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Coronation Avenue
ImagePeople sheltering at Coronation Avenue during the Blitz thought they would be safe as houses: they were in a shelter, underground, with a great big block of flats above them.  But one of the bombs that fell on 13th October 1940 showed that, tragically, they were not safe after all.

On 13th October 1940 people were squashed together in the crowded public air raid shelter, settling down for yet another night away from home, and trying to keep their thoughts off what was happening outside.   Children cuddled up to parents, grown-ups played cards or chatted, shared stories and family photographs or just tried to get some sleep: meanwhile the bombs and the fires of the Blitz had turned the streets into a scene from a horror movie - except it was real.

Suddenly, in one terrible moment, a bomb cut through the Coronation Avenue flats like a drill and exploded right in the middle of the shelter.  Some managed to escape, but many of the people were trapped inside. The bomb had broken the pipes and cables that brought gas, water and electricity into the building, and soon the shelter was dark and filling with water.  In one of England's biggest disasters of World War Two, over 160 people died in Stoke Newington on that one night.

Life was changed for many people who had lost mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and friends.  Many of the victims were buried in two graves in nearby Abney Park Cemetery.  The war continued for nearly five more years, and people did what they could to struggle through hardships of so many sorts.   Families were separated for many reasons during Imagethe war and life in London was dangerous for a long time.  For over eight years the Coronation Avenue flats had a big chunk missing from the middle of the block, reminding everyone of the tragedy which had taken place. 

Eventually the war ended, and very slowly life began to get better. The Coronation Avenue flats were mended, so that they looked just the same as the day they were first built (well, nearly the same).   In 1948 the Metropolitan Borough of Stoke Newington put up a memorial to all the civilians who had died in Stoke Newington during World War Two.  They put a long list of names on the memorial, including many who had died at Coronation Avenue.  Right at the top of the memorial it says:

TO THE MEMORY OF ALL THOSE WHO LOST THEIR LIVES THROUGH ENEMY ACTION DURING WORLD WAR 1939-1945 AND IN PARTICULAR THOSE WHOSE NAMES ARE INSCRIBED ON THIS MEMORIAL     DEATH IS BUT CROSSING THE WORLD AS FRIENDS DO THE SEAS - THEY LIVE IN ONE ANOTHER STILL

If you look at the building now, you would never guess it was once the scene of a huge disaster - and the whole true story was beginning to be forgotten as the years passed.  To make sure that local people do know about the disaster, nowadays there is a plaque on Coronation Avenue - on the corner of Stoke Newington Road and Victorian Road, next to the police station - so passers-by can see what once happened there.  And if anyone wants to know more about the disaster, and about some of the people who died - and others who survived - they can find lots of stories in a book called Just Like the End of the World (published by TimeLine and available either at your local library or from amazon.co.uk for £15).

ImageOnce the plaque was put up and the book was published, local people began to think about the memorial in Abney Park Cemetery.  It had been there for a long time, and nobody had been looking after it: it had sunk into the ground, some of the letters had fallen off the inscriptions and it was very dirty. TimeLine worked with the Coronation Avenue Campaign to try to restore the memorial: with the help of a generous grant from the War Memorials Trust and the support of lots of people who cared about it, the memorial was restored and rededicated at a ceremony on its 65th birthday - Remembrance Day 2013.   It might be a pensioner, but nowadays the memorial looks as good as new.

If  you  have a story about Coronation Avenue or about anyone who was injured or killed in Stoke Newington or Hackney during World War Two, please contact TimeLine to tell us about it.   

We want to make sure that none of those precious memories and stories are forgotten.   Here are some memories people have sent to us:




 
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