Orton was born John Kingsley Orton on January 1st 1933
to William and Elsie Orton while living in lodgings in
the Clarendon Park Road area of Leicester. He was the
eldest of four children, Douglas (b1937),
Marilyn (b1939) and Leonie (b1944).
In 1935, the family moved to Fayrhurst Road on the Saffron
Lane estate, typical of the sprawling housing estates
built for workers in the 1920s. While not decrepit or
squalid they were none the less drab, soulless and monotonous
and epitomised the worst aspects of Leicester’s
motto, ‘Semper Eadem’ – always the same.
William was a gardener for Leicester Council, Elsie a
machinist. A quiet and reserved man, much about William
enraged Elsie and the children would often overhear their
many arguments. Life in the Orton household was not a
particularly happy one. William was distant from his wife
and children. Elsie was domineering and impulsive and
there was little emotional warmth.
As Leonie recalls: ‘It’s not obligatory
to like our mother and I don’t/didn’t. She
was cruel and that colours the way I see her. Most kids
of my generation were knocked about by their parents and
to quote many on the Saffron estate ‘it didn’t
do me no harm’. Well I don’t share their opinion.’
John was always Elsie’s favourite and she regarded
him as the most gifted of the four children. Leonie remembers
that while the other Orton children received regular beatings,
John often escaped her wrath.