To Orwell Today,


Just looking at your wonderful site. I'm starting to get interested in George Orwell and especially Animal Farm. I live in Lower Willingdon, right on the Downs and only five minutes walk from the farm and the 'quarry'. I love strolling around the area (I have lived here for six years), and you can sense the presence.

Keep up the great work with the site!

All the best,

Greetings Steve,

It's great to hear from someone in WILLINGDON, the village in Sussex which, along with Wallington, the village in Hertfordshire, is partially the model for ANIMAL FARM. I learned this a few years ago when a reader wrote in pointing out the WILLINGDON similarities in response to my pointing out the WALLINGTON similarities. Prior to that I hadn't realized there was a real-life WILLINGDON in Orwell's life. See WALLINGTON WILLINGDON ANIMAL FARM

The belief that Orwell copied aspects of real-life CHALK FARM in real-life WILLINGDON for fictional MANOR FARM in fictional WILLINGDON (in addition to their names being identical) is backed by the following clues. (More can be added later):

-- There is only one village named WILLINGDON in all of England

-- Orwell mentions WILLINGDON eight times in ANIMAL FARM

-- From 1911 to 1916 Orwell went to boarding school in EASTBOURNE which is a one-hour walk across the DOWNS to WILLINGDON

-- Orwell mentions JEVINGTON, a village near real-life WILLINGDON, when writing about walking on the DOWNS

-- There's a RED LION pub in real-life WILLINGDON
-- There's a RED LION pub in fictional WILLINGDON

-- Real-life CHALK FARM (now a hotel) backs onto the DOWNS
-- Fictional MANOR FARM backs onto the DOWNS

-- Real-life CHALK FARM is on COOPER'S HILL which used to be the main road to WILLINGDON
-- Fictional MANOR FARM is on a hill up from the gate on the main road to WILLINGDON

-- From a GRASSY KNOLL near real-life WILLINGDON the RED ROOFS of CHALK FARM, and the entire countryside, can be seen
-- From a GRASSY KNOLL near fictional WILLINGDON the RED ROOFS of MANOR FARM, and the entire countryside, can be seen

-- Real-life CHALK FARM is near an old limestone quarry
-- Fictional MANOR FARM has a limestone quarry

In light of all those similarities I believe WILLINGDON definitely needs to be on the map of PLACES IMPORTANT TO ORWELL -- as does Eastbourne -- so I've added them to the following map (scanned from Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation by Jeffrey Meyers who, for some reason, left them out):

OrwellWintryMeyers   OrwellMapBritain

After receiving your email I found a trail-map of the DOWNS showing where you walk -- which is where Orwell walked too -- a hundred years ago.


In Orwell's earliest existing pieces of writing -- letters from school to his mother in 1911 when he was eight -- he talks excitedly about walking on the DOWNS to BEACHY HEAD. And in one of his last pieces of writing -- a 1947 essay lambasting boarding school -- Orwell says the only time he was happy there was when he was walking the DOWNS. He used to go, with his best friend and a favourite teacher, on long nature hikes catching butterflies and other insects -- and at the end of the day have tea in a village pub (maybe the RED LION in WILLINGDON by chance?). No wonder you sense his presence when you're walking on the DOWNS!

DownsInterest1 DownsInterest2

Reading the points of interest described on the DOWNS brochure -- scanned above and excerpted below -- I recognize more WILLINGDON and DOWNS features in ANIMAL FARM than previously realized:

...3. Rejoin the main track and continue to the top of Willingdon Hill, where a trigonometrical point upon a mound (former windmill site) is visible to your right. Here there are spectacular views all around, particularly southwards across farmland to the clifftop skyline between Beachy Head, Birling Gap and beyond....

4. Particularly during the 19th century, farmers constructed dew ponds for the many flocks of sheep that grazed the escarpment as there is no surface water on the downs....

10. ...From the Beachy Head Memorial Plaques follow the Peace Path to enjoy views of the Eastbourne Seafront and the Beachy Head Lighthouse...

11. ...This area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, noted for its abundant chalk grassland flora and associated insect and bird life...

For example, I think Orwell got the idea for the GRASSY KNOLL in ANIMAL FARM from WILLINGDON HILL (where there used to be a windmill).

And Orwell probably got the idea for the windmill from the WILLINGDON WINDMILL near the train station in Polegate. WILLINGDON WINDMILL, built in 1817, was then, and is now, the oldest windmill in Sussex still in operation. Here's a photo:


In ANIMAL FARM Orwell went into great detail on the building of the windmill -- how tall it was, how long its sails, how thick its walls -- as though following the blueprint of the real WILLINGDON WINDMILL -- info available to Orwell at the time.

And I think the "drinking pool" the animals drank from in ANIMAL FARM -- or sometimes called "the pond" -- was modelled after the DEW PONDS on the DOWNS -- specifically the one on top of WILLINGDON HILL. Here's a photo:


Dew ponds are unique to the Sussex Downs -- further proof that Orwell had them in mind in ANIMAL FARM. As explained in the brochure, and in subsequent research, dew ponds are made of chalk, in the shape of a bowl, to catch the morning dew, there being no other source of water on the Downs which, under their grassy surface, are solid chalk going down hundreds of feet. BEACHY HEAD -- backing onto Orwell's school on the DOWNS -- is the tallest white cliff in England -- even taller than the White Cliffs of Dover.


Below, for your reading pleasure, I've excerpted passages from ANIMAL FARM and other writings by and about Orwell focusing on WILLINGDON and the DOWNS. At pertinent passages I've inserted photos from various books and articles. It's always fun recognizing the clues Orwell scatters throughout all his writing. ANIMAL FARM is symbolic on many many levels -- including the fact that Orwell put so much of himself into it.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

PS - Notice the windmill on the cover of ANIMAL FARM in the Penquin edition below -- - it looks identical to WILLINGDON WINDMILL

WillingdonWindmill AnimalFarmBk
by George Orwell, 1945
Chapters 2-10

Chapter 2: ...June came and the hay was almost ready for cutting. On Midsummer's Eve, which was a Saturday, Mr. Jones went into Willingdon and got so drunk at the Red Lion that he did not come back till midday on Sunday....


Jones was expelled, and the Manor Farm was theirs....

A little way down the pasture there was a knoll that commanded a view of most of the farm. The animals rushed to the top of it and gazed round them in the clear morning light.


Yes, it was theirs -- everything that they could see was theirs! In the ecstasy of that thought they gambolled round and round, they hurled themselves into the air in great leaps of excitement. They rolled in the dew, they cropped mouthfuls of the sweet summer grass, they kicked up clods of the black earth and snuffed its rich scent.


Then they made a tour of inspection of the whole farm and surveyed with speechless admiration the ploughland, the hayfield, the orchard, the pool, the spinney. It was as though they had never seen these things before, and even now they could hardly believe that it was all their own....

Chapter 4: ...By the late summer the news of what had happened on Animal Farm had spread across half the county. Every day Snowball and Napoleon sent out flights of pigeons whose instructions were to mingle with the animals on neighbouring farms, tell them the story of the Rebellion, and teach them the tune of 'Beasts of England'.... Most of this time Mr. Jones had spent sitting in the taproom of the Red Lion at Willingdon, complaining to anyone who would listen of the monstrous injustice he had suffered in being turned out of his property by a pack of good-for-nothing animals....

Chapter 5: ...In January there came bitterly hard weather. The earth was like iron, and nothing could be done in the fields. Many meetings were held in the big barn, and the pigs occupied themselves with planning out the work of the coming season.... Snowball had made a close study of some back numbers of the 'Farmer and Stockbreeder' which he had found in the farmhouse, and was full of plans for innovations and improvements... In the long pasture, not far from the farm buildings, there was a small knoll which was the highest point on the farm.


After surveying the ground, Snowball declared that this was just the place for a windmill, which could be made to operate a dynamo and supply the farm with electrical power. This would light the stalls and warm them in winter, and would also run a circular saw, a chaff-cutter, a mangel-slicer, and an electric milking machine. The animals had never heard of anything of this kind before (for the farm was an old-fashioned one and had only the most primitive machinery), and they listened in astonishment while Snowball conjured up pictures of fantastic machines which would do their work for them while they grazed at their ease in the fields or improved their minds with reading and conversation.

Within a few weeks Snowball's plans for the windmill were fully worked out. The mechanical details came mostly from three books which had belonged to Mr. Jones -- 'One Thousand Useful Things to Do About the House', 'Every Man His Own Bricklayer', and 'Electricity for Beginners'....Gradually the plans grew into a complicated mass of cranks and cog-wheels, covering more than half the floor, which the other animals found completely unintelligible but very impressive. All of them came to look at Snowball's drawings at least once a day.... Stone would have to be carried and built up into walls, then the sails would have to be made and after that there would be need for dynamos and cables. (How these were to be procured, Snowball did not say.) But he maintained that it could all be done in a year. And thereafter, he declared, so much labour would be saved that the animals would only need to work three days a week....

Chapter 6: The windmill presented unexpected difficulties. There was a good quarry of limestone on the farm, and plenty of sand and cement had been found in one of the outhouses, so that all the materials for building were at hand. But the problem the animals could not at first solve was how to break up the stone into pieces of suitable size. There seemed no way of doing this except with picks and crowbars, which no animal could use, because no animal could stand on his hind legs. Only after weeks of vain effort did the right idea occur to somebody - namely, to utilise the force of gravity. Huge boulders, far too big to be used as they were, were lying all over the bed of the quarry.


The animals lashed ropes round these, and then all together, cows, horses, sheep, any animal that could lay hold of the rope -- even the pigs sometimes joined in at critical moments -- they dragged them with desperate slowness up the slope to the top of the quarry, where they were toppled over the edge, to shatter to pieces below. Transporting the stone when it was once broken was comparatively simple. The horses carried it off in cart-loads, the sheep dragged single blocks, even Muriel and Benjamin yoked themselves into an old governess-cart and did their share. By late summer a sufficient store of stone had accumulated, and then the building began, under the superintendence of the pigs.

But it was a slow, laborious process. Frequently it took a whole day of exhausting effort to drag a single boulder to the top of the quarry, and sometimes when it was pushed over the edge it failed to break. Nothing could have been achieved without Boxer, whose strength seemed equal to that of all the rest of the animals put together. When the boulder began to slip and the animals cried out in despair at finding themselves dragged down the hill, it was always Boxer who strained himself against the rope and brought the boulder to a stop.


To see him toiling up the slope inch by inch, his breath coming fast, the tips of his hoofs clawing at the ground, and his great sides matted with sweat, filled everyone with admiration. Clover warned him sometimes to be careful not to overstrain himself, but Boxer would never listen to her. His two slogans, "I will work harder" and "Napoleon is always right," seemed to him a sufficient answer to all problems. He had made arrangements with the cockerel to call him three-quarters of an hour earlier in the mornings instead of half an hour. And in his spare moments, of which there were not many nowadays, he would go alone to the quarry, collect a load of broken stone, and drag it down to the site of the windmill unassisted....

By the autumn the animals were tired but happy. They had had a hard year, and after the sale of part of the hay and corn, the stores of food for the winter were none too plentiful, but the windmill compensated for everything. It was almost half built now. After the harvest there was a stretch of clear dry weather, and the animals toiled harder than ever, thinking it well worth while to plod to and fro all day with blocks of stone if by doing so they could raise the walls another foot. Boxer would even come out at nights and work for an hour or two on his own by the light of the harvest moon.


In their spare moments the animals would walk round and round the half-finished mill, admiring the strength and perpendicularity of its walls and marvelling that they should ever have been able to build anything so imposing. Only old Benjamin refused to grow enthusiastic about the windmill, though, as usual, he would utter nothing beyond the cryptic remark that donkeys live a long time.

November came, with raging south-west winds. Building had to stop because it was now too wet to mix the cement. Finally there came a night when the gale was so violent that the farm buildings rocked on their foundations and several tiles were blown off the roof of the barn. The hens woke up squawking with terror because they had all dreamed simultaneously of hearing a gun go off in the distance. In the morning the animals came out of their stalls to find that the flagstaff had been blown down and an elm tree at the foot of the orchard had been plucked up like a radish. They had just noticed this when a cry of despair broke from every animal's throat. A terrible sight had met their eyes. The windmill was in ruins. With one accord they dashed down to the spot. Napoleon, who seldom moved out of a walk, raced ahead of them all. Yes, there it lay, the fruit of all their struggles, levelled to its foundations, the stones they had broken and carried so laboriously scattered all around. Unable at first to speak, they stood gazing mournfully at the litter of fallen stone....

Chapter 7: ...The knoll where they were lying gave them a wide prospect across the countryside.

ChalkFarmDownsGoogle Chalk Farm DewPondDowns

Most of Animal Farm was within their view — the long pasture stretching down to the main road, the hayfield, the spinney, the drinking pool, the ploughed fields where the young wheat was thick and green, and the red roofs of the farm buildings with the smoke curling from the chimneys. It was a clear spring evening. The grass and the bursting hedges were gilded by the level rays of the sun. Never had the farm — and with a kind of surprise they remembered that it was their own farm, every inch of it their own property — appeared to the animals so desirable a place....

Chapter 8: ...Throughout the year the animals worked even harder than they had worked in the previous year. To rebuild the windmill, with walls twice as thick as before, and to finish it by the appointed date, together with the regular work of the farm, was a tremendous labour.... It had become usual to give Napoleon the credit for every successful achievement and every stroke of good fortune. You would often hear one hen remark to another, “Under the guidance of our Leader, Comrade Napoleon, I have laid five eggs in six days”; or two cows, enjoying a drink at the pool, would exclaim, "Thanks to the leadership of Comrade Napoleon, how excellent this water tastes!"....

Chapter 9: ..."Boxer!" she cried, "how are you?"... "It is my lung", said Boxer in a weak voice. "It does not matter. I think you will be able to finish the windmill without me. There is a pretty good store of stone accumulated. I had only another month to go in any case. To tell you the truth, I had been looking forward to my retirement. And perhaps, as Benjamin is growing old too, they will let him retire at the same time and be a companion to me". "We must get help at once", said Clover. "Run, somebody, and tell Squealer what has happened".... After about a quarter of an hour Squealer appeared, full of sympathy and concern. He said that Comrade Napoleon had learned with the very deepest distress of this misfortune to one of the most loyal workers on the farm, and was already making arrangements to send Boxer to be treated in the hospital at Willingdon....


...However, Benjamin and Clover could only be with Boxer after working hours, and it was in the middle of the day when the van came to take him away... Three days later it was announced that Boxer had died in the hospital at Willingdon, in spite of receiving every attention a horse could have....

Chapter 10: ...Years passed. The seasons came and went, the short animal lives fled by....A time came when there was no one who remembered the old days before the Rebellion, except Clover, Benjamin, Moses the raven, and a number of the pigs.... The farm was more prosperous now, and better organised: it had even been enlarged by two fields which had been bought from Mr. Pilkington.

The windmill had been successfully completed at last, and the farm possessed a threshing machine and a hay elevator of its own, and various new buildings had been added to it. Whymper had bought himself a dogcart.


The windmill, however, had not after all been used for generating electrical power. It was used for milling corn, and brought in a handsome money profit. The animals were hard at work building yet another windmill; when that one was finished, so it was said, the dynamos would be installed. But the luxuries of which Snowball had once taught the animals to dream, the stalls with electric light and hot and cold water, and the three-day week, were no longer talked about. Napoleon had denounced such ideas as contrary to the spirit of Animalism. The truest happiness, he said, lay in working hard and living frugally....

~ end quoting ANIMAL FARM by Orwell ~

by Bernard Crick, 1984

LetterHomeDowns LetterHomeDowns
The Joys of Prep School and the Echoing Green

...Eric, strongly recommended by his local convent school, was taken on at half-fees by St Cyprian's, one of the newest but most successful prepartory schools. He was to stay until he was 13. Mrs Blair must have made the application in the spring of 1911, interviewing and being interviewed by the head master and owner of the school, Mr Vaughan Wilkes, and the real power behind the throne, Mrs Wilkes....

St Cyprian's was just outside Eastbourne in Sussex, a fashionable and very respectable south-coast summer resort, and even then a town favoured for retirement among the prosperous middle class.


The school occupied two large, late Victorian William Morris-style houses, in extensive grounds very near to Beachy Head, the beautifully smooth chalk down and the steep cliff overlooking the English Channel...

BeachyCliffsDowns BeachyHeadChannel

Orwell's own testimony survives in two forms: the famous and virulent "Such, Such Were the Joys" (of uncertain date) and some simple boyish letters to his mother, all but one written in his first fifteen months at St Cyprian's, all that remain of the required weekly letter home during his four years there....Here are his letters from the first term:

September 14, 1911: Dear Mother, I hope you are quite well, thanks for that letter you sent me I havent read it yet. I supose you want to know what schools like, its alright we have fun in the morning. When we are in bed. from E Blair....

Nov 5, 1911: My dear Mother, Thank you very much for that shilling you sent me and my album. We had the thee Matches yesterday we won two and lost one, while the Matches went on we went for a lovely walk on the Downs....

Dec 2, 1911: My dear Mother, I hope you are alright. It was Mrs: Wilkes birthday yesterday, we had aufel fun after tea and played games all over the house. We all went for a walk to Beachy-Head...

~ end quoting Orwell: The Life, by Crick ~

Fictions, Essays and Reportage by George Orwell

Such, Such Were The Joys, by Orwell, 1947

...Sometimes on summer afternoons there were wonderful expeditions across the Downs, or to Beachy Head, where one bathed dangerously among the chalk boulders and came home covered with cuts....


And there was the pleasure of keeping caterpillars -- the silky green and purple puss-moth, the ghostly green poplar-hawk, the privet hawk, large as one's third finger, specimens of which could be illicitly purchased for sixpence at a shop in the town -- and, when one could escape long enough from the master who was "taking the walk," there was the excitement of dredging the dew-ponds on the Downs for enormous newts with orange-colored bellies.


This business of being out for a walk, coming across something of fascinating interest, and then being dragged away from it by a yell from the master, like a dog jerked onward by the leash, is an important feature of school life, and helps to build up the conviction, so strong in many children, that the things you most want to do are always unattainable.


Very occasionally, perhaps once during each summer, it was possible to escape altogether from the barrack-like atmosphere of school, when Brown, the second master, was permitted to take one or two boys for an afternoon of butterfly hunting on a common a few miles away. Brown was a man with white hair and a red face like a strawberry, who was good at natural history, making models and plaster casts, operating magic lanterns, and things of that kind....

And oh, the joy of those occasional expeditions! The ride of two or three miles on a lonely little branch line, the afternoon of charging to and from with large green nets, the beauty of the enormous dragon flies which hovered over the tops of the grasses, the sinister killing-bottle with its sickly smell, and then tea in the parlor of a pub with large slices of pale-colored cake! The essence of it was in the railway journey, which seemed to put magic distances between yourself and school....

Most of the good memories of my childhood, and up to the age of about twenty, are in some way connected with animals. So far, as Crossgates goes, it also seems, when I look back, that all my good memories are of summer...

~ end quoting Such, Such Were the Joys by Orwell ~

by Stansky and Abrahams, 1972

StCyprianPg23 StCyprianPg24

...A handful of these prep schools were day schools....but the greater number were boarding schools, to which, from all over England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, came privileged little boys, there to be made miserable. It was to one such school, St Cyprian's, at Eastbourne, on the Sussex coast, that Eric Blair was sent in September 1911...



The school was situated on the outskirts of Eastbourne -- that much-frequented resort town -- beyond the seaside promenade and the last of the grand hotels. At the point where the coast road begins its winding ascent to the top of Beachy Head, the immense chalk cliff overlooking the Channel, another road veers off to the right, down into a kind of sheltered bowl, and there, at the entrance to what is now a well-mannered suburban street were the buildings and grounds of St Cyprian's.


They consisted principally of a playing field for cricket and football, and two large houses in the late-Victorian style that accommodated dormitories for the boys, classrooms, library, dining-room, offices, living quarters for the seven masters and the matron, and on a grander scale, for the headmaster and his wife and their growing family. From the upper storeys of both houses one had an uninterrupted prospect of the Downs, which began virtually across the street from the school property, and rose up steeply the quarter mile towards Beachy Head.


For the boys it was a prospect of freedom: certainly Eric was happiest at St Cyprian's when he could escape from its disciplined precincts and wander of the Downs as he pleased, alone or with the one close friend he made among his schoolmates, Cyril Connolly...


...He and Connolly would leave the school grounds and set out across the Downs to Beachy Head, or far along the plunging leafy roads that led deep into the Sussex countryside, to villages that might have figured in a Well's novel: Eastdean and Westdean and Jevington.


They would pause in each, and buy from the little old lady who kept the village shop, penny sweets and various fizzy drinks: lemondade, cherryade, and cherry fizz. They might have been a world away from St Cyprian's. (Perhaps it is worth noting here that in an area full of prep schools, St Cyprian's was one of the few that let its boys wander about on the Downs alone, or take prodigious walks by themselves into the countryside.)...

~ end quoting Unknown Orwell by Stansky/Abrahams ~

by Michael Shelden, 1991

SheldenPg42 SheldenPg44

...The boys received instruction from a colourful character named Sergeant Barnes, who had once been middle-weight champion of the Army....His principal job was to serve as drill-sergeant for the Cadet Corps of St Cyprian's, which was officially part of the 2nd Home Counties Brigade, Royal Field Artillery....


Regular parades and drill took place on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The boys marched up and down the playing field with dummy carbines, and once or twice in every term they would be inspected by some visiting colonel or major. On field days they roamed the Downs engaging in mock battles with other schools or with the grey-uniformed veterans of the Volunteer Reserve... A surviving photograph from 1913-1914 does reveal that Eric was a bugler in the Cadet Corps band....

After the First World War began in the late summer of 1914, the boys were constantly reminded that military training was serious business. Old boys visited the school on leave from the front and reported on the perils and hardships which they had endured. One of the younger masters, Charles Loseby, had joined the Army in September 1914, and had gone off to France in January. Before the war he had been the school lieutenant in the Cadet Corps, second only to Mr Wilkes, and had led the boys in the mock battles fought on the Downs. But in less than a year he was back among them, gassed at Ypres in May 1915. He shared his experiences with the boys when he visited the school after his discharge from hospital in June. Then, like a good soldier, he rejoined his regiment at the front...

The boys were asked to contribute to the war effort. They grew vegetables for victory, sacrificed pocket money to send parcels out to the front and devoted long hours in the evenings to knitting socks and mufflers for the troops. They also paid visits to convalescent soldiers at a camp in Summerdown Road, bringing them sweets and Woodbine cigarettes, and inviting them to attend theatricals in the school gymnasium. On one cold, rainy November afternoon the King and Queen visited the camp, and the boys formed a guard of honour. They stood at attention in the rain for over an hour, and then marched back to the school soaking wet. 'This duty was thoroughly appreciated by the cadets,' the school magazine confidently declared.

In Coming Up For Air  Orwell looks at the camp from a different perspective, describing it as it might have appeared to one of the soldiers. This approach results in a fascinating mixture of childhood memories and adult imagination:


'Do you remember those war-time hospital camps?'  George Bowling asks. 'The long rows of wooden huts like chicken-houses stuck right on top of those beastly icy downs -- the "south coast", people used to call it, which made me wonder what the north coast could be like -- where the wind seems to blow at you from all directions at once.'

Bowling is sent to such a camp in Eastbourne after he is slightly injured at the front, and among his visitors are groups of local schoolboys. 'Sometimes the kids from the slap-up boys' schools in Eastbourne used to be led round in crocodiles to hand out fags and peppermint creams to the "wounded Tommies", as they called us.

Orwell 3&13yrsold

A pink-faced kid of about eight would walk up to a knot of wounded men sitting on the grass, split open a packet of Woodbines and solemnly hand one fag to each man, just like feeding the monkeys at the zoo.'....

SheldenPg46 SheldenPg48

...Robert L Sillar was Eric's best teacher at St Cyprian's.... He had been with the school from the beginning and was universally admired by the boys. He was patient, sympathetic and generous. He seems to have been the only adult at the school who liked doing things for the boys just for the fun of it. On Guy Fawkes Day he always delighted them with a colourful display of fireworks.

A handsome, white-haired gentleman, he had a boyish enthusiasm for natural history. His collection of butterflies and moths was enormous, and he was constantly prowling the Downs -- a large green net in hand -- searching for new specimens. He encouraged the boys to assemble their own collections.... He inspired a love of nature in many of his pupils, gently telling them in his deep voice, 'No one can understand difficult things like their own lives and other people unless they understand simpler things like animals and birds first.'... What really drew Eric to Mr Sillar was their shared love of nature. One of the few times that Orwell actually uses the word 'joy' in 'Such, Such Were the Joys' occurs in his description of butterfly-hunting trips with Mr Sillar....

~ end quoting Orwell: The Authozied Biography by Shelden ~

By George, Has the Animal Farm Land Been Found?
The Argus, May 19, 1999

Evidence is forming that a sleepy quarter of East Sussex could well be the inspiration for one of the 20th century's greatest political novels.


There is a growing belief that Chalk Farm, on Coopers Hill, Willingdon, was the inspiration for George Orwell's classic novel Animal Farm. Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair, attended St Cyprian's School in Eastbourne between 1911 and 1916. Old maps show a track used to run from the village to the school, passing right by the old farmhouse. Until now, no one had seriously investigated the claims. But when the farm's current owners needed to raise money to save the building they realised the Eric Blair connection could be a godsend.


Now run as a hotel and garden centre, Chalk Farm is owned by Downland Farm Project, a charity which provides work experience at the site for 60 young adults with learning difficulties. Three years ago the roof of the farmhouse became infested with deathwatch beetles and 150,000 pounds had to be found to restore the roof and save the building. The project's founder, Jill Parker, turned to English Heritage for help, and was told that, although the farmhouse enjoyed listed status, funding depended on the site having a famous connection. It was at this point that Jill's mother, Sylvia Westley, who works as a volunteer at the hotel, decided to look into the Animal Farm claims in the hope it would lead to financial backing.

She spent the next two years researching all of Orwell's books, essays, letters, and biographies to search for clues. Her investigation culminated in the publishing of a booklet titled THE SEARCH FOR THE GEORGE ORWELL CONNECTION. Its findings have caused a literary sensation and dismay among those other farms around the country which also claim to be the site of the novel.

Mrs Westley, 79, said: "There were quite a lot of descriptions in the book which are similar to our farm."


Among the similarities are the knoll which the animals run up and look out on the countryside below and the red roofs of the farmhouse - just like those at Chalk Farm.


Orwell also describes Mr Jones going out one night to the village of Willingdon and getting drunk at the Red Lion. Willingdon - the only village of that name in England - also has a Red Lion pub.

Despite all of Mrs Westley's efforts she is the first to concede there is not enough hard evidence to prove without doubt the Orwell connection. She said: "I have given up all hope of gaining a blue plaque and money from English Heritage. I cannot prove this farm house is what he had in mind. It's more likely he was influenced by several places rather than basing it on just one location." Fortunately, thanks to an incredible fund-raising effort and the kindness of people in the Eastbourne area, the project has been able to restore the roof without the help of English Heritage. Mrs Westley added: "Before this I was not the least bit interested in George Orwell. It was just a way of saving the roof. Now I think he's one of the greatest writers of the 20th century."

~ end quoting By George, Has Animal Farm Land Been Found? ~

A Handbook for Literary Detectives
by Judith Bastide, Michael Rich, 2012

...Retrace your steps to Eastbourne's Grand Parade.... Opposite the delightful Victoria pier there is still a hotel on the corner and here at number 4 was Friedrich Engels' holiday home on his regular visits to England.

BeachyEastbournePier EastbournePier

Maybe when Karl Marx and his family came to visit him from June to July 1881 they also stayed here as Engels' guests. The twin founders of Communism had worked together on the Communist Manifesto in 1848. Engels was a great financial supporter of Marx who was frequently reduced to great poverty and possibly the main purpose of Marx's visit only two years before his death, was to improve his health....


After Engel's death in 1895, in accordance with his last request, Friedrich Engels' ashes were scattered in the sea off Beachy Head...

...Drive out of Eastbourne town centre along Uppertown Road bearing left into The Goffs. This becomes High Street then Church Street. Turn left into Vicarage Road...Go along Vicarage Drive and turn into Summerdown Road. Number 67 was the site of St Cyprian's School.


The school was burnt down in May 1939 but St Cyprian's Lodge stands at the old entrance gate. A plaque marks the spot of such a significant seat of learning. It is possible to pursue your research into the school further and Eastbourne Library (in the town centre at the bottom of Grove Road) has an archive about it. There are some fascinating documents which indicate the future paths some of the boys would take. At the end of the winter term in 1916 Eric Blair (later George Orwell) won the Classics prize, Cyril Connolly won the English prize and Cecil Beaton the Drawing prize. The library also has a copy of the school magazine, St Cyprian's Chronicle for Christmas 1916 which shows that at the same time these potentially famous Old Boys were studying hard they were also performing in a 'Dramatic Entertainment'. Orwell acted the part of Mr Wardle in 'Mr Jingle's Wooing', based on excerpts from 'Pickwick Papers' and was described as "exceedingly good in a difficult part". Connolly, meanwhile, bravely played 'Miss Wardle', which 'showed him to be an artist of exceptional merit. However Orwell later remembered the school, life there was clearly not all bad....Cyril Connolly, after a distinquished career as an author and journalist, including founding and editing 'Horizon', returned to Eastbourne in 1970 to live at 48 St John's Road, where he died six years later...

H.G. Wells often holidayed here, first in 1893. He stayed at 6 News Cottage, Beachy Head Road and on a later visit had his first flight in one of the sea planes which operated from the Beach. Literary holiday makers continued into the twentieth century....

From Eastbourne town center Upperton Road, as it goes north, turns into Willingdon Road and then the A2270 signposted London.

EastbourneMapWillingdon ChalkFarmDownsGoogle

First stop is Willingdon village, three miles from the town centre. Although Orwell never identified the location of Animal Farm, many locals are convinced that it's based on Chalk Farm in Willingdon. George Orwell and fellow St Crypian's would walk the two-hour round trip on half-holidays and the village location for the farm in Animal Farm is Willingdon. Interestingly, one Saturday in the novel, Mr Jones, the cruel farmer, goes into the village "and got so drunk at the Red Lion that he did not come back to the farm until midday on Sunday".


The Red Lion is still operating in the village today. Orwell himself made no further comment and you need to draw your own conclusions.


Treat yourself to a coffee or tea in the Secret Garden at Chalk Farm Hotel and Garden Centre and take a peep at the Orwell Lounge now licenced for Civil Weddings. Certainly you may be walking through the original Animal Farm....

~ end quoting Follow These Writers by Bastide/Rich (link at bottom of page) ~

by Sonia Orwell & Ian Angus, 1968

Letter to Cyril Connolly
from George Orwell, 1938

Dear Cyril,
I see your book is out [Enemies of Promise*]. Send me a copy won't you?.... I am getting on with my novel [Coming Up For Air] which was listed to come out in the autumn, but, owing to this bloody illness, didn't get it started till two or three months ago.... I am looking forward to seeing your book, I gather from the reviews that a lot of it is about Eton, and it will interest me very much to see whether the impressions you retain are anything like my own. Of course you were in every way much more of a success at school than I, and my own position was complicated and in fact dominated by the fact that I had much less money than most of the people about me, but as far as externals go we had very much the same experiences from 1912 to 1921. And our literary development impinged at certain points, too. Do you remember one or other of us getting hold of H.G. Wells's Country of the Blind about 1914, at St Cyprian's, and being so enthralled with it that we were constantly pinching it off each other?


It's a very vivid memory of mine, stealing along the corridor at about four o'clock on a midsummer morning into the dormitory where you slept and pinching the book from beside your bed. And do you remember at about the same time my bringing back to school a copy of Compton Mackenzie's Sinister Street, which you began to read, and then...Mrs Wilkes found out and there was a fearful row about bringing a "book of that kind" (though at the time I didn't even know what "sinister" meant) into the school. I'm always meaning one of these days to write a book about St Cyprian's** . I've always held that the public schools [ie Eton] aren't so bad , but people are wrecked by those filthy private schools [prepatory schools] long before they get to public school age...
E.A. Blair

*Connolly's 1938 book Enemies of Promise about his prep-school years at St Cyprian's
**Orwell's 1947 essay Such, Such Were the Joys about his prep-school years at St Cyprian's

Manuscript 1984
edited by Peter Davison, 1984

Manuscript1984Davison CyprianSuchManuscript

...While he was away in Jura, Orwell had let his flat in Canonbury Square to Mrs Miranda Christen (now Mrs Miranda Wood). Mrs Wood has written an intriguing account of her stay in Orwell's flat during the summers of 1946 and 1947, as yet unpublished.... Soon after Mrs Wood returned for her second summer in the Canonbury flat, in 1947, Orwell wrote to her from Jura to ask if she knew anyone who would be willing to type out the draft of a work in progress. She was glad to take on the work herself (she had experience of work in two publishers' offices) and she made an appropriate deduction to the nominal rent she paid for her services, evidently to Orwell's satisfaction. About every two weeks a batch of material would arrive in the post and she would type on the portable machine she found in the flat a fair and a carbon copy. These she then posted back to Jura within a few days of each batch arriving. The version sent to Mrs Wood was, as she describes it, 'presumably the initial draft'....

Nineteen Eighty-Four was not all that Mrs Wood typed for Orwell: 'One day there was a separate sheaf of papers in the package. It was a bleary typescript of the essay "Such, Such Were the Joys" to be re-done. It looked as if it had been lying around for a considerable time."...

~ end quoting Facsimile of Extant Manuscript edited by Davison ~

by Jeremy Lewis, 1988

ConnollyCypriansRetire ConnollyCypriansRetire
Eastbourne Revisited

"The more I think of it,' John Betjeman had written to Connolly in the winter of 1967,

     the more sure I am that you should move into a seaside town and that the
     provincial town with schools, concerts, theatre, films and large enough to
     escape bores and small enough to find silence and country, is the right way
     of life left for us. Eastbourne for ever...

The following January Connolly had lunch with Anthony Hobson at Brooks's, and told him that he had bought No. 48, St John's Road, Eastbourne. 'All the visions of Nash cottages ornees have faded,' he told his host -- adding, touchingly, that he could see the sea from the top-floor windows of his new home. Hobson's instinctive reaction was that Connolly would be a 'lion domesticated': but although many of his friends found it odd that he should have chosen to settle in a suburban street in a genteel seaside resort best known for its large contingent of maiden aunts subsisting on modest private incomes, Betjeman was, unsurprisingly, all in favour. 'If one wants quiet and fresh air and country near,' he wrote,

     your house in Eastbourne with its sloping garden down to trees at the
     back, cliffs and a chapel of ease on the other side of the road, those wide,
     comfortable well-built late Victorian rooms housing your books, are much
     better than pigging it in the country down rutty, muddy lanes and miles
     from a letter-box, a shop and schools for the children. Eastbourne is the
     right place for a man of letters.

No 48 was -- still is -- a large, solid-looking mid-Victorian house built of brick and flint, with a touch of North Oxford sur mer about it. At one end of the street loomed the Downs, where sixty years before the young Connolly [and friend Orwell] had gathered blackberries and puffed along on school runs.

BeachyHeadDownsl BeachyFromEastbourne

At the other twinkled the sea, bright blue in summer -- Eastbourne claims to be the sunniest spot in England, sheltered by the great bulk of Beachy Head from the prevailing south-westerly winds -- and a lugubriously grey when the sun went in.... The Connollys moved house in April 1968. 'It is a great trauma to have to uproot oneself and all one's belongings after nine years and move again,' Connolly told Leonard Russell, but 'Eastbourne is heaven'...He liked Eastbourne's cake and first-class fruiterer nearby and some equally good china shops in which to browse, as well as some excellent second-hand bookshops; Brighton, with its theatre, was within striking distance, and Lewes provided a neutral ground on which to meet friends like Alan Ross; and, most importantly, the station was to hand for his weekly visits to London...

~ end quoting Cyril Connolly A Life by Lewis ~

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Email, Feb 4, 2017
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Reader Jan wants to walk the rural lane from Orwell's ANIMAL FARM at Willingdon down to the sea near Eastbourne, Email, July 2014

The Red Lion, Willingdon (A welcoming, warm and friendly famously mentioned in George Orwell's novel 'Animal Farm'. Located off the main A22 into Eastbourne. Nearest Train Stations: Hampden Park (1.3miles), Polegate (1.8miles), Eastbourne (2.5miles)...

Chestnut Tree House (The owners of Red Lion pub in Willingdon, East Sussex, have chosen as their charity Chestnut Tree House [as in Chestnut Tree Cafe in Orwell's 1984? ~ jj]...Chestnut Tree House, the only children’s hospice in Sussex, cares for children and young adults from 0 to 19 with progressive life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses from all over the county....)

CHALK FARM HOTEL & RESTAURANT is well positioned in pretty Willingdon village but only 3 miles from Eastbourne and the coast, 1 mile from Polegate (nearest rail station); close to South Downs Way and other excellent walks...The hotel forms part of a charity center that includes a nursery and teashop and a working farm behind with a great view of the South Downs... offers tranquil surroundings with beautiful gardens, a welcoming atmosphere and plenty of 'olde worlde' charm. Despite its village setting, it offers easy access to the main A27 and A22 routes and is therefore as ideally suited for corporate entertaining and conferences as it is for short break or longer stay holidays in and around rural Sussex. We have eight rooms available in the hotel for accommodation, each room is named after a character from George Orwell's "Animal farm" from which setting we believe the hotel has relevance. Garden views, tv and dvd in each room, dvds, available from reception. All rooms are ensuite.

Marx Face Lenin Face Stalin Face JFK OPPOSED MONOLITHIC CONSPIRACY (...You may remember that in 1851 the New York Herald Tribune, under the sponsorship and publishing of Horace Greeley, employed as its London correspondent an obscure journalist by the name of Karl Marx. We are told that foreign correspondent Marx, stone broke and with a family ill and undernourished constantly appealed to Greeley and managing editor Charles Dainer for an increase in his munificent salary of five dollars per installment, a salary which he and Engels ungratefully labelled as the lousiest petty bourgeois cheating. But when all his financial appeals were refused Marx looked around for other means of livlihood and fame, eventually terminating his relationship with the Tribune and devoting his talents full-time to the cause that would bequeathe to the world the seeds of Leninism, Stalinism, revolution and the Cold War. If only this capitalistic New York newspaper had treated him more kindly -- if only Marx had remained a foreign correspondent, history might have been different. And I hope all publishers will bear this lesson in mind the next time they receive a poverty-stricken appeal for a small increase in the expense account from an obscure newspaperman....)

Puppet Orwell Puppet Marx ORWELL ARCH-ENEMY OF MARX

Frederick Engels buried in Eastbourne (fathers of Communism Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were often in the area; Engels's ashes were scattered from Beachy Head at his request....

Marx Statue STATUE OF KARL MARX (head of Communism buried in London, England)

ORWELL COMMON FRIEND TRESSELL (...When I was on a HOMAGE TO ORWELL in 2003 I went to Hampstead - the suburb of London where Orwell lived while working in BOOKLOVER'S CORNER and writing KEEP THE ASPIDISTRA FLYING - and was disgusted that there was a statue of Marx - symbolic head of Communism - but not a statue of Orwell - symbolic foe of Communsim - in England.... Lawrence Bradshaw [the sculptor] had used [Orwell's friend] Common's brow as a model for his bust of Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery... Highgate Cemetary is a vast Victorian Necropilis in the heart of North London. Opened in 1839 it is a truly fascinating place to visit.... The world famous tomb of the founder of modern communism lies, not unsurprisingly, to the left of the entrance.... Marx's massive tomb was not his original grave marker, the original tombstone was a much less grand affair but still exists.... The upkeep of the last resting place of Herr Marx is today paid for by the Chinese Embassy which seems a fair enough arrangement considering their antecedents and what they have done supposedly in his name...)

AnFarm Hardcover 1954 ANIMAL FARM HARDCOVER GIFT (illustrated edition of ANIMAL FARM by Batchelor & Halas)






Follow These Writers in Sussex: A Handbook for Literary Detectives, by Judith Bastide, Michael Rich, 2012

All villages are equal (but Orwell only immortalized one), Guardian, May 24, 1999
There is little remaining doubt that Animal Farm (Manor Farm, till the animals took it over) in George Orwell's novel was based on Bury Farm, Wallington, Hertfordshire - the village near Baldock where he lived with his first wife, Eileen, and ran a financially rickety shop. A rival claim was recently made on behalf of Chalk Farm, Willingdon, East Sussex, which is close to a prep school that he once attended. But according to Saturday's Daily Telegraph the wealth of the evidence points to the Hertfordshire model. Peter Davison, who spent 17 years editing Orwell's collected works, is convinced; and that should be good enough for the rest of us....

By George, has the Animal Farm land been found?, The Argus, May 19, 1999
Evidence is forming that a sleepy quarter of East Sussex could well be the inspiration for one of the 20th century's greatest political novels. There is a growing belief that Chalk Farm, on Coopers Hill, Willingdon, was the inspiration for George Orwell's classic novel Animal Farm...

LOOKING FOR ORWELL AT ETON (...In 1916 - when he was 13 years old - Orwell had written the Eton Scholarship Exams and scored 14th highest out of all the boys in England. That gained him entrance to Eton as a "King's Scholar" whose tuition and boarding fees were paid for by a bequeathement left by King Henry VI almost five hundred years ago. Every year 14 new boys enter as King's Scholars to replace the 14 boys who graduate. Altogether, at any one time, there are only 70 King's Scholars at Eton, out of a student body of over 1,000. Orwell attended Eton for five years until his graduation in June 1921 at the age of 18...)

St Cyprian's School, Eastbourne (Although it was only in operation for some 40 years St Cyprians School was to have a significant effect in the 20th and 21st centuries. The creation of St Cyprians was down to the vision and energy of L C Vaughan Wilkes. St Cyprians was one of an increasing number of “Preparatory Schools” that were established at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century to prepare boys for entrance examinations and scholarships to the great Public Schools. Such schools were and still are boarding schools with pupils from the age of eight to thirteen....)

Dew pond on the plateau of Willingdon Hill near to Jevington, East Sussex, Great Britain

A Dew Pond is an artificial pond usually sited on the top of a hill, intended for watering livestock. Dew ponds are used in areas where a natural supply of surface water may not be readily available. The name dew pond (sometimes cloud pond or mist pond) is first found in the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society in 1865. Despite the name, their primary source of water is believed to be rainfall rather than dew or mist. They are usually shallow, saucer-shaped and lined with puddled clay, chalk or marl on an insulating straw layer over a bottom layer of chalk or lime. To deter earthworms from their natural tendency of burrowing upwards, which in a short while would make the clay lining porous, a layer of soot would be incorporated or lime mixed with the clay. The clay is usually covered with straw to prevent cracking by the sun and a final layer of chalk rubble or broken stone to protect the lining from the hoofs of sheep or cattle.

Willingdon Windmill, East Sussex (When the windmill was built in 1817 it was in the parish of Willingdon and known as Willingdon Mill, but since the creation of the Civil Parish of Polegate on 1st April 1939, which included the Mill, it has been known as Polegate Windmill. The windmill has been engulfed by a housing estate.

Polegate Windmill was built in 1817 and was working by wind until 1943. The mill was worked by auxiliary engine, latterly an electric motor, until 1965. By the time the mill stopped working, it was becoming derelict. Eastbourne and District Preservation Trust bought the mill and grounds, and a restoration carried out by Hole and Sons, the Burgess Hill millwrights. One of the new stocks broke in July 1974, bringing the sail with it. This particular stock was only seven years old. Thompson's, the Alford millwrights fitted a replacement stock and two new sails in May 1976. Further restoration work was undertaken in 2004, including the fitting of a cowl to the adjoining malthouse. Two new sails were fitted in 2009. Ovenden's Mill is a four storey brick tower mill with a domed cap winded by a fantail. There is a stage at first floor level. It had four Patent sails carried on a cast iron Windshaft. The Brake Wheel is wooden. The mill drove two pairs of overdrift millstones, with a third pair driven underdrift by auxiliary engine. The tower is 45 feet (13.72 m) high to the curb.

Old Photos of Eastbourne in Sussex in England, United Kingdom of Great Britain

Beachy Head - Eastbourne is a large town and borough in East Sussex, within the historic County of Sussex, on the south coast of England between Brighton and Hastings. The town is situated at the eastern end of the chalk South Downs alongside the high cliff at Beachy Head. The modern town emerged in the early 19th century as a seaside resort, assisted by the arrival of the railway in 1849, and developed a spacious, regular layout. The sheltered position of the main town behind the cliff contributes to Eastbourne's title of sunniest place in Great Britain. The town’s reputation for health and sea breezes was a factor leading to the establishment of many private boarding schools in the 19th century. However, the number of schools started to decline during the inter-war years and today there remain just four. Although Eastbourne has some industrial trading estates, it is essentially a seaside resort and derives its main income from tourism, an element of which includes the provision of English language courses for overseas students. Its facilities include four theatres, numerous parks, a bandstand and museums. The focus of the tourism trade is the four miles (6 km) of shingle beach, lined with a seafront of hotels and guest houses. Eastbourne Pier, built in 1865, is a symbol of Eastbourne and today houses amusement arcades, a nightclub and a public house. It has a rare, working camera obscura. The town has an estimated population of 99,400 as of 2011. The town's climate, quiet charm and elegance have contributed to its popularity as a retirement destination and the number of resident pensioners exceeds the national average.

Beachy Head is a chalk headland in Southern England, close to the town of Eastbourne in the county of East Sussex, immediately east of the Seven Sisters. The cliff there is the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, rising to 162 m (530 ft) above sea level. The peak allows views of the south east coast from Dungeness to the east, to Selsey Bill in the west. Its height has also made it one of the most notorious suicide spots in the world.

The Battle for Beachy Head was a naval engagement fought on 10 July 1690 during the Nine Years' War. The battle was the greatest French tactical naval victory over their English and Dutch opponents during the war. The English and Dutch lost some 11 ships in total (sources vary), whereas the French did not lose a single vessel; but although control of the English Channel temporarily fell into French hands, Admiral Tourville failed to pursue the Allied fleet with sufficient ardour, allowing it to escape to the river Thames.... England's crushing defeat by France, the dominant naval power, in naval engagements culminating in the 1690 Battle of Beachy Head, became the catalyst to Britain rebuilding itself as a global power. England had no choice but to build a powerful navy. As there were no funds available, in 1694 a private institution, the Bank of England, was set up to supply money to the King. £1.2m was raised in twelve days; half of this was used to rebuild the Navy. As a side-effect, the huge industrial effort needed started to transform the economy, from iron works making nails to agriculture feeding the quadrupled strength of the Royal Navy. This helped the new United Kingdom – England and Scotland were united in 1707 – to become prosperous and powerful. Together with the power of the navy, this made Britain the dominant world power in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries while France remained the world dominant military power during this Napoleonic period, particularly on the continent....

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~