Harry Potter fans are not properly introduced to 12 Grimmauld Place until Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, just before Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
We learn that it is heavily protected by complex magical spells as the headquarters for the newly revived Order of the Phoenix—a secret organization created to fight off Voldemort and his loyal band of followers. We also learn that this rather dark, old, and mouldy home was where Sirius Black grew up, and remains a fascinating building with secrets, ancient wizarding artefacts, and its very own surly house elf, Kreacher.
By the seventh installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the house and its loyal resident Kreacher become key players in the increasingly complex plot.
12 Grimmauld Place does not have the same cozy or majestic feel that Hogwarts Castle has, nor is it the unique and quirky home that is The Burrow. Yet the Blacks’ ancient home— and later the headquarters for the Order— is ridden with mysteries and secrets that give us greater insight into J.K. Rowling’s fascinating magical world.
Keep reading for the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About 12 Grimmauld Place.
12 Grimmauld Place was indeed Sirius Black’s childhood home. In fact, the house belonged to the Blacks for several generations before Sirius’s mother, Walburga Black, became its proprietor sometime in the mid-20th century.
Although we never meet Walburga Black in the flesh, we do meet her horrid, shrieking portrait in the hall, who begins cursing and ranting about pure-blood traitors and mud-bloods at the smallest disturbance. Inhabitants must stay as quiet as possible when passing the portrait, as she will wake and begin cursing at the slightest noise.
The portrait, along with Sirius’s account of his mother, gives us a fairly accurate idea of the history of the house that Sirius grew up in, and the ideologies that continue to haunt the premises, despite being taken over by the progressive Order of the Phoenix.
Given the pure-blood inclination of the Blacks, it is rather surprising that inheritance of the house would not be passed down to Bellatrix Lestrange, Sirius’s cousin. According to tradition, the house was supposed to be passed down to the eldest surviving Black male. If there was no male left in the lineage, it would be passed down to the eldest surviving Black female. In this case, this then should have been Bellatrix Lestrange.
However, upon Sirius Black’s death, the house instead goes to Harry Potter, as is written in Sirius’s will. How can this be? Perhaps the requirement for passing the house down to the eldest surviving Black male, and then female, was merely tradition rather than magically enforceable. Albus Dumbledore verifies Harry’s inheritance by having Harry give the house elf Kreacher an order. Kreacher abides, and it appears Harry has indeed inherited the house, despite the Black family lineage tradition.
The house continues to be used as headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix.
Of course, given that Kreacher responds obediently (albeit reluctantly) to Harry’s order, this means that Harry has also inherited the surly house elf.
This seems rather inconsequential until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Kreacher becomes essential to Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s Horcrux-destroying mission.
In this installment, we learn that Regulus Black (R. A. B.), Kreacher’s previous owner, had been adored by Kreacher. When Regulus Black turned away from Voldemort and began his attempt at destroying Horcruxes, he entrusted Kreacher to find a way of destroying the horcrux Regulus had retrieved— Salazar Slytherin’s locket. Given the difficulty of the task, Kreacher was unable to destroy it. It was later stolen by Mundungus Fletcher and eventually fell into the hands of Professor Umbridge.
Without Kreacher, Harry, Ron, and Hermione would never have learned this information, and would have unable to destroy all of Voldemort’s Horcruxes.
Given that 12 Grimmauld Place serves as the headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix, it must remain hidden at all times. To achieve this, the house is protected by the very complex and very effective Fidelius Charm, which requires a secret-keeper to hold the information of a secret inside a living soul.
We are shown how the spell works more concretely when Harry first arrives at the residence. Having seen Dumbledore’s hand-written note stating the location of the headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix, he can then stand in between number 11 and number 13, and think about the address written on the paper revealed by the secret-keeper, and the house will appear.
The house is also unplottable, which means it cannot be accessed by Muggles.
Because Dumbledore was the secret-keeper of 12 Grimmauld Place, there are theories pointing to the possibility that Dumbledore used his words very carefully when he told Harry in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that he had inherited Sirius’ childhood home.
When Dumbledore visited Harry to tell him the news, he said everything in front of the Dudley, Petunia, and Vernon Dursley. Could this have been done with a very specific intention? Possibly.
Remember, the Fidelius Charm means that the secret-keeper— in this case, Dumbledore— has the authority to reveal the secret to anyone of their choosing. Dumbledore was not required to be so specific in his explanation of Harry’s inheritance in this scene at the Dursleys, yet he specified that Harry had inherited 12 Grimmauld Place, and that this was the headquarters for the Order of the Phoenix.
This theory points to the possibility that Dumbledore could actually have been providing a preventative safety mechanism for when 4 Privet Drive became unsafe when Harry turned 18 and the magical protection wore off. While nothing ever came of Dumbledore’s reveal, we do know that all of his actions and words were always thought-out and deliberate.
Harry Potter is found not only in the traditional books and films, however. In Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s crossover fiction-mythology comic series The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Harry also makes a cameo appearance— although he is never mentioned by name.
In this unique interpretation of Harry Potter, Harry is actually the Antichrist, or Moonchild. He comes to Hogwarts and goes on a killing rampage, murdering all students and professors in his path. This time, Harry’s troubled childhood gets the better of him.
Eventually, his detractors find him at 12 Grimmauld Place, where final battle of the series occurs.
Of course, fans were quick to criticize Alan Moore for twisting the Harry Potter story so dramatically, but Moore reminded all at the time that this was a satire, and that he respects all the characters he references in his series.
Inside the old house, the kitchen was located in the basement. Strange as this placement may be to some, for an older, more traditional house in the United Kingdom, a kitchen in the basement is actually a routine occurrence.
Whether the kitchen was placed in the basement prior to being owned by the Blacks or whether it was only moved there upon their ownership, it should be of no surprise for a household that believed in slavery.
Traditionally, basement kitchens are a sign of a home that has had or that has servants. The Blacks always had house elves, and given their belief in the superiority of pure-bloods, they would surely, for the most part, have also believed in the inferiority of other magical creatures such as house elves.
Sometime near the beginning of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, we discover several secrets and hidden facts about 12 Grimmauld Place while Molly Weasley and Harry, Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, and Ginny try to clean the house. This includes the discovery of various historical artefacts that remained stored there.
Hidden within the house were trinkets like silver boxes, fine china with the Black family crest, family photos, a ring, and a music box, as well as more disturbing objects like a bottle of what looked to be blood and several mounted house elf heads.
Yet the most important object they found during those days of cleaning, unbeknownst to them, was one of Voldermort’s horcruxes. While this is never explicitly confirmed, it is implicitly when Kreacher explains that the real locket of Salazar Slytherin remained at 12 Grimmauld Place until Mundungus Fletcher stole it in recent times.
Readers of the series may be less surprised by this fact, yet it may still come as a surprise to those who’ve only watched the films.
J. K. Rowling has shown herself to be a very deliberate thinker when it comes to story creation, and this is no exception in her name choice for 12 Grimmauld Place. With some thought, we can see that the name is a pun, playing on the description "grim old place" or "grim mould place." From what Molly Weasley and the kids find in the house when they are cleaning it in the beginning of the Order of the Phoenix, the pun is a suitable one.
Rowling’s cleverness goes a step further, though, if we are to consider the recurring theme of the "grim", an ancient mythological beast that is supposed to symbolize death and which happens to look very similar to the dog that Sirius can transfigure into. Did Rowling choose the term "grim" on purpose to make a connection to Sirius, who lived there as a child, and is later forced to return in hiding?
We begin seeing shades of the Ron-Hermione relationship as early as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but their relationship only becomes a reality in the final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and even then, it's slow going.
Because of how long it took Ron and Hermione to finally come together, fans cling to every moment, in every book and movie, that points to their growing relationship.
This includes the moment when Hermione teaches Ron how to play “Für Elise” on the piano as they sit in the old house, trying to find happiness. Despite this moment shared between them being a minor detail in their relationship, it’s one of many special moments amidst constant turbulence and distress-- especially in a dark, depressing place like Grimmauld.
Under English Common Law, there is a concept called “Entailed Estate,” wherein a designated heir to an estate cannot be prevented. It is likely this concept that inspired J. K. Rowling’s idea of having a direct line of male Blacks who would be the proprietor of 12 Grimmauld Place. For this inheritance structure to break, there must be no other living descendent that meets the requirements of inheritance. Here it remains unclear how Harry then inherited the house after Sirius died, given that the house was supposed to go to the next female Black living descendent if there were no male descendants.
The concept of entailed estate was made very clear in how Sirius inherited the property, despite his very fractured relationship with his family. Given that Sirius Black was disowned by his family and represented and supported everything his family hated, they surely would have rather he did not inherit the family home.
Prior to being owned by the Blacks, the house belonged to Muggles-- just like the others that surround it.
Eventually, the Blacks successfully "persuaded" the Muggles inhabiting the house to leave, and it became the traditional Black home, passed down generation to generation. The missing number 12 address has long been accepted by Muggles in the neighbourhood as a random mistake.
The architecture of the house demonstrates a clearly Muggle-made building, as it is identical to the town houses on each side of it, and there is certainly a "normal" sense to it-- something that can definitely not be said for a unique, magical home like The Burrow.
Debate remains as to whether a Muggle-made or Wizard-made home is more secure for wizards; both have their advantages and disadvantages.
For fans with a particular interest in the films and in film props, it is notable that a prop used in the first film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was later incorporated and reformulated in the first half of the second installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.
Remember the “troll! In the dungeon!!” (that was actually in the girls’ bathroom)? Of course you do! Well, it turns out that the troll’s foot from that film was actually used as a mold to create the troll foot umbrella stand found in the hallway of 12 Grimmauld Place!
Although it might seem a minor detail, for the troll’s foot to have served in both the first and the final film is an excellent Easter egg for those fans who’ve been loyal since day one.
Next time you watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I make sure to check it out for yourself!
Despite the general gloom-and-doom-feel one gets from 12 Grimmauld Place, it still has a certain charm to it— at least in the film.
Despite its dark, mouldy, and bug-infested interior, the historical artefacts, including the troll’s foot umbrella stand, and the large servant kitchen, all bring character to the home.
Part of this is because of the filmmakers’ choice to create an authentic décor experience, by purchasing most furniture and home accessories from flea markets, auctions, and second-hand shop. This attention to detail leads to the unique, mis-matched, antiquated home that we see portrayed in the films.
While the home will never be majestic in the way that Hogwarts is, or cozy in the way that The Burrow is, 12 Grimmauld Place carries some authenticity— surely thanks to the hand-picked furniture and décor set props.
For fans who love searching for the real-life location of settings featured in movies, what better place to find several from the Harry Potter franchise than in London, England? On top of the Leaky Cauldron, Diagon Alley, King’s Cross Station, and the Ministry for Magic, it is also here where you can find the real-life location of 12 Grimmauld Place. More specifically, the house can be found at Claremont Square in Islington. The house itself may be harder to find, but you’re sure to find several that look identical to the grey façade that makes up 12 Grimmauld Place.
While not the most charming of areas, it is just a 20-minute walk from King’s Cross Station, making for a perfect stop on your London-based Harry Potter tour.
Did we miss something about 12 Grimmauld Place? Let us know in the comments!