Senate House in Literature

Senate House Library

George Orwell, 1984

“A kilometre away the Ministry of Truth, his place of work, towered vast and white above the grimy landscape. This, he thought with a sort of vague distaste — this was London.[…] The Ministry of Truth — Minitrue, in Newspeak, was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said, three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. […] The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts.”

Sir John Betjemann, A Subaltern’s Love Song

While working in Senate House, John Betjeman, later Poet Laureate, fell in love with Joan Hunter Dunn who was Assistant Catering Manageress and the inspiration for his poem ‘A Subaltern’s Love Song’.

Evelyn Waugh, Put Out More Flags

“It was not until he was under its shadow and saw the vast bulk of London University insulting the autumnal sky, that he remembered that here was the Ministry of Information… All the secrets of all the services might have been hidden in that gross mass of masonry.”

Graham Greene, Penguin New Writing

“The high heartless building with complicated lifts and long passages like those of a lines and lavatories where the water never ran hot and the nail-brushes were chained like Bibles. Central heating gave it the stuffy smell of mid-Atlantic except in the passages where the windows were always open for fear of blast and the cold winds whistled in. One expected to see people wrapped in rugs lying in deck-chairs, and the messengers carried round minutes like soup. (There was) an odd little procession of old men in robes, led by a mace-bearer. They passed – one of them sneezing – towards the Chancellor’s Hall, like humble ghosts still carrying out the ritual of another age. They had once been kings in this place, the gigantic building built to house them, and now the civil servants passed up and down through their procession as though it had no more consistency than smoke.”