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A young redhead has a quiet time in Leyton

London has been a place for free spirits, drawing in exceptional personalities from other parts of the British Isles and further away, but it is not the suburban life of Leyton which has attracted them.  The playwright and left-wing intellectual pundit George Bernard Shaw did however live in Leyton for a short period.  Though he was born into a Protestant family in Dublin, then firmly under London’s control, he was not a Victorian Leyton kind of person.  “I was brought up in an atmosphere in which two of the main constituents were Italian opera and complete freedom of thought; and my attitude to conventional British life ever since has been that of a missionary striving to understand the superstitions of the natives in order to make himself intelligible to them.”

Shaw, who was born on 26th July 1856, said he had three fathers : his legal father who for many years was an alcoholic, his mother’s close male friend G J Vandeleur Lee, and his mother’s brother Walter Gurly, a ship’s doctor.  Shaw’s independence of mind was encouraged by his uncle Walter.

George Bernard Shaw left Ireland with his mother and Vandeleur Lee.  By 1881 he was living on his own in central London where he contracted smallpox.  To rebuild his strength Shaw went to stay with his uncle Walter, who was living at Holly Lodge, Grange Park Road (on the corner of Church Road) with wife and servant.  

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