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Forget Tower Hamlets - Romford is new East End, says Cockney language study

PUBLISHED: 17:14 02 August 2013 | UPDATED: 17:48 02 August 2013

Pearly King and Queen of Tower Hamlets Shaun Austin and Lorraine Wells (photo: Carmen Valino)

Pearly King and Queen of Tower Hamlets Shaun Austin and Lorraine Wells (photo: Carmen Valino)

Carmen Valino - off shift

Cockneys, once synonymous with Tower Hamlets, are now more likely to be found up the frog and toad in Havering, according to a new study.

Dr Sue Fox, a linguistics expert from Queen Mary, University of London, said a steady migration of East End families away from inner London meant the spirit, traditions and language of Cockneys were still very much alive, but no longer associated with Tower Hamlets.

There’s no great mystery to it, according to Pearly Queen of Tower Hamlets Lorraine Wells – who, despite her title, actually lives in Harold Hill.

“I used to live in Stoke Newington,” she explained.

“There were muggings and prostitutes on every corner, and after I got out in 2003 there were shootings. I thought: ‘There’s got to be somewhere better than this.’”

So she scarpered – and upon arriving in Harold Hill she found she wasn’t on her tod.

“People were moving out because as you get older you want to go somewhere quiet,” she said.

And as a result places in Havering are becoming islands of Cockney culture, shielded from the rapid population changes that occur further into London.

“Harold Hill’s more family-oriented,” said Lorraine. “You can leave your door open. That spirit is what the East End was all about.

“If families didn’t have enough food, my parents would collect it for them.”

Joe Leslie, who runs website Cockney Pride and moved out to Collier Row from the East End, agreed.

“It started in the ‘70s with the slum clearances,” he said. “The councils compulsory purchased the properties and re-housed people out of the East End.

“Then people had children and stayed where they were.

“Romford has definitely got the flavour of the East End now. The spirit’s alive 100 per cent.

“If you go to Romford Market it’s still got the feel in it, and hopefully that long lives.

“But the Cockney spirit has long gone in the East End.

“People talk about the accent but it’s not just that – it’s the way of the Cockney, how friendly they are, the walk and the banter.”

What do you think? Is Havering the new Tower Hamlets? Leave your comments below or e-mail ramzy.alwakeel@archant.co.uk.

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