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IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
George Orwell taught here
George Orwell taught at the school that used to be here.
Location: The Fountain House Hotel, 116-118 Church Road, H
Description: This used to be a private school where George Orwell taught from April 1932 to July 1933.
Eric Blair applied for the post of teacher at the school, known as The Hawthorns High School for Boys, although he had had no training in or experience of teaching. He had spent five years in the police in Burma, but his most recent experience was as a hotel dishwasher in Paris. But he was also a former King's Scholar at Eton - something not without its advantages when applying for a job at a school with only some 14 pupils, including the owner's son. Blair was appointed headmaster of the school, with one other teacher as his assistant.
While he was at Hayes, Eric Blair, in consultation with his literary agent, chose the pen name George Orwell, and this was used on the title page of his first book, 'Down and Out in Paris and London', completed at the time.
Orwell did not really like teaching. But was conscientious and did his best to get his pupils interested in their work. He took them on expeditions around the locality to collect specimens of flora and fauna for use in biology lessons, and also taught less usual subjects such as gliding and oil painting. He also went to great trouble, and spent a lot of his own time, in writing and producing a school play. This was put on at Christmas 1932, and the plot took advantage of the fact that twin brothers were in the school.
George Orwell lived here at the school with the proprietor and his family. He seemingly grew to dislike Hayes, writing to a friend Hayesis one of the most God-forsaken places I have ever struck.
It is believed that a change in ownership of the school took place in 1933, and this may have been the final reason why Orwell decided to leave The Hawthorns at the end of the Summer term in that year. He went on to a teaching post at Frays College, Uxbridge, but was a term there before falling seriously ill with pneumonia, and didn't return when he recovered.
The Fountain House, as it is now called, was built about 1905 by a well known local builder, Seth Hunt. The building today from the front looks very much as it did in Orwell's time, although changes have been made for it's present function.