David Kitchen stands outside 'Triffid Alley'
Published: 26 November, 2014
By DAN CARRIER
THE bestselling sci-fi novel The Day of the Triffids and its links with South End Green is set to be celebrated with a plaque and a new road name.
Author John Wyndham’s 1951 book tells the story of how aggressive, poison-spewing plants blind vast numbers of people – and features a dramatic scene where its hero Bill Masen escapes a grisly end by fleeing through an alleyway in the area.
Now members of the South End Green Association hope to mark this famous passage by naming the route Wyndham used Triffid Alley.
South Hill Park-based English professor David Ketterer, who has written a biography of the author, has identified the alley Wyndham was referring to as a walkway that runs behind a parade of shops in South End Green, near Hampstead Heath.
And Association chairman David Kitchen, who is overseeing the plans to put a plaque up and name the space, told the New Journal that Wyndham had various links with the neighbourhood.
He said: “In the book, Bill Masen comes from Swiss Cottage, where he is helping a group of blind people to raid a store for food. It was the Green’s Co-Op, which is now a coffee shop.
“The Triffids come and he escapes by climbing into this alleyway and stealing a Daimler from a garage workshop.”
The garage mentioned in the book is based on a now-closed business called Alpine Motors in Maryon Mews.
And Wyndham had other links with South End Green, says Mr Kitchen. He was inspired to write Triffids, which has been adapted for film and television, by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four.
He knew the Orwell had lived and worked in South End Green.
He said: “Wyndham was fan of Orwell and when he wrote Triffids he had Nineteen Eighty Four in mind. Wyndham sets some of the story outside Book Lovers Corner, where Orwell worked.”
Writing about the book in an essay that references its Camden links, Professor Ketterer said: “I first rented a flat in South Hill Park during my 1973 sabbatical from the Canadian university I taught at.
“At that time, a ‘provisions store’ [the Co-Op] and the ‘car hire service’ [Alpine Motors] that Wyndham specified still existed.” He added that he backs the plan to see the unnamed alleyway renamed to celebrate its literary associations.
“From the very detailed description of South End Green and its alley, it is apparent that Wyndham knew the area very well,” he said.