Acacia Avenue is said to be where the heart of Middle England beats. How did it become shorthand for suburbia - and does your street name speak volumes about you?
By Megan Lane
BBC News Magazine
Acacia Avenue is a cliche of British culture, a metaphor for a middle-class suburban street and a middle-class suburban life.
It's a byword for the Middle England once chronicled by the poet Sir John Betjeman, a place of neatly-kept semis, twitching lace curtains and street parties, where nothing too startling happens to rattle the windows. Unless, of course, it is the fictional Acacia Avenue in Iron Maiden's song about East End prostitute Charlotte the Harlot:
Sometimes when you're strolling down the avenue
The way you walk it makes men think of having you
When you're walking down the street
Everybody stops and turns to stare at you
And it is a stereotype in part confirmed in a social survey by the AA, in which researchers visited 15 of the 60-odd Acacia Avenues dotted about the country and talked to 200 residents.
All but one of the families surveyed are white; the majority are two-parent families or older couples.
At least 60 in UK, of which nine in greater London
22 Acacia Ave - Iron Maiden song about prostitute
29 Acacia Ave - 1945 film of middle-class domestic manners
29 Acacia Rd - home of 80s cartoon character Bananaman
52 Acacia Ave - setting for Harry Worth's 60s sitcom
Two-thirds live in a three-bed semi, and almost all have a garden, in which one in five have a shed and one in 10 play host to a gnome. They earn, on average, the average wage and have been in the same job for more than 11 years.
Yet the once-typical family unit headed by two parents has undergone substantial changes, with the number of single-person households rising sharply. These "singletons" are not simply young things who can afford to branch out on their own; as we live longer, many are elderly, the surviving member of a couple.
Mr and Mrs Average have long been the stuff of fiction, precisely because so many of us can identify with them. More than four-fifths of the UK's population live in suburbs, and researchers at Cambridge University estimate that over the next 20 years, almost two million extra people will take up suburban living in England.
An early take on Acacia Avenue-type concerns came with the rise of the middle classes in the 19th Century.
The Good Life enshrined - and celebrated - suburban concerns
The 1892 book Diary of a Nobody purports to be the musings of Charles Pooter, a house-proud, thrifty inhabitant of The Laurels, Brickfield Tce, Holloway. His address - like Acacia Avenue and countless variations - strives to evoke a rural idyll and yet speaks of stifling suburbia.
Mr Pooter is the spiritual ancestor of many a comically-snobbish sitcom character, from Henry Cass's 1945 film 29 Acacia Avenue, a comedy of suburban manners, through the likes of Hyacinth Bucket (that's Bou-quet to you) and Jerry and Margot Leadbetter of The Good Life.
Indeed, Harry Potter's guardians, the Dursleys, live at 4 Privet Drive - JK Rowling's twist on Acacia Avenue - in leafy Surrey. He is a white-collar middle manager, she a housewife.
But where do you live? What do you think your street name evokes - and do the inhabitants conform to that way of life? Let us know using the form below.
Some of your comments so far:
In London SW11 you'll find Garfield Mews.
Well, he would, wouldn't he.
We live on Raeburn Ave, which sounds Scottish (Henry Raeburn, 18th Century painter) but isn't. This is the most homogenous place I've ever lived in - white English people with mock-mullioned windows and plenty of pebble dash. Round the corner is a Morland Avenue. The weird thing is there is another place, also on the Wirral peninsula, which has a Raeburn Avenue which leads onto a Morland Avenue. I can only suppose somebody lifted the names at random and slapped them down likewise on new streets. Call me radical, but I like a name to have some significance.
Amy, Eastham, Wirral
Not sure about streets, but the more idyllic an estate name sounds, the less salubrious they tend to be. Woodland View Estate and the like are in the same category of fib as Greenland. My favourite road names are Pocket Handkercheif Lane in Rotherham and Grange Crescent Road in Sheffield - that only needs 'Avenue' and 'Close' in it to get the full set.
I live in the very rural sounding Thirlmere Road. Nowhere near the Lake District though - it's sat in Wythenshawe, south Manchester, about 5 minutes walk from the airport.
Chris, Manchester, UK
I liked this bit: "They earn, on average, the average wage." Around here, an average 3b semi in an average Acacia Avenue-type street costs £350k. I would be happy beyond my wildest dreams if I could afford to buy one for my family to live in on my average salary.
Ben, Surrey, UK
There's an Acacia Avenue here in Bracknell on the Sandhurst borders - and the street which was the fictional Privet Drive in the Harry Potter films, so I guess we're pretty Middle England.
We have a Skins Lane. And yes, there's a number 4...
I live in Cockermouth, which is in Cumbria. You do the maths.
Jon French, Cockermouth
I wonder what cachet living on 19th Street gives me.
Jane, Calgary, Canada
I was brought up at Maggots End in a rural part of Hertfordshire. It's even in the Doomsday book. My father always wanted to change our house name to Fisherman's hook or something else witty but my mother wouldn't let him
I live in Butt Lane, which I think is a lovely name. Although I did hear of a neighbour who tried to order something online from the US, and the website refused to accept it as "This order cannot be processed as the first line of your address contains an offensive word".
Jen, Milton, Cambridgeshire
I live in the classily named Retail Park Close. Let the jokes begin!
Kate Spencer, Exeter
In my home town, the druggies tend to gather in Boot Lane. We've urged them to move to High Street, but...
Helene Parry, South Wales expat to Brentford Lock
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