Lost in Walthamstow

I have a dark confession: I was a huge fan of Lost. Where others may talk about The Sopranos or Mad Men as their entry into the ‘golden age of television’, for me it was all about Oceanic Airlines Flight 815. Yes, Lost was ludicrous, the accents were all over the place, and the showrunners and writers clearly made it up as they went along, but I found it utterly compelling. I loved the flashbacks and flashforwards and how they drove forward the plot whilst also allowing the audience to investigate each character in detail. I even quite liked the ending.

I hadn’t thought of Lost for years, but recently a friend has been rewatching it. He reached season 5, episode 3 (Jughead), when he spotted Desmond walking along a road that looked familiar. He asked on Facebook if anyone recognised the road.

Desmond goes for a walk

The road did look familiar. The houses looked like Warner houses, which are only found scattered around Walthamstow and Leyton. I moved to Walthamstow in 2013 and for my first three years there I lived in a Warner home. The thought that Lost was filmed near me was a small but distinct thrill.

I found another photo of the scene, with a clearer view.

The Road of Mystery

I did a bit of online research – there are a few websites that catalogue Lost filming locations. There were a handful of scenes filmed in central London where Alan Dale (who is still Jim Robinson from Neighbours as far as I’m concerned) was appearing in Spamalot. Aside from that it looks like the ‘London’ scenes were filmed in studio sets in America. There was certainly no mention of Walthamstow.

Then another friend chipped in to say that he thought recognised the road. It was Badlis Road in Walthamstow. That rang a bell – I had lived a few minutes away from there when I first moved into the area. However, my friend pointed out that whilst the street on the left hand side of the road was Badlis Road, the buildings on the right hand side were not. The gate and entrance don’t exist in real life. Presumably, they had been digitally added.

I looked at Badlis Road on Google Streetview and found the same angle from the Lost scene. It was almost certainly Badlis Road. The houses match up and you can identify the yellow brick building across on Forest Road.

Badlis Road, Walthamstow

I then scrolled back on Streetview to see what Badlis Road looked like in 2008 (when Google streetview started – this is a handy feature that lots of people don’t seem to know about.) The markings on the pavement on the right-hand side of the road match the markings on the road in Lost. So whatever CGI wizardry they used, they only superimposed the buildings/entrance on the right-hand side of Badlis Road – not the road itself.

Badlis Road in 2008

And then a few weeks later I cycled up to Badlis Road to take a look myself. Could I sense some mystical Lost energy pulsating through the pavement? Was I cruelly thrust back in time? No. But it was interesting to wander the street in person and confirm that the scene was definitely filmed here. I enjoyed the small amount of detective work involved – I like that the Internet now gives you the tools to put together clues and collaborate find answers to questions, even if the questions are inconsequential. The solving of a mystery felt very Lost, even if Badlis Road is hardly The Island.

Badlis Road. A man walks towards me

I’m still curious to know how they shot it all. There is a scene a minute or so later where you see Badlis Road from inside a house, and see traffic whizzing past. (the interior shots are inadvertently hilarious; they’ve modelled the house on a suburban American house, with large rooms and ample corridors, whereas actual Warner properties are notoriously charming but poky).

Desmond, with Badlis Road behind him.

Presumably they needed a London street and someone in a production team filmed some footage of Badlis Road, and then they weaved some CGI magic to add a gated house and Desmond. (If you happen to be a part of the Lost production team that worked on the episode and want to message me about the behind-the-scenes process, please do. I appreciate this is unlikely, but you never know).

Unrelated to Lost – Warner houses have a fascinating history. There’s a great little website telling their story and interviewing some of the original tenants. Take a look.