Archive library to select their favourite for the final seven to have plaques.

Hitchcock, who died aged 81 in 1980 after a career directing 50 films and widely regarded as the greatest British film-maker, grew up at Salmon Lane in Limehouse where his father ran a greengrocer’s shop. His first experience of the movies was at Stepney’s Ben Hur Cinema in White Horse Lane.

There are 12 other names shortlisted, including social reformers like Clara Grant who founded the Fern Street Settlement in Bromley-by-Bow in 1907.

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She started the popular ‘farthing bundle’ ceremony on Saturday mornings when children small enough to pass through an arch got a parcel of toys for a farthing (quarter of an old penny).

Other figures include the bricklayer’s son from Poplar who invented the world’s first programmable electronic computer during the Second World War which helped solve encrypted German messages, and the minister of Whitechapel’s St George’s German Lutheran Church who helped Jews escape Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

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The shortlist also includes a leader of the Great Dock Strike of 1889 who became the first Labour mayor in London and campaigned for the construction of the Blackwall Tunnel, a school nursery nurse in Brick Lane who inspired generations of children, a 17th century herbalist and father of holistic medicine who gave free advice to the poor, an atheist freethinker who challenged the grip religion had in Victorian society, a Methodist minister in Poplar-turned-politician, orator and author who won national and international acclaim, and the grandson of an African slave brought up in a Bethnal Green orphanage who was the first Black officer commissioned in the British Army and only the second Black footballer in the top division who played for Tottenham Hotspur.

The Bangladesh community has several figures on the list, like the man who ran a seamen’s café in Commercial Road in the 1920s who turned his home into a Bengali centre and lodging house, a Lascar seaman arriving 80 years ago who jumped ship and stayed to set up a lodging house for others following, and a journalist who arrived in 1953 to avoid prison for writing articles undermining the Pakistan government.

Four locations shortlisted are:

- A wartime public shelter on the Isle of Dogs where 40 people were killed during a German air-raid in the Blitz in 1941

- A boxing venue in Whitechapel which staged fights between 1911 and 1930 by some of the country’s greatest names

- A pub in Chinatown where 16,000 people turned out for the funeral in 1932 of its landlord, the “uncrowned King of Limehouse”, and David Owen’s house in Narrow Street, where the ‘Gang of Four’ ex-Labour cabinet members signed the Limehouse Declaration to set up the Council for Social Democracy.

But the suspense of finding out which of the 17 gets a plaque won’t be revealed until after December 8 when public voting closes. Alfred Hitchcock would approve.

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