Canonbury Square

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After our visit to the Estorick Collection, we took a little time to look around Canonbury Square. Following the typical Georgian pattern of terraces of houses surrounding a central railed garden (where access would originally have been restricted to residents), it’s actually a rectangle which is divided in two by Canonbury Road.

We sat and relaxed for a while in the central garden. It’s very well kept and planted up with some exotic plants. Looking at the picture above you could be fooled into thinking we were in warmer climes than London.

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The houses surrounding the square are very typically Georgian. Relatively plain and simple, well proportioned, doors with “fan light” windows, the largest windows on the first floor where the “piano nobile” (the main floor where guests would have been entertained) was located, and the size of the windows decreasing rising up the building. Most of the houses were terraced in uniform blocks,

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although there was more variation in size and style on the north east side of the square.

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There were some particularly attractive balconies on the first floor windows

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and interesting glazing on the fanlights and ground floor windows

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on some of the houses.

And the square has had some famous residents in the past, including Evelyn Waugh, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, Barbara Castle and:

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Orwell wrote his two most famous novels, Animal Farm and 1984 while he was living here. Today it’s a very desirable area with houses (many converted into flats) that fetch very high prices, but, according to one of Orwell’s biographers it was quite different when he lived there in….

a bleak tenement in a down-at-heel area…The flat was in a row of rather uncomfortable eighteenth-century houses.

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