To Orwell Today,

Dear Jackie,

I took a look at your site and saw that someone had VISITED ORWELL'S ANIMAL FARM.

I attach an article and images from Animal Farm at Willingdon, East Sussex that may be of interest. Interestingly it does look very much like the drawings from our 1954 ANIMAL FARM film. Not only does the farmhouse exist but there is a Red Lion pub in the village.

AF Sketch

Chalk Farm Hotel Willingdon

George Orwell's classic satire on the Russian Revolution, Animal Farm, centred on a takeover, by the animals, of Manor Farm in the village of Willingdon. Only one such village exists in all of England and although there is not a `Manor Farm' here there is considerable evidence pointing to Chalk Farm as Orwell's model.

Nestling in the beautiful, tranquil South Downs, Chalk Farm is now a hotel, an ideal setting for holidays or business travellers. The house dates back to the 17th century and has retained many of the original features. It is surrounded by superb gardens and lawns maintained to the highest standard.

Eric Blair, who wrote as George Orwell, was born in 1903 and was educated from 1911 onwards at St Cyprian's School in Eastbourne, a two hour round walking trip from Chalk Farm. As a boy he explored the South Downs and went on lengthy rambles and in a letter to his mother makes mention of the neighbouring village of Jevington.

Blair never identified the site of Manor Farm but locals in Willingdon are convinced it is Chalk farm. And they have plenty of evidence from the book to back this up -- Williingdon is mentioned eight times in the story.

Manor Farm was described as having 'a good quarry of limestone' and old maps show the existence of a chalk pit and old limekilns close to the Chalk Farm house.

The farm is also described as being on a slope which 'led the way down to the five-barred gate that gave way onto the main road.' In Blair's time the main road was not, as it is known today, the A22 but the road known as Coopers Hill.

Furthermore "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 until midday on Sunday". And indeed the Red lion is still operating in the village today.

There is a short walk round the village and farm which leads to the top of a grassy knoll, which corresponds with Orwell's description of "...the knoll where they (the animals) were lying gave them a wide prospect across the countryside. Most of Animal Farm was within their view; 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 building with the smoke curling from the chimneys'. The view remains, unchanged with the exception of some modern housing. Guests in the hotel can of course wander round and see for themselves how Orwell's descriptions match reality....

~ ~

Best wishes,
Vivien Halas

Greetings Vivien,

Actually, I'm the 'someone' who visited Orwell's ANIMAL FARM and took the photos and wrote the article you read on ORWELL TODAY. That real-life farm is in the village of WALLINGTON in Hertfordshire.

W AF Sign

I never realized, until I went to Wallington -- to see the little house where Orwell used to live -- that the farm just up the hill was probably the main source of inspiration for the farm he describes in ANIMAL FARM. The first major clue was the MANOR FARM name on the sign which I'm pointing to above (and notice the BIG BARN too). "Manor Farm", as readers will recall, was the name of Mr Jones's farm before the "revolution" after which it was re-named "Animal Farm":

I show other similarities to the REAL Manor Farm in Wallington with the ficticious ANIMAL FARM which was in Willingdon. Notice how similar the names are, ie WALLINGTON is like WILLINGDON.

In ANIMAL FARM (as in all his books) Orwell uses REAL places and REAL people and even REAL names (just slightly changed) and anyone who knew him (or reads biographies about him) can spot the similarities.

The places are never EXACTLY the same but are a compilation of a couple or a few places. For that reason the "Chalk Farm" in Willingdon that you sent the link to probably IS in part the source for ANIMAL FARM in ANIMAL FARM (especially the exact duplication of the name WILLINGDON). And, as seen in the images you sent, the sketch of the farmhouse in your film is very similar to the real one at Chalk Farm (another godcident because no doubt your animator was never there back in 1954).

And, as that Chalk Farm article points out, Orwell went to school at St Cyprian's in Eastbourne which is walking distance to WILLINGDON East Sussex (and Orwell as a school boy used to do lots of nature-walking in the area).

And, of course, the Red Lion Pub from ANIMAL FARM still exists there in WILLINGDON as does MANOR FARM in WALLINGTON.

So the bottom line is that if people want to visit the REAL farm Orwell had in mind for ANIMAL FARM they could go to Manor Farm in Wallington and Chalk Farm in Willingdon.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

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Jackie Jura
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