History of Camden hostel which inspired Orwell and Madness

The Arlington Book Launch at Arlington, Camden, London, UK.
Thursday 24th March 2022
Picture by Be

Madness Frontman Suggs has written a foreword to Arlington and Beyond about the hostel which inspired his song One Better Day - Credit: Ben Stevens

From songs by The Pogues and Madness, to the writings of George Orwell - one Camden hostel has offered a roof and inspiration for thousands.

Once housing 1,200 men, Arlington House was the largest of the properties built by Victorian philanthropist Lord Rowton to help London’s poor, and the only one to retain its original use today.

The hostel was built in 1905 as the largest of the Rowton Houses by Victorian philanthropist Lord Rowton

The hostel was built in 1905 as the largest of the Rowton Houses by Victorian philanthropist Lord Rowton and at one stage housed 1200 men - Credit: Courtesy of One Housing

A new book - Arlington and Beyond - sets out the history of the hostel, whose past residents include Orwell, who wrote about the experience in Down and Out in Paris and London, and Irish writers Brendan Behan and Patrick Kavanagh.

Featuring more than 50 artworks and written contributions from past and current residents, it also celebrates the creativity of those who have called Arlington home, and the music inspired by the hostel, including The Pogues' Transmetropolitan, and One Better Day, by Madness.

Author Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen-name, "George Orwell".

George Orwell based his book Down and Out in Paris and London on his time in the hostel - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Produced by staff and residents of One Housing to mark a decade since the housing association took over, the book includes a foreword by Madness frontman, Suggs.

“As a kid growing up in Camden Town, Arlington loomed large over my life," he writes. “I had the great privilege to meet Joe McGarry who was running the place in the 80s just as it was starting to change and grow more inclusive, he showed me round the top floor which was almost a museum to its past. Just lines of 10-foot square cubicles; I remember him telling me that the big problem in the old days was the partitions didn’t reach the ceiling so every now and then some rascal got his hands on fishing rods and would ‘fish’ the fella next door’s trousers when he was asleep".

Today, One Housing - with funding support from Camden Council - takes a holistic approach to tackling homelessness, by offering onsite support alongside training and employment opportunities to help the 95 residents get back on their feet.

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Martin D’Mello, Group Director for Care and Support, One Housing, said: “We’re tremendously proud to be presenting a selection of work that shows the transformative potential of art to help people rebuild their lives from the trauma of homelessness.

“Arlington is a very special place in the history of London, for generations it’s been the place where people have found a foothold out of homelessness, and this book tells that story. It also brings us up to date, and describes how the holistic care Arlington provides with the support of Camden Council can serve as a model for how rough sleepers can be successfully supported across London and beyond.”

Arlington & Beyond is published by One Housing priced £25 with sales going to charities which support the homeless

Arlington & Beyond is published by One Housing priced £25 with sales going to charities which support the homeless - Credit: Courtesy of One Housing

Arlington and Beyond is priced £25 with sales raising money for charities which support Arlington residents and others in similar schemes. Visit www.brownsbfs.co.uk/Product/One-Housing/Arlington--beyond/9781399916912