To Orwell Today,
Dear Jackie Jura,
Greetings from the place where there is no darkness. I write of course from Senate House in Bloomsbury, where I work in the North Block. The advantage or working within it is that one cannot see it. The original plans for Senate House (I can show you the scale models when next you re-visit London) were for it to stretch the full length of Malet Street with another tower at the Northern end. It was scaled down for obvious reasons in 1940, although remarkably construction on University buildings in the area continued right through 1942. The Tower is 210 feet from the ground to the top of the flagpole. For many years I teased undergraduates that it went down as far as it went up, which is completely untrue. Beneath the basements it merely leads into tunnels most of which are long closed off. They date mostly to wartime. Nevertheless I can imagine Orwell imagining the building going down and down and down. I can give you a lot more information about Senate House if you would like. I would add that 210 feet is small by US standards but at the time it was by far the tallest building in London.
I must add that I am great friends with Peter Powell and John Dunne, whom you met on your documented visit. I am so glad you had the chance to meet them and enjoy a drink in our (and Orwell's) local pub. Like Orwell, but unlike Peter and John, I also smoke in the pub whilst it remains one of the few remaining places one can do so without threat of arrest.
All good wishes,
Secretary, Islington Archaeology and History Society
It's music to my ears to hear people quote Orwell. So you were in one of those thousands of rooms that day I took the photo of the Senate House. I've seen a photo of the U of Moscow which looks almost identical to your building at the U of London. Amazing that Orwell had that all figured out way back then, and he wasn't yet fifty, nay, never reached the age of fifty. I'm presently reading a book about Averell Harriman, the conduit between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin and the name Brenden Bracken (BB) keeps coming up. As you no doubt know, he was the main guy in your building when it was the Ministry of Information during WWII. Amazing to think that they intended to stretch the building along the entire street. To me it looks way taller than 210 feet.
Yes, I would be interested in learning more about Senate House so by all means be in touch. Say a big HELLO to Peter and John. Next time you're together have one for me at Orwell's local and blow some smoke into the faces of anyone who tries to get you to butt out.
8.Senate House and 13.Orwell's Local Pub (from Homage to Orwell by Jackie Jura)
I'll be seeing Peter tomorrow when he gives his Joe Orton walk, so I'll be sure to pass on your best.
You're right, Senate House appears much taller than it actually is, and this is an optical illusion employed by Charles Holden, the architect. He is worth a Google search for a lot of interesting sites about him. If the full-blown Senate House had been built it would have dominated the whole of central London - remember that the rest of the really high buildings (by our standards, anyway) came later, mostly post-war. The London Evening Standard at the time printed a cartoon with an aged Prof admiring the Tower, saying "Now we can look down on Oxford and Cambridge". We were the first University to be founded in England after Oxford and Cambridge and the first to admit students of any religion or none. We were also the first University to award degrees to women.
The Moscow Academy of Sciences is a similar building, and typical of 1930s monolithic architecture.
The University of London was on a major building scheme during the 1930s to try to consolidate as many as possibly of the federal colleges into a single district. The satirical joke in the 1950s student newspaper was that the Luftwaffe had, in Bloomsbury, simply continued the work so effectively started by the University. These days we try to preserve our remaining Georgian terraces.
I'll send you more on Senate House during the course of the week, if possible including a scanned-in copy of an artist's impression of the full original. Otherwise I'd be happy to send you a photocopy by snail-mail.
Given our liberal origins at the UoL, the level of insidious Newspeak creeping in is frightening. I have now taken to paraphrasing Syme in my acknowledgement of documents such as "Use of non-discriminatory language". What I used to regard as good manners is now legislated - by the year 2050, at the latest, thoughtcrime will be impossible because the words in which to express it will no longer exist. Another exampe is the new Engineering Building extension which comes through on timetables by the name of "Neweng". It's un-nerving.
Do feel free to edit bits of my info into your site if you'd like more on Senate House background.
All the best,
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~
website: www.orwelltoday.com & email: email@example.com