Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The 'Sweet Little Flyover' Hits 50

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The 'Sweet Little Flyover' Hits 50

Article excerpt

Byline: Nick Curtis

It's one of the stranger manifestations of civic London pride. Fifty years ago, the voluptuous Hollywood bombshell Jayne Mansfield, clad in "a skintight crimson dress", used a pair of gold scissors to open the Chiswick Flyover, London's first two-level highway. this week, actress and longterm local resident Imogen stubbs (below) was invited by the mayor of Chiswick, Paul Lynch, to take part in a ceremony to celebrate the flyover's half-century.

Pride in this enduring engineering marvel is tempered by a very British ambivalence. "I'm not exactly the natural successor to Jayne Mansfield," says stubbs wrily. "I think they asked me because, like the flyover, I'm homely and getting on a bit."

Lynch is similarly equivocal: "the flyover is a monument to the way our views have changed," he says. "It symbolises a rush to modernity, a belief that things would get bigger and better. the flyover raised the curtain on the motoring age, and we're now dealing with that legacy: we let a lot of genies out of bottles back then."

The [pounds sterling]6 million, half-mile flyover was built to ease congestion from the 40,000 cars then using the Chiswick roundabout, where the north and south Circular Roads meet. tenants and stallholders were evicted, gas mains and sewers rerouted. the stipulation that traffic be kept moving during construction led to tensions between contractors Alderton's Construction and transport minister Harold Watkinson. there were rumours that victims of the Kray brothers, including Ginger Marks who shot Jack "the Hat" McVitie, were interred among the 100-tonne concrete support columns.

The showbiz opening on 30 september 1959 was therefore a shrewd publicity stunt by Alderton's managing director, J e Dayton. It worked. the bosomy Mansfield - who was filming too Hot to Handle with Christopher Lee in nearby Borehamwood - drew wolf whistles from the workmen, petted Dayton's bulldog, and declared the flyover "sweet". …

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