In a previous post about Alfred Hitchcock, I wrote about his formative years when he moved to Limehouse.
The Hitchcock’s moved from Leytonstone to 175 Salmon Lane in Limehouse and opened a shop selling fresh fish, before Alfred’s father purchased 130 Salmon Lane and opened it as a fish and chip shop.
One of the problems of looking at Hitchcock’s childhood is to separate fact and fiction because later in life Hitchcock would tell stories about his childhood which were often fanciful and exaggerated.
This blurring of fact and fiction about Hitchcock’s life has fascinated many writers, but very few have used Hitchcock’s early life to write fiction. One writer who has decided to write about the young Alfred Hitchcock is Jude Cowan Montague with her soon to be realised Young Hitch series.
Jude has considerable knowledge of the Salmon Lane area after living there in the 1980s. As Jude relates the area was very different in that time.
When I lived nearby in the late 1980s I squatted in an old council block which has now been demolished, so I have my own sentimental connection with times gone by. It was quite run down in those days, but the development of the docks on the Isle of Dogs was already in progress.
Recently Jude revisited the area to get inspiration for the new books and understanding that Limehouse has always been an interesting mix of old and new. Although the Young Hitch series are a work of fiction they do use real-life history, newspapers and first-hand accounts for historical accuracy.
Hitchcock was famous for observing life and trying to found out what made people tick, there is no doubt that Hitchcock would have been have been aware of an East End around him that was in turmoil. Industrial strikes, Women’s suffrage , anarchism and general unrest were commonplace, if this was not enough the start of the First World War saw Zeppelin bombing raids.
Hitchcock was also fascinated with murders, he was fascinated by Jack the Ripper and the cases of Dr Crippen and Adelaide Bartlett. Hitchcock’s formative years were probably vital for developing his famous macabre sense of humour.
Jude taps into Hitchcock’s unique take on the world around him in the Young Hitch books which the following excerpt illustrates
Sitting in the red plush seats of the Picture Palace, Alfred Hitchcock, eleven years old and eager to grow up, shook as a snake of fear rose from his toes, wriggled through his socks and slid up his sweaty legs.
On the wide screen in front the hero squeezed through a hole and made off for the horizon. He looked back and laughing, in what Alf thought was in a rather superior manner. There was a smug and distasteful manner revealed by the close-up.
The bereft villain shook his fist, silhouetted against the sky. His victim had got away.
‘Curses!’ Alf mouthed, twirling an invisible moustache.
Baron von Bingsten was not acting in his best interests by drawing attention with his gyrating gurning gymnastics. But then Alf had never met a real baron. Perhaps all nobs, as his father called them, had over-dramatic movements. But he doubted it. He couldn’t test his theory. Grocers’ sons didn’t have the opportunity to mingle with the nobility. If only his Da had a title. Lord Leytonstone? Could be? It seemed you had to be an aristocrat to have a real adventure, if you went by the stories he read.
If his father really thought about Alf’s needs, and wanted to give him all the best advantages in life, he would get himself a title. But despite the lip-service, parents did not think of their children enough. His Da was always thinking of his business. That was why he had dragged Alf and the Hitchcocks from a perfectly good house in Leytonstone to a crummy place like Limehouse.
Alf felt a tear spring to his eye as he dwelt on this injustice. Through the rosy mists of memory he thought of the beloved house he had left behind. There were roses wreathed around a porch and a mother waiting at the garden gate in a checked apron, greeting him with a warm smile.
Or was that the cottage in ‘The Vicar’s Daughter’, on last week? It didn’t really matter. The point was the same.
He licked a salty tear away, smiling to himself and settling down for the next picture wishing he had some more peanuts.
He idly wondered if he had enough for an ice-cream, but he did not have to pull out the lining to know his pockets were empty apart from the sticky caramel sweet wrappers. And a dead pigeon’s wing.
He was out of luck and out of pennies. Soon it would be time to go home. Back to the real world.
Update : Jude’s first book in the series ‘Young Hitch in Forbidden Flames’ was published on 3rd January 2017 on the anniversary of the Siege of Sidney Street.
If you would like to find out more about the Young Hitch series of books, visit Jude’s blog here
I was amazed to find out last year that the little wet fish shop where i spent my pre school years while mum worked was previously occupied by Alfred Hitchcock, i do have a photo of my mum and me standing outside the shop at 175 Salmon Lane taken about 1952. I now think the reason that the chinese restaurant that later stood on the site of our old shop was frequented by the famous was because they knew that Alfred had lived on that spot
Thanks for the comment and the update on the shop. It is never too late to find out those interesting family stories, I suspect that Mr Hitchcock when he was in London wandered around the area. Interesting that there was some celebrity spotting even in those days.
I also have a photo of my grandfather standing at his fish cart outside the Handy Stores, think it was taken sometime in 30s. His name was Charlie Fancourt and i expect he must’ve known the Hitchcock family either from here or Billingsgate. Grandfather was a fishmonger all his life and had various fish shops in the area, the last one being no. 175. He died in 1945.
Fascinating family history, I suspect there were far more fishmongers in those days !
A most interesting and enjoyable read of the article and a taster of the actual book.
Reading the blog here, I think it is well written this far, and I wish the writer success
in it’s arrival in the book stores.
Hope all is well in NZ,
I agree with you, it should be an entertaining read.
I trust all is well with you,thanks for your reply.Summer almost here in Auckland, day temps 20C.
I enjoy most of your articles, such a wide range of topics you cover.