George Orwell's London, Mapped

By M@

Last Updated 10 April 2024

George Orwell's London, Mapped

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A plaque to George Orwell including his face

Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell, was not born in London. He spent large chunks of his life elsewhere, and even claimed to hate the capital. Yet there's no denying his huge imprint on the city.

From his musings on the ideal pub to the dystopian alternative London described in 1984, to his time living with the homeless chronicled in Down and Out, the great author was one of the foremost chroniclers of 20th century London.

George Orwell at the BBC in the famous black and white image

We've pieced together on one map his many, many London homes, the key places from his fiction and various other sites connected to the author.

George Orwell's London homes

Orwell lived at a bewildering number of addresses over his life (shown as black icons on the map). He never settled anywhere for more than a few years, and often moved several times within a year. He would lodge with friends, and even slept rough during his "down and out" research.

His first London home was in the now demolished Cromwell Crescent in Earl's Court, where he lived with his mother from 1917. His final "home" might be considered University College Hospital (now the Cruciform Building). The ailing author was admitted in September 1949 and died of tuberculosis on 21 January 1950.

The cruciform building in bloomsbury where george orwell died
The Cruciform Building of University College Hospital, where Orwell died in 1950

In between, he resided at numerous addresses, mainly in inner north London — places like Islington, Kentish Town, Hampstead and Kilburn. We've shown as many as we can find on the map above.

George Orwell's London plaques

George Orwell blue plaque on a brown brick wall
Orwell's Blue Plaque in Kentish Town

Few people have as many London plaques as George Orwell. His official Blue Plaque can be found on Lawford Road, Kentish Town, where he lodged for a few months in 1935-36 with two friends. The Canonbury Society, meanwhile, erected a green plaque on his Canonbury Square home (1944-47) where he finished Animal Farm and began 1984.

A green plaque recording Orwell's residence in Canonbury Square

His most eye-catching plaque, shown at the top of this article, adorns the entrance to what is now a Gail's bakery, opposite the Royal Free at South End Green. The plaque, featuring Orwell's likeness, records the site of the Booklovers' Corner book shop, where the author lived and worked in 1934-35.

A plaque to george orwell on Primrose Hill, London
Parliament Hill plaque

Other plaques include one for Orwell's shortlived home on the nearby street of Parliament Hill (1935), a home in Kilburn which was hit by a flying bomb in 1944, and a former school in Hayes where he briefly taught (1932-33).

Kilburn plaque to George Orwell on brown background
Kilburn plaque to George Orwell. Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne has a plaque on an adjacent building
A blue plaque to George Orwell on Portobello road
A blue-coloured plaque marking Orwell's shortlived lodgings at the foot of Portobello Road

The Pubs of George Orwell

Pubs played a very important role in Orwell's life and works. One of his most famous essays is the 1946 piece The Moon Under Water, which lists the virtues of his ideal pub (they've dated quite spectacularly). One of the key inspirations is thought to have been the Compton Arms, close to his Canonbury home.

Many other London pubs claim Orwell connections. The Fitzroy Tavern was a favourite (as with so many literary figures of the 20th century), while the nearby Wheatsheaf goes so far as to display a plaque.

Two makeshift plaques to George Orwell and Dylan Thomas. They are turquoise (the plaques, not Orwell and Thomas)

Also nearby is the Newman Arms, which is thought to have inspired the proles' pub in 1984.

Other sites related to Orwell

Senate House in bloomsbury photographed at a jaunty angle

We've included additional sites on the map to indicate some of the most important locations to Orwell. Senate House, for example (shown above), was his wife's place of work for many years. Its towering form was the inspiration for the Ministry of Truth in 1984.

Orwell himself worked on-and-off for the BBC. Perhaps his most famous portrait photograph (shown above) has him positioned in front of a BBC mic. Sadly, no recordings of his broadcasts survive. The BBC honours the man with a slightly eccentric statue, which stands outside New Broadcasting House in central London.

A statue of George Orwell, leaning foreward
"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

Explore the map above for other key sites from Orwell's life.

All images by Matt Brown except (obviously) the black and white image of Orwell, which is public domain.