Graham Greene in Nottingham
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Graham Greene, the great novelist, lived in Nottingham from 1 Nov 1925 to 1 March 1926 while he worked as a sub editor on the Nottingham Journal.  For the first month or so he lived on Hamilton Road in NG5, and then he moved to Ivy House, All Saints Terrace in NG7. 

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I walked down Hamilton road on 1 February 2005.   The houses looked to have all been built well after the 1950’s, so I guess the one he lodged in must have been demolished.   Ivy House is probably still standing.  No 2, All Saints Terrace is a large three-story brick building on the corner of All Saints Terrace and Street.  It has been divided into about six flats and an office, but it must have been Greene’s boarding house in 1926.  Numbers 4 – 16, which make up the remainder of the terrace are too small to fit his descriptions.  

All Saints Terrace lies just at the edge of the western part of Nottingham’s Red Light district, which presumably has not moved much since the 20’s.  Greene recalled watching the local prostitutes in his autobiography, A Sort of Life.   In later life Greene frequently had sex with prostitutes but he is not recorded as having done so in Nottingham.  Nor did he enjoy his time there much.  Although he had a dog, Paddy, “a rough-haired terrier with orange and brown bits” he seems to have been lonely and to have spent much of his time at the cinema.  In his letters to his fiancée Vivien Dayrell, he frequently complained about the weather, lack of intellectual equals, and the behaviour of his landlady.  “This town makes one want a mental and physical bath every quarter of an hour.”   One of the few literary people he met was the novelist, and recent editor of the Nottingham Journal, Cecil Roberts.   They had supper together and both recalled getting on well.

The landlady at Ivy House, Mrs Loney, was probably a model for Mrs Coney in It’s a Battlefield and for Mrs Prewitt in Brighton Rock.  According to Greene, she was a lazy woman who lived mostly in her basement from where she spied on her neighbours.   Ivy House became his model for disreputable houses in a number of novels and the play The Potting Shed.   In A Gun for Sale “Two rows of small neo-Gothic houses lined up as carefully as a company on parade” is modelled on All Saints Road.   In Brighton Rock “Mr Prewitt’s house was in a street parallel to the railway, beyond the terminus … shaken by shunting engines; the soot settled continuously on the glass … .”   The passageway in Ivy house features in A Gun for Sale, in Brighton Rock, and in Mrs. Coney’s house in It’s a Battlefield.  

Probably the most important thing to happen to Greene in Nottingham was his conversion to Roman Catholicism; something he did to win over Vivien.  As soon as he arrived he “took Paddy for a walk to the sooty neo-Gothic cathedral”[1] and sought out the administrator, the fat Father Trollope, who prepared him for conversion to the Catholic faith and on 28 February baptised him. 

The conversion was not a conventional success, and Greene was never a conventional Catholic.  However, he did marry Vivien and, despite later separating, they never divorced.  It also created the writer of the Catholic novels Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter and, although Greene himself disliked it, the greatest of them all in my opinion, The End of the Affair.   

The day after his baptism he left Nottingham forever and wrote to Vivian from London: “Thank God Nottingham’s over.  It’s like coming back into real life again being here.”

The source for most of the above information is The Life of Graham Greene Vol 1. 1904 – 1939 by Norman Sherry. Pimlico.  London.  Pp 235-65

New readers please note - iGreens has no third e and is an environmentalist site, with nothing directly to do with the novelist.  I only wrote this piece about Greene when I discovered that, without realising it, I'd just put a campaign leaflet into the house he used to live in.  Jim Thornton

[1] It was cleaned in 1993. 


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Last modified: November 12, 2006