George Orwell’s head returns to Hampstead after mysterious disappearance

The new face of George Orwell. Picture: Josh Stephens

The new face of George Orwell. Picture: Josh Stephens - Credit: Archant

The son of George Orwell has celebrated the return of his father to Hampstead after a plaque that was quite literally defaced was restored last week.

The plaque after it was defaced

The plaque after it was defaced - Credit: Archant

The commemorative plaque marking the site of Booklover’s Corner – a former bookshop in South End Road where the renowned author worked and lived during the 1930s – received a new face after four years of being left bare.

It follows a mysterious and as-yet unsolved incident in 2010 when the original sculpture of Orwell’s visage suddenly disappeared, leading to theories it had become the victim of adoring fans wanting a memento or down-and-out thieves.

But the author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four now has his head firmly back in place at the spot which currently houses bakery Le Pain Quotidien.

Richard Blair, the adopted son of Orwell (real name Eric Blair) who helped fund the new sculpture, told the Ham&High: “I’m glad to see him returning to Hampstead, assuming that’s what people want – which they seem to.

George Orwell's son Richard Blair. Picture: Polly Hancock

George Orwell's son Richard Blair. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

“Everyone has their own views on his writing but we couldn’t just have a blank space there. It’s a different design to what we originally had.

“The new face is a scaled-down version of a mask I have in my own study. I’m assured it’s a like-for-like copy but perhaps the moustache seems to have been lost in translation somewhat.

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“There were lots of theories about what happened when the original disappeared but I think it may have actually just fallen off – a victim of corrosion rather than vandalism.”

Mr Blair says he has been assured the new face has been fastened on tightly.

It marks the site of the bookshop where Orwell is said to have written Keep the Aspidistra Flying.

David Kitchen, of the South End Green Association, which helped to erect the original plaque, said: “Orwell was a model for the things we thought were good about the neighbourhood.”