Showing the Location of Little Whinging
on the scene investigation by Nik the Hermit
This work is based on a good understanding of Southern England (the author's
home territory), along with solid knowledge of the County of Surrey, the
history of Great Britain, and British domestic architecture. It is an attempt
to probe beneath the surface of the
Potter books and to fit,
where possible, the written words (and some words from interviews) of the
author to the actual facts, geographical and historical.
Although any Muggle readers may find this both pedantic and, perhaps,
laughable, it may, to others, add a small amount to the enjoyment of the
wonderful Harry Potter World of J K Rowling.
Where is Little Whinging?
Little Whinging is in Surrey, a county
of Southern England, to the south and west of
Surrey is bordered by Greater
London to the east,
Berkshire and Buckinghamshire to the north and Hampshire, Sussex and
Kent to the south.
Although the bulk of the County lies to the south of the River Thames, a
small area lies to the north. It is here that Little Whinging lies. There
have been many boundary changes to
Surrey, and the major ones are shown
in the map above.
However, the most recent changes to the County boundary that are not shown
(Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Surrey County Boundaries Orders of
[Y14]) leave a
certain fog over that small portion of the County to the north.
Surrey became, in the twentieth century,
a place of great prosperity as more and more people moved there, many of them
commuting to work in
London. There was an
ever-greater demand for housing and large areas of countryside were covered
in new developments. The London suburbs had arrived.
These rapidly created new communities had a pleasing orderliness and
uniformity about them and they became a Muggle Paradise, pleasingly ordinary
and normal, as were the Dursleys and
all proper people.
It is this predictable order that allows us to discover more about
Surrey, Little Whinging and,
number four Privet Drive.
But where exactly is Little Whinging and Privet Drive?
Well, let us begin by listing all the facts that we know from the books...
Privet Drive is part of a
co-ordinated development of quite opulent detached houses consisting of
at least six streets. The uniformity of the street name style demonstrates
this. The houses probably were built in the 1930's.
Near to Motorways (OP3).
Privet Drive is on the outskirts
of what I would call a "satellite" town to
It was, in summer
[Y11], on a
direct Rail Line to Paddington Station in
Not a lot to go on, perhaps, but I believe it is enough. Paddington Station
is the key to the mystery.
Britain's Rail network was operated by one Government Controlled Company
called "British Rail". In the mid 1990's this all changed and the
Network was operated by many different companies. This has made it rather
difficult to identify rail-services from Paddington in
(perhaps, again, as the author may have intended). However, a most dear
friend found for me the relevant British Rail timetable.
Unfortunately, this caused me problems! There were no Trains from
Paddington to any Station in Surrey!! All Trains from
"Surrey Stations" came from Waterloo Station or Victoria
Station. The only trains from Paddington are the ones to
"The West Country", Wales and, of course, the Reading Line...
Ah, but Harry's Station need not
be in the County of Surrey. All that is necessary is it to be the
most convenient station for
Privet Drive. Perhaps as
Harry returned from
London late on the afternoon
of 31st July 1991
he walked a mile and a half...or (with his packages) may have caught a local
'bus. In that case, three stations could fit, but the overwhelming
favourite is Langley in Southern Buckinghamshire.
I suspect that (because of the return from work rush-hour) his train from
Paddington would have been the 16.20 Reading Train.
And this is why Privet Drive,
Little Whinging, Surrey, is shown as it is on the map, in the farthest north
of Surrey, to the west of Heathrow Airport and to the northwest of Staines.
Interestingly, this location is only about 9 miles from Martin's Heron,
Bracknell, Berkshire that was used as
Privet Drive in the films.
So, what is the house, number four Privet Drive, actually LIKE?
We know, now, where it is. But to work out what the house itself is like we
need to work out when it was built so that its architectural style can be
understood and workable floor plans constructed.
As has been said, the development of the Surrey suburbs took place in the
twentieth century. There were a number of main periods of building, all with
their individual characteristics of both house and type of development.
Let us list the general facts that we know about the immediate area that
Large Square detached houses
Four Streets are named. Probably at least ten must be included to make maps
Privet Drive has
twelve lampposts...so probably a street of about twenty-four detached houses
From all the above, the development must be of at least 250 similar houses,
maybe a lot more!!
Fireplaces to at least living room (lounge) and kitchen
(i.e., before central heating) (General)
Garages. Although only one garage is actually mentioned, most houses of
these sizes would have a garage in any of the possible building periods
Front gardens with flowerbeds and lawns. Low front garden walls
(certainly Privet Drive,
and Magnolia Crescent,
Substantial back gardens, with enough space for lawn, greenhouse and trees
Play park, with swings, behind railings
Possibly the house walls are finished with "pebble-dashing"...
at least number two Magnolia Crescent was finished in this way. This is
not a commonly used "finish" in building in recent years
and would not have been used for any renovation. Therefore it is likely that
all or much of this area was originally "pebble-dashed".
The streets are generally wide enough for parked cars outside the houses
(OP p24 et al).
Properties are separated by both (or either) fences and hedges.
"Muggle" Order and Uniformity rule within this area!!
So, where does this all bring us to?
In the UK, before the First World War, large-scale domestic building projects
produced town- and city-based mass housing. Closely grouped streets of
terraced or semi-detached houses were the norm. Larger, detached houses,
were built individually or in small groups. Mass housing development in the
countryside took only one main form...the experiments of the
"New Towns" (such as Letchworth, Hertfordshire, 1903 and onward).
These do not match with north Surrey and
Privet Drive, as we know it.
Since the 1930's there have been many mass-building periods in our chosen
area of northern Surrey, and many more houses are still being built today.
So when was Privet Drive built?
Ah, we have a good "clue"...the kitchen chimney...
OP2 and onward).
Very few houses (of a good quality) in the 1950's would have been built with
a fireplace in the kitchen. And, most certainly, since the 1950's, no houses,
of this quality, would have had that kitchen chimney. Since then, perhaps to
an increasing extent, fireplaces are added to the living rooms of modern
houses as a luxury feature. Therefore, there is a single chimney on the roof
of the 80's / 90's house in Bracknell used in the films as Privet Drive, but
no chimney to the kitchen...IMPOSSIBLE!!!!
And the 1950's, in the UK, there was a period of great post-World War Two
austerity. There was rationing of many materials and most building
development was aimed at the inner cities, repairing bombing damage. Large
scale housing developments were of lower cost housing for the masses. There
certainly was not a development of well over 250 detached opulent square
Number four, Privet Drive
has to be a 1930's house, perhaps with its period "pebble-dashed"