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Number four, Privet Drive

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Number four, Privet Drive

The home of Vernon and Petunia Dursley, their son Dudley, and (until July 27, 1997) their nephew Harry Potter.

Little Whinging is in Surrey, which is located to the south and southwest of London. It is almost certainly to be found in the far north-west corner of the county, in the small section which is north of the Thames since Harry takes a train from Paddington Station to get there (PS5). Besides Privet Drive, the streets in the neighborhood are named Magnolia Road, Magnolia Crescent, and Wisteria Walk.

Number four, Privet Drive, is described as large and square. It has a low garden wall in front, a garden behind with flowerbeds and a greenhouse, and several chimneys. The house was most likely built in the 1930s and is part of a subdivision of hundreds of similar houses.

Notes:

  • kitchen – square table, the usual furnishings, impeccably clean, television for Dudley so he doesn’t have to leave the TV to get food.
  • living room with boarded up fireplace, fitted with an electric fire
  • bathroom
  • front hall with front door, which has a mail slot in it
  • stairs with cupboard under them, leading up a hall which leads to the four bedrooms upstairs:
    • Vernon and Petunia’s bedroom
    • guest bedroom (reserved for Aunt Marge)
    • Dudley’s main bedroom
    • Dudley’s spare bedroom, now Harry’s room
  • garden with a hedge, a bench, and flowerbeds

Commentary

Notes

Rowling wrote about the house in Privet Drive on Pottermore:

The name of the street where the Dursleys live is a reference to that most suburban plant, the privet bush, which makes neat hedges around many English gardens. I liked the associations with both suburbia and enclosure, the Dursleys being so smugly middle class, and so determinedly separate from the wizarding world. The name of their area is 'Little Whinging', which again sounds appropriately parochial and sniffy, 'whinging' being a colloquial term for 'complaining or whining' in British English.

Although I describe the Dursleys' house as big and square, as befitted Uncle Vernon's status as a company director, whenever I wrote about it I was unconsciously visualising the second house I lived in as a child, which on the contrary was a rather small three-bedroomed house in the suburb of Winterbourne, near Bristol. I first became conscious of this when I entered the number four Privet Drive that had been built at Leavesden Studios, and found myself in an exact replica of my old house, down to the position of the cupboard under the stairs and the precise location of each room. As I had never described my old home to the set designer, director or producer, this was yet another of the unsettling experiences that filming the Potter books has brought me.

For no very good reason, I have never been fond of the number four, which has always struck me as a rather hard and unforgiving number, which is why I slapped it on the Dursleys' front door.

 

Fiona Shaw, who played Aunt Petunia in the films, said this of her character's relationship with the house in Privet Drive:

"It was absolute bliss for her. This house is incredibly aspirational. She probably would like a bigger house but this is all she could manage so she manages it really well. She decorates it within an inch of its life and works very hard at keeping it clean." (Pm)

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