In the early 1940s, in the name of the war effort, the British government ordered citizens to tear down the tall, black railings that surrounded London's many private gardens. Cast iron barriers were cut from all the city's exclusive parks, supposedly bound for munitions factories and then, in another form, to the Continent. George Orwell hailed the removal as a "democratic gesture."
Formerly private gardens like Russell Square spent several years during the war open to everybody. At the close of the war, as property owners tried to put the railings back up, Orwell and others defended the newly public spaces of the city. Those who had owned the city's parks prior to the war accused the writer of advocating thievery.