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George Orwell London Photographs
In April of 1999, my friend Max Minkoff and I visited London. Three of the
days we were there we spent photographing the places George Orwell lived,
worked and ate. This was somewhat of a quest for me; I wanted to establish
a context for Orwell's writing, to get an idea of the places that had been
important to him, changed as they must be fifty years after his death. The
first and second days were spent wandering the streets of London; the third
day we went out to Sutton Courtenay to photograph
This adventure would never have been possible were it not for a little book
I discovered in a used bookshop in my home town of Seattle.
by John Thompson, with photos by Phillipa Scoones, is an extensive
catalog of the sites of Orwell's life. I count 115 pictures in it, half
historical photos of English life when Orwell lived it, half taken in 1984
specifically for the book. Addresses are given in the caption of each photo,
which makes finding the buildings easy even for a pair of novice London
visitors with an AZ map and a modest knowledge of the tube. This web page
updates and duplicates a small subset of the photos in the book--it would
take two weeks of solid effort to reproduce them all. While the book groups
the photos mostly chronologically, I have chosen to order by address to
aid travellers who would like to pack the most Orwell viewing into an
It may seem odd to spend one's vacation walking the obscure back streets of
a city so rich in attractions. Certainly one could spend months in London
visiting museums and galleries, seeing shows and taking sightseeing trips.
But I feel like I know more of London now for having spent time outside of
the tourist centers. We were cheerfully honked at by a carload of teens
wanting their picture taken. We looked after the scooter of a motorcycle
messenger from Liverpool with missing front teeth as he bought a beer at
the end of his shift, and then had a (mostly one-sided) conversation with
him as he complained about beer prices in London. And we learned to be
careful how many zones you cross when riding the Underground, because the
attendants are serious about leveling fines for riding with the wrong kind
of ticket when their supervisor is watching--they will, however, happily
take a phony American address to mail the bill to.
Let me also thank Max Minkoff for accompanying me on this journey. I'm sure
that he had as much fun as I did, but it was not a pilgrimage for him as it
was for me, and I'm sure there were times he would rather have sat in a quiet
pub instead of walking another hour to the next apartment building. In fact
there were many times when I wanted to do that as well, but having a friend
along made the travelling easier--this could never have been done alone.
A note on maps: I have attempted to be as accurate as possible matching
addresses to maps, but I don't have the exact street addresses of all the
buildings, and Mapquest has a limited ability to match to exact addresses
even when available. When possible, I have matched to cross streets, but
even that is not possible for all photos. Please take the maps as a general
guide to the location of the buildings and don't expect to find a structure
exactly where the star is.
Victor Gollancz Ltd
Victor Gollancz was Orwell's first publisher and the founder of the Left
Book Club through which he commissioned Orwell to write The Road to
Wigan Pier. Gollancz
died in 1967, and I don't know who if anyone carried on the
publishing company after him. More...
The Outer Temple
The Outer Temple housed the offices of Tribune, a magazine for which
Orwell was the literary editor. He also wrote a weekly column called
"As I Please", which helped to establish his reputation as a man of
uncompromising views with a sharp command of English. In March of 1945 he
took a job with the Observer and left Tribune.
Adelphi and Time and Tide
Orwell had a least two connections to this section of Bloomsbury Street.
Number fifty-two housed Adelphi, which published many of Orwell's
early pieces. And number thirty-eight housed Time and Tide, which
13 & 18 Percy Street
Two Percy Street addresses have connections to Orwell. Number 13 is the
Elysee restaurant, specializing in Greek food. Orwell liked the moussaka
here; Arthur Koestler apparently hated it.
Number 18 was the flat where Sonia Brownell lived. Orwell visited her here
in the late 1940s before his his last illness. She became his second wife
in 1949, as he was dying. (source: Orwell's London, pg. 112)
Marquis of Granby and Newman Arms
The Marquis of Granby and the Newman Arms, both located on Rathbone
Street, were usual drinking spots. Another favorite, the Wheatsheaf,
is just across the street on Rathbone Place. Max and I stopped in for
lunch at the Marquis. That's me studying the menu. Thompson remarks
that the Marquis was not the first choice for Orwell "since it was run
by an ex-policeman and known for its violence."
The Senate House on Malet Street is the headquarters of the University of
London. The structure is surprisingly large for the neighborhood, rising
in tiers above the surrounding buildings. With its imposing white facade,
it is thought to be the inspiration for architecture of the four ministries
in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Freedom Defence Committee
"George Woodcock writes that the committee 'led a precarious but active
existence from 1944 to 1949....Orwell became vice-chairman.'
"It came into being because the National Council for Civil Liberties was
strongly influence by communists and fellow travellers and so chose not to
support the cuases of those non-communist intellectuals who fell foul of
--Orwell's London, pg. 95.
University College Hospital
Orwell spent his last illness at University College Hospital, in the
private patients' wing. This photograph is actually of the public hospital;
the private wing is around the corner in a red brick building with a
white stone ground floor. Orwell checked in in September 1949, was
married here on October 13th to Sonia Brownell and died here in room
sixty-five on January 21st, 1950. (source: Orwell's London, pgs.
Leverton & Sons
Leverton and Sons, on Eversholt Street, were chosen as funeral directors,
apparently because they had a close relationship with the minister at
Christ Church. Orwell willed that he be buried, not cremated.
(source: Orwell's London, pg. 104.)
Funeral services for Orwell were held in Christ Church on Albany Street
on January 26, 1950. The church itself is not particularly beautiful;
it is rather ill-proportioned, with a massive doorway and fort-like
masonry walls topped by a gracful tower that looks like it is struggling
to overcome the plainness of its foundation. Orwell was not buried in
here, but rather at All Saints in Sutton Courenay, Oxfordshire,
"in a country churchyard" as ordered in his will.
From May 1940 to April 1941, Orwell and his wife Eileen rented 18 Dorset
Chambers in Chagford Street. It was on the top floor and therefore dangerous
during the Blitz. He was working for Time and Tide writing theater
reviews and joined the Local Defence Volunteers while living here. From
here, the they moved to 111 Langford Court. (source: Orwell's London,
From Dorset Chambers, the Orwells moved to 111 Langford Court, Langford Place.
The were here from April 1941 to the summer of 1942. Although presently a
very smart building by all appearances, in 1941 it was crammed full of
refugees and unpleasant. Again, they were living near the top of the
building, exposed to German bombs. They moved from here to 10 Mortimer
Crescent, which no longer exists, having been destroyed in an air raid
while they lived there. (source: Orwell's London, pgs 51-52)
This building was used as a training facility by the Local Defence
Volunteers, which later became the Home Guard. Orwell joined the
organization in June 1940, a month after the LDV was formed. He was
too ill to enlist in the regular army, otherwise he would have done
so. Because of his service in Spain, Orwell was made a sergeant.
At the corner of Pond Street and South End Green is a pizza house that used
to be Booklover's Corner, a book shop where Orwell worked in 1934 and '35.
This plaque, commemorating Orwell's time here, is just to the left of the
77 Parliament hill is just a short walk from Booklover's Corner, up a
sharp hill and on the edge of a park. Orwell moved here in February
1935 after living over Booklover's Corner. He had the first floor
room in the back. A plaque over the front door commemorates Orwell's stay.
"Orwell lived at the top of the house from 1944, first with Eileen, then with
a housekeeper [after Eileen's death], then with his sister Avril. It cost
them about £100 a year to rent. Eileen once told a friend that they
would be able to afford much better places if they didn't both smoke so much."
--Orwell's London, pg. 92.
For other photos, please see the raw photos page.
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Copyright ©2002 Andrew W. MacDonald, All Rights
Last revised: 2002/01/27 00:18:09.