Portrait of George Borrow


George Borrow is associated with numerous places in London.

George Borrow’s first prolonged stay in London was in 1824 when he went to London to take up a life in literature, working for Sir Richard Phillips, who lived in Tavistock Square.  The whole of this period is covered in Lavengro.  On 2 April 1824 he arrived at the Spread Eagle, Gracechurch Street, and then the coach went round the corner to the Swan with Two Necks in Lad lane (both now gone).

George Borrow lodged at No. 16 Millman Street, Bedford Row.

Lavengro narrates the episodes of the apple seller woman on London Bridge, Borrow’s taking of Claret at “Holy Lands” hotel, near The Strand and the trips with Francis Ardry to “the strange and eccentric places of London”.

On 12 July 1824 George Borrow was at the junction of Oxford Street and the Tottenham Court Road when he saw the funeral procession of Lord Byron. [src: Lavengro, p. 564]

On 12 May 1825 George Borrow walked to Greenwich where he saw the two Greenwich fairs and the sailor’s hospital, both covered in detail in Lavengro.  William Knapp claimed this London period ended on 22 May 1825 with Borrow leaving for the Lavengro tramp.

On 11 February 1829 George Borrow was back in London, being admitted to the British Museum Reading room.  Borrow used the resources of the Reading room over many years.

From November 1829 to 7 January 1830 George Borrow was writing letters from 17 Great Russell Street, and then until 14 September from 7 Museum Street. [src: George Borrow and His Circle, pp. 143–150].  His reason for moving is given in a letter to John Bowring:

7 Museum Street, Jany., 1830.

My dear Sir,—I write this to inform you that I am at No. 7 Museum St., Bloomsbury.  I have been obliged to decamp from Russell St. for the cogent reason of an execution having been sent into the house, and I thought myself happy in escaping with my things.

source: Life of George Borrow, Clement Shorter, p. 86

In December 1832 George Borrow was invited to an interview with the British and Foreign Bible Society in Earl Street, London.  He was successful and the following years was employed by them and attended various meetings in Earl Street.

After the “Spain” period George Borrow, Mary Clarke and Henrietta Clarke returned to London around 16th April 1840, stayed at the Spread Eagle Inn, Gracechurch Street, and George and Mary were married round the corner at St. Peter’s Church, Cornhill on 23rd April 1840.  Shortly after this the party returned to Oulton.

George Borrow now began writing the chain of books which would eventually make him famous and he comes into contact with John Murray the London publisher, who lived in Albemarle Street (near Green Park), and for many years afterward George Borrow would be frequent visitor to Albemarle Street.

In 1848 George Borrow wrote to Mary (his wife) from 53a Pall Mall, a lodging place kept by a Mrs. Webster.  It seems that Borrow frequently stayed here when in London.  E.g. he was there 10-25 February 1854, and he returned again at the end of his Wild Wales walk.

In June 1860 George and Mary Borrow had decided to move to London, and eventually settled at No. 22 Hereford Square, Brompton, where George Borrow was to live until 1874.  During that period he visited Dr. Hake (who lived at Roehampton) and Theodore Watts-Dunton (who lived at The Pines, 11 Putney Hill, Putney), and they often went for long walks in Richmond Park.  Borrow also appears to have visited Fairlop, Essex, in July 1866, if not before.

George Borrow left London in 1874, returning to Oulton, where he died in 1881.

George Borrow was buried beside his wife in Brompton Cemetery

source: Life, Writings and Correspondence of George Borrow

source: George Borrow and His Circle