CHALK FARM ORWELL'S ANIMAL FARM
...cont'd from ORWELL WALKS WILLINGDON DOWNS and WILLINGDON ANIMAL FARM TOURISM
Thank you double-plus for sending the two booklets and the leaflet written by your mother-in-law, Sylvia Westley, explaining firstly the Orwell "connection" to Chalk Farm Hotel and secondly the "collection" of Orwell memorabilia now on display at the hotel. Her story of how she came to be an Orwell scholar -- a sparrow flying high with the literary eagles -- is in itself fascinating.
Below I've scanned and transcribed pages and passages from the booklets and the leaflet to share with worldwide ORWELL TODAY readers. Please click to enlarge for reading in fuller context.
All the best,
orwelltoday.com, February 2017
PS - That sketch at the top of the page -- of Orwell in school uniform with a satchel in his hand -- could also be construed as Orwell with a suitcase in his hand -- on his way to spend the night in the Eric Blair/George Orwell Room at the Chalk Farm Hotel.
All who know George Orwell's genius as a political writer are well aware that ANIMAL FARM was written as a very thinly disguised version of Communist Russia -- too thinly disguised for most of the publishers of the day! Whilst present day readers are aware of this, many who are non-political appreciate it as a brilliant study of any community where the powerful oppress the weak, and where strivings to correct this way of things can get taken over by the ever-present power-hungry for their own advantage. Thus, George Orwell left us with the title of his book burned into our minds as any place where ordinary people are working for equality, coupled with a warning to be ever watchful for revolution betrayed.
There is a curiosity in many to see "where it happened" as evinced in great pilgrimages of the past.... There would be great difficulty in establishing a particular place on this earth in which to peg the memory of George Orwell.... All his books, except the last two, ANIMAL FARM and NINETEEN-EIGHTY FOUR, are obviously based on his own experiences, and not only the characters but also their names come extremely close to life -- again often too close for the legal advisors of his publishers. The topography was the same...
I became mildly interested in the topography of ANIMAL FARM when the Eastbourne Area Parents Action Group, a small local Charity for which I am a volunteer, purchased a small hotel in the village of Willingdon. Readers of ANIMAL FARM will know that Willingdon is the name chosen by George Orwell as the village in which his Manor Farm of ANIMAL FARM is set. I learned that local people firmly believe in the George Orwell connection.
Our Charity's training hotel, Chalk Farm Hotel, Willingdon, a very old Grade II listed building, was once the farmhouse of the surrounding farm before a modern farmhouse was built a few hundred yards away. Tall stories of ghosts and haunting abound, none of which impressed me, but looking into the ANIMAL FARM claim was more tangible. There was a commercial reward too, should there be truth in the rumour...
A place was needed in which to train and to give work experience, so Chalk Farm Hotel was bought, and a Garden Centre built within the grounds, and at the present time some 60 plus men and women learn all aspects of both businesses.... In our quest for funds, we learned from English Heritage that only Grade I buildings are likely to receive aid; stately homes and the like, but not "common or garden" Grade II, although sometimes a Grade II* would qualify. "How does one come by a '*'", we asked. "If Queen Elizabeth I had visited, or some other equally well-known personage" came the reply. Thus began the serious research into the locally held beliefs, and I entered into the world of letters!
I read all of George Orwell's books, and with the help of the Eastbourne Central library, all the volumes containing his collected essays, journalism and letters plus the biography ORWELL by Michael Shelden. As I read about the life and writing of this exceptional man the commercial aspect all but faded from my mind as I grew to realise that, whether we could prove our building was ANIMAL FARM or not, we, in our small way, were doing all that he had spent his health and life trying to preach and remedy.
In his essay "Such, Such Were the Joys" about his school days at St Cyprian's School in Eastbourne, he said that he did not like the world where one "became a winner by being bigger, stronger, handsomer, richer, more popular, more elegant, more unscrupulous than other people". Our traineees are none of those things and neither are the people involved in running this Project. Here in this old farmhouse "All Animals Are Equal".
At this stage in my research, I had read nothing to indicate where ANIMAL FARM was, other than in the introduction by Laurence Brander to my copy of ANIMAL FARM. Brander is writing about the period of Orwell's life when he and his first wife Eileen lived in and ran a small village shop in Hertfordshire, and Brander wrote "This is the countryside, most probably, of Animal Farm, but he offered no evidence to support this theory.
Then I received...a newspaper cutting...from a page in the Daily Telegraph, dated 30th July 1997. The cottage in which Orwell and Eileen ran their village store was up for sale, and a Ms Sue Herdman had written an article, setting out the price and the Orwell Connection. It was incorrect from the start. It began -- "When Eric and Eileen set up a General Store in Hertfordshire, their first purchase was a bacon slicer. Ironic, as Eric Blair used his spare time to write the only novel in which pigs get to rule the barnyard: Animal Farm". From information I gleaned later on, Orwell did not write ANIMAL FARM until six years later when he was living in a London flat. The cutting did, however, make a categorical statement that "The Manor Farm of Animal Farm lies a few yards from the cottage, and Wallington features as the Wallingdon [sp] in the story." Again, this was incorrect, as Willingdon [not Wallingdon] is the village of the story, mentioned some ten times.
Taking into account typographical errors, I felt this writer might have the proof of her claim "that the Manor Farm of Animal Farm lies a few yards from the cottage". In my innocent assumption that the Daily Telegraph would only publish a proven truth I wrote stating my interest, and asked if they could supply such proof. From my time of writing, in August 1997 to the present time of October 1998, I have collected a file a measurable half an inch thick of correspondence with the Daily Telegraph. Mostly, my letters were unanswered until I wrote again and again. Eventually they did prevail upon Ms Herdman to write to me. In her first letter she confirmed that she meant Willingdon of the story, and the Wallingdon was a printer's error. I wrote again about her actual claim that "the Manor Farm of Animal Farm lies a few yards from the cottage", and she kindly wrote to me again, this time stating that her source was the biography of Orwell by Bernard Crick. Oddly enough, I felt this could not be cast iron proof as she wished me luck in proving that our hotel was indeed the property Orwell had in mind when writing Animal Farm. I felt that she would not have said this had she been positive.
That being said, it was back to the drawing board and I obtained Bernard Crick's Orwell, A Life. In this there was a passage where Crick reports Orwell as saying "the actual details of the story did not come to me for some time until one day (I was then living in a small village) I saw a little boy perhaps ten years old driving a huge cart horse along a narrow path whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat".
Again, this was not concrete proof but something to be considered in my final analysis. I have to add here that I still considered it wrong of the Daily Telegraph to have printed such a positive statement about the whereabouts of ANIMAL FARM and which was prejudicial to my open-minded research. They steadfastly refused to print anything I suggested which might have left the matter open to doubt. Finally, I wrote to the Complaints Commission. Eventually they agreed to take the matter up with the Daily Telegraph, and their judgement was that the "thrust of the article was correct in that the cottage for sale did once belong to Orwell".
For me, this was another lesson learned. Provided "the thrust" of something you write is correct, you can embellish it here and there with falsehood. My last shot in that direction was to write to the Lord Chancellor telling him I didn't think much of this verdict, as it meant that I could write an article about Eric Blair's days at St Cyprian's school and his ramblings on the Downs, and throw in a statement that Chalk Farmhouse and Chalk Farm was Animal Farm. This is not ethically right and I could never do it, especially in connection with George Orwell's awesome integrity."
Then another avenue opened before me. This time in the Books Supplement of The Sunday Times -- I read of a new publication -- THE COMPLETE WORKS OF GEORGE ORWELL edited by Peter Davison assisted by Ian Angus and Sheila Davison -- 20 volumes published by Secker at a cost of 750 pounds. It went on to say that this new work aims to search out and print every essay, newspaper article, book review, letter and scrap of private notes that Orwell ever penned, as well as restoring words and phrases cut by nervous earlier publishers. This was marvellous news. Within these volumes must surely lie any proof obtainable on the whereabouts of ANIMAL FARM....
I then had the somewhat cheeky idea of writing to the editor of the work, Peter Davison to ask him if he would put me in touch with his researchers... I was somewhat shattered by receiving a letter from Professor Peter Davison MA, PhD... In Professor Davison's letter to me he makes it clear that he has never found any concrete proof as to the whereabouts of ANIMAL FARM, although he says "The actual farm of the novel is much more likely to be one close by where he lived in Hertfordshire. It is not, however, Manor Farm Wallington but another farm at Wallington, Bury Farm". (So much for the Daily Telegraph's claim!).
Following my receipt of this marvellouse letter, Professor Davison rang the hotel and left a message for me that he had been in touch with a Mr Brian Edwards who had done some extensive research into various Orwellian places, including the location of Manor Farm and that Mr Edwards would be contacting me. This he has done....
Mr Brian Edwards has corresponded with me on several occasions, and I learned that he is, in fact, Brian Edwards M.A. and that he did very serious research culminating in an essay lodged in his M.A. portfolio at Ruskin College, Oxford -- COMING UP FOR COUNTRY AIR IN ENGLAND, BLAIR'S ENGLAND....
Mr Edwards thinks it is more likely to be Bury Farm, Wallington, and he has walked the farm with the book matching descriptions. I have done the same around our farmhouse and can match many, but I think these descriptions could apply to many farms.... Brian, confirming that Animal Farm was not written whilst Orwell was living in Wallington but some six years later when living with his first wife Eileen in a London flat, nevertheless believes that their happy time in Wallington is likely to have made Orwell place Animal Farm there, than in a farm and countryside only remembered from his schooldays.
It is my intention to make out a case for our farmhouse later on in this [booklet], but here and now I wish to make it clear that I now accept that there is no way I can prove that our farmhouse is ANIMAL FARM. I do not believe any proof exists, and thus we must say a firm goodbye to any ideas of gaining a blue plaque. This being said, I equally do not believe that Brian could produce sufficient evidence to gain a blue plaque for Bury Farm. Being not only a scholar with a deep, deep interest in George Orwell, but also a man of integrity and, I believe, compassion, he says that he sees no reason why we cannot point out our likely George Orwell connection, and this I shall proceed to do as follows:
Eric Arthur Blair was born in Motihari, Bengal, on 25th June 1903, and was brought back to England a year later. In 1911 he was sent to St Cyprian's school, Eastbourne, and remained there for five years... He left St Cyprian's with an enduring hatred of the place, and Orwell himself said in his Essay, "Such, Such Were the Joys" that "he had been through a prison sentence that ended in escape". Also in this Essay we know that he had a very accurate memory of his schooldays....
He writes "if I shut my eyes and say 'school', it is of course the physical surroundings that first come back to me". Thus, I believe that when he wrote this Essay in adulthood, he would also have been able to close his eyes and picture the few joys he had whilst there. He says that "there were two masters he did not dislike or fear". One was Robert L Sillar who had a collection of butterflies and was constantly prowling the Downs in search of specimens, and encouraging the boys to make their own collections, and it seems only reasonable to believe that hating school as he did, the young Eric Blair would have welcomed any chance of accompanying his master on his rambles.
At the same time he was writing ANIMAL FARM in his London flat, he was also writing a weekly column in Tribune called As I Please in which he discussed many subjects, amongst them his love of country walks, of his childhood love of trees, fishing, butterflies...Brian Edwards believes that Orwell would have remembered Willingdon and used the name deliberately. He says that language was most important to George Orwell, and he would not have used the name Willingdon without a deliberate and conscious meaning.
During the course of my research...I was able to have a sight of maps showing Eastbourne and Willingdon during the years Eric Blair was at school there. There was a track leading almost straight from St Cyprian's into the village of Willingdon, where it became a narrow road not wide enough for two horse drawn carts to pass, as old prints in our hotel show. This wound past The Red Lion, mentioned on several occasions in ANIMAL FARM as the hostelry where Mr Jones got drunk, and then out of the village and down past the entrance to the farm and our farmhouse. Off this track they could ramble the whole of the Downs to East Dean and Jevington, which he mentions in letters to his mother. He mentions in ANIMAL FARM "a good quarry of limestone on the farm", and this quarry would have been clearly visible as it is to this day. It would have probably 'drawn' the boys in search of adventure. From its base on the farm, both then and now, the white face towers sheer, but one can climb up a slope at the side, as did Boxer and the animals when dragging up the huge boulders in order to push them over the lip of the quarry hoping to smash them into more manageable pieces for the building of the windmill.
And now on to the descriptions in ANIMAL FARM which can be seen and recognised both in our farmhouse and on the farm. There are many references to the animals running up or down which proves that the farm is on a slope as is ours. One passage in Chapter Two says "A little way down the pasture there was a knoll that commanded a view of the farm. The animals rushed to the top of it and gazed round them in the morning light". The pasture of the farm extends up beyond the knoll, and when walking this track one can come across a herd of grazing beasts straddling ones path! From the knoll one has a wide prospect across the countryside, the same as in Chapter 7, "The knoll where they were lying gave them a wide prospect across the countryside. 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 up from the chimneys". The view is much the same today, other than for housing encroachment.... Smoke can still be seen curling from the chimneys, as, although there is now central heating, the old inglenook fireplace remains, and most of the bedrooms still have fireplaces....
Regarding references which might apply to the actual farmhouse, the latter is a square building with bedroom windows on all sides, and thus, in Chapter 1 when an uproar in the buildings where the animals slept awoke Mr Jones, "who sprang out of bed, making sure there was a fox in the yard" and "He seized the gun which always stood in the corner of his bedroom and let fly a number 6 shot into the darkness" and "the pellets buried themselves in the wall of the barn" -- this most certainly could have occurred in our farmhouse. Also, in Chapter Two, when the animals rebel and drive Jones and his men from the farm "down the cart track that led to the main road", it states "Mrs Jones looked out of the bedroom window, saw what was happening, hurriedly flung a few possessions into a carpet bag and slipped out of the farmhouse by another way". She could have observed all of this from bedrooms on one side of the farmhouse, and there was and is an exit on the other side of the house where she could have slipped out unseen.
In Chapter Nine, mention is made of "a warm, rich appetising scent, such as the animals had never smelt before, wafted itself across the yard from the little brewhouse, which had been disused in Jones's time, and which stood beyond the kitchen". Such a small flint building is still across the yard from the present kitchen.
The years George Orwell and Eileen spent at Wallington come over as happy times for them both, but ANIMAL FARM is not a 'happy' book. Beneath the simple story lies Orwell's hatred of Communism, of its cruelty; of the Draconian rule which kept the ordinary people working hard for equality, prisoners in their own land. The animals in ANIMAL FARM lived in such a prison, and George Orwell wrote of his schooldays at nearby St Cyprian's as if he had been 'through a prison sentence that ended in escape'. I feel it more likely that the juxtaposition of school prison and the Willingdon farm would be more correct than school prison and happy far off Wallington, both in miles, years and emotions.
Crick ends his biography of Orwell by quoting a paragraph from the essay Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus printed at the very beginning of the Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters -- "My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice...I am not able, and I do not want completely to abandon the world-view that I acquired in childhood"....
My final words in this [booklet] are to say that I have become immensely enriched by researching into the life and work of this brilliant man who yet enjoyed a simple life and simple pleasures. I should like to feel that the feet of the young Eric Blair trod upon the land which surrounds our farmhouse; that he walked the paths across the Downs which our own trainees walk, with difficulty, once a year to raise money for their own projects.
Of one thing I am absolutely certain, that Eric Blair would wholeheartedly approve of our Project and what we are attempting to achieve through our work at The Downland Farm Project. We are succeeding in providing, as did Orwell throughout his work, an eloquent voice for those whose voices have been ignored.
~ end quoting Search for Orwell Connection by Sylvia Westley ~
IS CHALK FARM ANIMAL FARM?
A piece of detective work involving two walks or a car drive from Chalk Farm Hotel, Willingdon
Animal Farm Commandment: ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
Chalk Farm's Philosophy: ALL ARE EQUAL AND NOBODY IS MORE EQUAL THAN ANYONE ELSE
I am writing this second booklet on The Search for a George Orwell Connection at the request of Mr John Taylor, the current Chairman of EAPAG, The Eastbourne Area Parents Action Group (Learning Disabilities) for any benefit it may bring to the continuing success of The Downland Farm Project. John and all who have the well-being of this Project at heart, know well that I would speak for them and defend my views fiercely whilst I am able, but I am eighty-one years of age and approaching the time when one can reasonably expect to take wing on one's final Great Adventure. So, here are my convictions written down as requested.
My reason for the first Search was to establish, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Chalk Farm Hotel, now part of The Downland Farm Project, was, with the surrounding farmland, the place Orwell had in mind when writing ANIMAL FARM. With such proof, Jill could gain Blue Plaque status and possible funding from English Heritage or The Heritage Lottery...
I came to a point where I knew I was not going to be able to prove this. As mentioned in my first booklet, I discovered in the Books Supplement of The Sunday Times that a new work had been published -- THE COMPLETE WORKS OF GEORGE ORWELL edited by Peter Davison assisted by Ian Angus and Sheila Davison -- 20 volumes published by Secker at a cost of 750 pounds. It went on to say that this new work aims to search out and print every essay, newspaper article, book review, letter and scrap of private notes that Orwell ever penned.... This was marvelous news. Within these volumes must surely lie any proof obtainable on the whereabouts of ANIMAL FARM....
In Professor Davison's letter to me he made it clear that he had never found any concrete proof as to the whereabouts of ANIMAL FARM, but that he thought the actual farm of the novel was much more likely to be one close by where Orwell lived in Hertfordshire.
This was enough to convince me that I would not find the concrete proof I was looking for....
However, so many kind people kept enquiring as to how I had fared in my search, that I decided to write a little booklet telling the story and at the same time, say that I was not altogether satisfied with Professor Davison's assumption that the locality was Hertfordshire.
Professor Davison had also kindly put me in touch with Mr Brian Edwards M.A. who did research culminating in an essay lodged in his M.A. portfolio at Ruskin College, Oxford -- COMING UP FOR COUNTRY AIR IN ENGLAND, BLAIR'S ENGLAND. Brian and I developed a very friendly correspondence and whilst he also firmly believed that Orwell set his ANIMAL FARM at Bury Farm, Wallington, he knew he had no cast iron proof either and thus agreed there was no reason why I could not believe what I thought was likely. He went one step further and suggested that in order to publicise our work at The Project, we, for want of a better word, 'themed' the Project on a likely George Orwell Connection.
I believe this suggestion was two-fold. He had shown plainly to me in correspondence that he thought well of our Project and that, like Jill and me, saw the connection between the work The Downland Farm Project was doing and Orwell's desire in his work to give a voice of eloquence to those whose voices had been silenced or ignored. Also, he felt keenly that other than the Orwell Archive at University College London, there was no Centre devoted to a man he considered to be the world's greatest-ever author. We at Chalk Farm Hotel might be able, in a small way, to address this lack.
I took this idea to Jill who was very enthusiastic and suggested I put it to The Board of Directors as I was at that time a Member of the Board. The then Chairman, Mr Andy Cornell agreed, as did his wife Jeanette who was the Secretary. She very kindly offered to put my words into book form and was always enthusiastic about the Orwell Connection. Bishop David Wilcox, then Vice Chairman of the Board, later to become Chairman, was also enthusiastic, and he put forward a wonderful idea fosterd by his keeness for walking. He suggested a leaflet of two walks, one short, just around the farmland, and a longer one taking one right along the spine of the Downs, then dropping down to the site of St Cyprian's School where Eric Blair had been a pupil....
The design of the Walks Leaflet was that of Mr Michael Cooke who worked on it in close conjunction with Bishop David and was attractive and informative. The intention was to use it to encourage walkers to stay at the hotel, the latter being excellently placed for exploring this eastern end of the South Downs...
I began to write my booklet, very much assisted by Brian and subsequently Jeanette and I began to acquire such artefacts as I could with which to theme the Project.
My first acquisition was supplied by Brian himself. During our correspondence he had one day popped in a postcard on which he had drawn a quick sketch. It was brilliant. It showed the famous and unmistakable head of Orwell on a small body dressed in the school uniform of the boy of his generation. Short grey-flannel trousers, jacket, collar and tie, knee-high socks and lace up shoes. He carried a school satchel in one hand and in the other a letter. Under a magnifying glass one could read clearly that it was a letter from me to Orwell asking where was ANIMAL FARM. At the side was a signpost with arms pointing to various destinations [Letchworth-Eton-London-Wallington-Jura-Spain-Burma-Paris-St Cyprian's-Willingdon-Animal Farm]. Mick Cooke enlarged it onto suitable paper and had it framed for me as a gift. What a wonderful start to the collection.
Brian had also provided me with the address of The Orwell Archive at University College London in Gower Street where Mr Tony Lawless was to prove to be invaluable to me. He provided me with copies of Orwell portraits on indefinite loan and on account of the charitable nature of the Project without charge. I had these mounted and framed by an expert in this field at Gallery 4 in Polegate.... I wanted the picture hung on the far wall of the Orwell Lounge Bar exactly opposite the entrance door so that when people walked in they would immediately be confronted with this striking picture. I hoped they would walk across to find out who it was, would read the accompanying explanation I had framed and hanging beside the Orwell frame, hopefully to decide to read his books and expecially ANIMAL FARM, and after reading the latter, ask themselves the question Which Animal Am I?
My next artefact had to be a bookcase stuffed full of Orwell's work. I commissioned a craftsman to build a bookcase to fit into a corner of The Orwell Lounge Bar. Being a busy and often crowded room it needed to be available but not intrusive. David Dugdill produced a masterpiece. I chose pine to match the wood Jill had considered correct for this old farmhouse when she was refurbishing and refurnishing the bedrooms once the massive work of eradicating the Death Watch Beetle damaged timbers was finished.... David Dugdill knew that Brian Edwards had very generously presented me with a First Edition of Orwell's THE ENGLISH PEOPLE and other valuable books, so he designed the bookcase with lockable glass doors at the top, but open shelving below where guests could access Orwell's books. Penguin very generously gave me copies of all their Orwell paperbacks and I wrote to our local newspaper whose Editor Mr Peter Lindsey had always been very supportive of the Project, asking if he would print my letter, requesting any unwanted copies of Orwell's books which people might care to donate....
It was at this time that I unwittingly opened 'a can of worms' which caused a mountain of trouble!... Hitherto, all I had aproached, with the exception of The Daily Telegraph, had treated me kindly purely on account of the Project for which I was working. Soon I was to learn that scholars who have spent years of study acquiring their views are not going to take kindly to a cheeky newcomer with no shred of status. Also I should have already learnt from my long battle with The Daily Telegraph that one cannot rely on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, to appear in print. People say things to the Press which are then printed out of context and one should always bear this in mind before jumping to conclusions. My only excuse was that I was new to this game! On the other hand however, it did stiffen in me a resolve to fight my corner even though I was a David up against a Goliath and my journeying from then on eventually brought me to a very deeply-held belief that I was more than likely to be right.
As requested I sent my booklet to Sydney and he rang me a few days later with the most astounding suggestion -- that I should send a copy to The Times Literary Supplement... I duly sent a copy to the address Sydney furnished me with. I wrote a covering letter to the Editor.... A short while later, the hotel began to receive letters requesting copies of the booklet, which they had read about in The Times Literary Supplement.... I found it to be a very friendly review and its writer had, in a few lines, captured the flavour of my views, my status as a volunteer at the Project and its aims. I was delighted with it, but then storm clouds began to gather.
Dominic Kennedy of The Times rang me and asked if he could send a photographer to the hotel, and subsequently a charming young man, Andrew Hasson, met me at the hotel one Sunday morning for this purpose. I had risen early and gone straight to the back of Jill's house to look up at the knoll which we can see clearly. I was hoping to see some animals gathered there. I knew there would be no sheep as these are securely fenced off to prevent young lambs falling into the quarry but there might be cattle, although this was a long shot. In ANIMAL FARM, Orwell writes in Chapter Two "a little way down the pasture there was a knoll that commanded a view of the farm".
The pasture up and beyond the knoll spreads a long way over the top of the Downs in the direction of Jevington -- a place young Eric Blair mentioned in a letter to his mother. For years I have walked this region of the Downs with Jill and her family and friends, with John and Katie when they were younger accompanied by Ben the labrador. One can encounter a herd of cattle anywhere, usually straddling the way one wants to go. Thus I knew the improbability of their choosing to gather on top of the knoll on this particular Sunday. I did just mention it in my morning prayers, however!!
Jill, Katie and I climbed with Mr Hasson to the top of the knoll and during this brisk fifteen minute climb not an animal was in sight. Mr Hasson was hung about with his equipment, which he laid out on the ground and then looked about at the spectacular view. I doubt he will ever forget it. Eric Blair, I am sure, did not. He wrote "the knoll where they (the animals) were lying, gave them a wide prospect across the countryside. Most of ANIMAL FARM was in their view -- the long pasture stretching down to the main road (Coopers Hill was the main road in Eric Blair's day, long before the by-pass was built) 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 up from the chimneys".
And then the miracle! Through a gap in the line of shrub sauntered a herd of brown cattle. They milled quietly about as Mr Hasson positioned me in various places. They are there with me in the shot The Times chose to print in full colour at the top of the article. I am perched on the lip of the quarry and clearly defined can be seen the chalk path up which the animals, led by the indomitable Boxer, pulled the stones from the floor of the quarry to build the windmills. In the years since I first found Orwell, I have sat there on innunmerable occasions surrounded by the magic of his prose.
The article by Dominic Kennedy I considered to be quite fair, the first part devoted to my views and the second part to the views of Brian and others. The one sour note was at the end. The Times had also contacted Professor Bernard Crick (now in this year's Honours List, Sir Bernard Crick), who wrote the biography Orwell - A Life. He dismisses me utterly by writing "In my humble opinion, the Sylvia Westleys of this world should be reminded that Orwell wrote fiction and was an imaginative writer, not just a documentary writer. Manor Farms are all over the country, probably the most frequent farm name for obvious historic reasons. The locus classicus of all this 'there must have been' nonsense is that, while there actually was a tripe shop in Wigan where Orwell lodged, the Council put a plaque on the wrong one".
Whilst I doubt whether Sir Bernard ever had a "humble opinion", I intend nevertheless to treat him more fairly than he did me. Of course he may not have been informed by The Times of my volunteer status at Chalk Farm Hotel nor of The Downland Project and its work there. I was described by The Times as "seventy nine year old Mrs Westley who helps to run an hotel". He may have thought me a mercenary owner out for commercial gain whereas I was but a volunteer who sought to help four or five students in the art of chamber-maiding the training hotel bedrooms, and when working with this jolly little team, I always cleaned the loos!
Worse was to follow. The Times rival newspaper The Daily Telegraph took up the cudgels on behalf of anybody disagreeing with me for, as they printed in their article, they remembered "Mrs Westley, who once took issue with this paper for suggesting that Wallington was the likely Willingdon of the novel". Not true. The issue I took and which ended with me taking them to the Press Complaints Commission was because their journalist, writing that Orwell's cottage in Wallington was up for sale, categorically stated that "the Manor Farm of ANIMAL FARM lies a few yards from the cottage"....
The Daily Telegraph article did report correctly my connection with The Project and what the latter was about, but most of the article was in the nature of a pile-driver crushing a nut. In brilliant colour it formed the whole of the front page of The Daily Telegraph Weekend and then continued over a further half of page two. Bury Farmhouse stands in the background of a picture with a huge pig and two piglets, imported for the occasion, in the front. Brian Edward's views dominate the article and he speedily dismisses the claim of Manor Farm defended so fiercely previously by The Daily Telegraph. A great many of Brian's theories came from his comparing the human characters in ANIMAL FARM with people Orwell knew when living in Wallington.... The words which Brian is quoted as saying and which gave me real grief was "there is nothing to conect it (Chalk Farm) to the novel". I did not believe Brian had proved his right to make this statement. Neither did my friend Mick Cooke, and being of a chivalrous nature, he entered the fray on my behalf and that of The Project and got in touch with Brian and Professor Davison. Without expanding on this here, suffice to say I received a missive from Brian saying that the whole newspaper episode had upset Professor Davison and himself and he wished to be left alone to get on with his own work. This wish I obeyed.
I arranged a meeting of those who had been closely involved with The George Orwell Connection and we agreed that we would nevertheless carry on with Brian's suggestion for making the Project's training hotel a centre of Orwellian interest and this I continued to do....
There was one thing Brian could not gainsay.
When writing ANIMAL FARM in the cold London flat he shared with his first wife Eileen, Orwell chose to set it in WILLINGDON. This is not a name he plucked out of the air. It was a place that he knew very well indeed from his five years as a pupil at St Cyprian's School in nearby Eastbourne....
I wanted to portray this Parish of Willingdon somehow for my Orwell Collection and in this quest I was greatly assisted by Mr Jefferson Collard, Developent Manager of Eastbourne Borough Council and also their Historic Buildings Advisor. He had copies made for me of the huge maps in the Council's possession covering the area in which I was interested. He told me where I could obtain help in getting them reduced in size....
The maps arrived from Mr Collard in a huge tube, each one being roughly forty inches by thirty inches. Having first cleared out the furniture from the room, I spread them all out upon the floor. It was magical. I walked on the land where Eric Blair must have walked some ninety years before.... At the time of Eric Blair's schooldays, the Parish of Willington, still mostly an agricultural community, held as many as twelve major farms as well as a number of smaller ones. I had discounted a large part of Willingdon as being not relevant to my Search for one very good reason, this being that then motor vehicles were still struggling for supremacy alongside horse-drawn carriages and carts. Cars were only owned by the wealthy. Children of those days walked, whatever the weather, as did most adults, and thus I concluded pursuits outside of the grounds of St Cyprian's needed to be within reasonable walking distance.... I then eliminated all farms on flat land. Those left on sloping land needed to have a knoll large enough to accommodate all the farm animals and then to have the farm pasture still continuing upwards above the knoll. There was only one, CHALK FARM, and the view from that knoll was Orwell's prose word for word.
Reader, you may ask why I set such great store upon the importance of the knoll. It is because I believe Orwell very consciously included a place of high ground on ANIMAL FARM. I believe he wanted to make a visual impact on the reader's mind of the height of goodness and then the gradual descent into evil -- the evil inflicted upon the animals of ANIMAL FARM after their Rebellion, the evils inflicted upon the peoples of Russia in the political context of his writing and the worldwide evil perpetrated by those who deliberately twist the efforts of those working for good to their own greedy and power-hungry advantage. He illustrates this brilliantly....
I believe this is the place where I should mention again Professor Davison's visit to Eastbourne to lecture on Orwell at the Towner Art Gallery. I had sent for tickets and on the night was accompanied by Jill, Mick Cooke, Sydney Lott, John Davies and Philllip Clear, the latter a great supporter and benefactor to the Downland Farm Project and who was very interested in my Search, being a resident in the village of Willingdon.
Professor Davison spoke extremely well as one would expect, his lecture being mostly taken up with the political nature of Orwell's work. He did touch briefly on Orwell's schooldays and, as mentioned previously, appeared to cast doubt on some of the things that Orwell had written in his essay on those days. In the midst of this portion of the lecture he said, "of course he had Wallington in mind when ANIMAL FARM was written".
I did not like the words 'of course' and challenged this at Question Time at the end of the lecture. He replied to me that Orwell would not have chosen the word Willingdon had that really been the place, as authors of that time never used real place names. Luckily for me I had Sydney beside me, Sydney the Gissing scholar, and he totally refuted this to me afterwards, saying that Gissing often used the real place names in his writings.
It was shortly after this that Mick Cooke did something splendid for me. He knew the Wallington claim nagged at my mind as I had never been there.... Mick and Sue took a long weekend and stayed near Wallington and explored it thoroughly. Being a graphic designer, Mick drew a splendid map with all the places of interest to me marked and numbered, each number corresponding with the superb photographs he had taken, and when he had produced all of this on their return, he and Sue were able to take me, with their commentary, on a trip of the village and countryside of Wallington...
Further along Kits Lane in the direction of Baldock, Mick and Sue left the car and took to the fields to find the small chalk pit which Brian believed was the quarry of ANIMAL FARM. Through four successive photographs they walked between gently sloping corduroy-ribbed fields to a point where the cultivated land divides to show a rough patch of green shrub within which is what Mick describes as a very small crater. Hidden in the undergrowth it appears very harmless and different indeed from the great quarry on Chalk Farm carved out of the massive side of the South Downs -- a scar on the landscape visible for miles around and its top a dangerous place to be.
Returning back past 2 Kits Lane, we go now towards Bury Farmhouse passing the old Manor Farm and its barn. The latter is certainly very eye-catching as it is made entirely of wood with a high pitched roof. I know nothing of its age and I concede that Orwell could well have visualised all the animals within it.
The barn adjacent to the old Farm House of Chalk Farm is itself a Listed Building like the farmhouse. Beneath its red tiled roof it is made of flint -- a long building seeming to grow out of the ground. Before EAPAG took over Chalk Farm Hotel and its land for the Downland Farm Project, previous owners had turned the barn into a residence and previous to that a local gentleman who lived in the hotel as a boy told Jill it had been known as the Nags Barn. Now it houses the 50-60 students for their teaching, meals, toilet facilities, washing up area and the Plant Centre office.
Having passed the Barn we pass the church and arrive at Bury Farmhouse. This is an attractive square building approached by a short drive leading through railings and between well-kept lawns. The whole landscape of Bury Farm pays tribute to its farmer who is obviously a man who takes great pride in his land and its husbandry. As far as the eye can see, his rolling fields stretch in immaculate condition.... In addition to which he is a very nice man indeed and was very pleasant and helpful to Mick who explained his quest. He also had a sense of humour. Thinking of the knoll and Orwell's description from there, Mick asked him if there was anywhere upon the farm where one could look down upon it in its entirety and he dryly remarked ""from a hot air balloon". He invited Mick inside and allowed him to photograh three aerial pictures of the area hanging on his walls. I find them remarkable. From the air it all looks like the perfect models one might have been lucky enough to possess in childhood. All of Wallington and its surrounds is still agricultural and it lies, much as Orwell knew it, serene and peaceful although, I suspect, looking more manicured than in his day. It must still be a happy and peaceful place wherein to live and nobody, no matter of what academic status, will ever convince me that Orwell had Wallington in his mind when, in his and Eileen`s London flat, he sat down to write the harrowing story of ANIMAL FARM.
In a previous chapter I mentioned Mr Jefferson Collard putting me in touch with Mr Michael Ockenden of the Eastbourne Civic Society, because he knew of the existence of a picture of St Cyprian's and thought Mr Ockenden might help me obtain a copy. This proved to be the case. Mr Ockenden was very interested in my quest. He told me that Eastbourne Borough Council and the Civic Society had worked together over the mounting of the Blue Plaque on the wall of the erstwhile Headmaster's House, St Cyprian's Lodge, in Summerdown Road, commemorating Cecil Beaton, Cyril Connolly, Gavin Maxwell, Henry Longhurst and George Orwell who had been pupils at the school. The present owners of The Lodge also contributed towards the plaque and provided tea for the guests, some of them Old Boys, at the unveiling ceremony on 27th April 1997.
The unveiling ceremony was performed by Mrs Deryn Hurst, daughter of Mr and Mrs Vaughn Wilks, founders of the school, and during this ceremony a fire-damaged drawing of the school was presented by a member of the Vaughn Wilks family.... Jill wrote to Mr Bush regarding the picture of St Cyprian's, asking if it would be possible to borrow it in order to have a copy made. Mr Bush replied with the very generous offer that the College would have a copy made and framed and in due course Mr Bush and another master came to Chalk Farm Hotel and presented this unique picture for The Orwell Collection.
Mr Ockenden was also instrumental in obtaining another splendid artefact for The Orwell Collection. He had been given a St Cyprian's cap by Mr John Christie...who was a few years younger than Eric Blair but a contemporary at the school. Mr David Dugdill, who made the Orwell Bookcase, made a superb glass-fronted case for this and he in turn presented this to the Orwell Collection as a gift from his wife and himself. Another unique possession....
The final stage of the Orwell Collection was in the naming of the bedrooms with plaques on the doors: Willingdon Beauty (Old Major), Boxer, Clover, Benjamin, Muriel. I could not countenance Napoleon or Squealer, the destroyers of the animal's dream, but I included Snowball who was driven from the farm by the dogs for disagreeing with Napoleon in reasoned argument. I felt he needed to be given the benefit of the doubt as to how he might have turned out but for Napoleon's overweening lust for power. There was also a room called Such, Such Were the Joys and the Eric Blair/George Orwell Room. From the window of this room one can see the quarry and knoll. Each room had within a framed picture of the animal for whom it ws named and a description of them, all of these beautifully designed by Mick.... Lastly, for those who visited the hotel during the day only and who would thus not see the bedrooms or the pictures within, Mick made composite picture of them all to hang with the rest of the Orwell Collection...
~ end quoting Search for Orwell Collection by Sylvia Westley ~
Chalk Farm Hoel & 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.
The Red Lion, Willingdon (A welcoming, warm and friendly pub...is 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)...
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....)
WALLINGTON WILLINGDON ANIMAL FARM
By George, Has the Animal Farm Land Been Found?, The Argus, May 19, 1999 (...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.... 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."
VISITING ORWELL'S ANIMAL FARM
ORWELL'S ANIMAL FARM
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