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In order to preserve Halliwell's dwindling inheritance, between 1957 and 1959 both took jobs for 6 months of the year, earning £30 per week. This was used to purchase a small 16' x 12’ bed-sit flat in 25 Noel Road, Islington.

Infuriated at the poor choice of books at their local library, Orton and Halliwell conspired a curious revenge - they began stealing and altering books. Plates were removed from art books and used to create collages on the walls of the bed-sit. More inventively, they began altering books, creating new covers and writing new blurbs on the dust jackets. Orton recalled

‘I used to stand in the corners after I’d smuggled the doctored books back into the library and then watch people read them. It was very fun, very interesting.’

Islington Library did not share the joke and set about tracking the culprits down. On April 28th 1962 police raided the flat and Orton and Halliwell were arrested. They were charged with stealing 72 books and removal of 1,653 plates from art books, used to decorate the flat. Pleading guilty to 5 charges of malicious damage at Islington Magistrates they were sentenced to 6 months in prison. This seemed a harsh sentence and later Orton commented that the court had realised they were gay and that the severity of the sentence was ‘because we were queers’.

Image: Courtesy Islington Council/The Orton Estate
'Queen's Favourite by Phyllis Hambleton published by Ward Lock, a division of The Orion Publishing Group.
  Text © Leicester City Council  

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