The story takes place against the backdrop of a war-ravaged London. The boys who make up the Wormsley Common gang are from poor, underprivileged backgrounds, and the bleak landscape in which they live symbolizes this. The very name of the local area, Wormsley Common, conjures up images of decay, of a corpse riddled with worms. This is the kind of environment in which the boys live. Old Misery's stately home stands as a symbol of a bygone age, an age of elegance and nobility. The home is a representation of a vanishing heritage, one unceremoniously swept away by the Second World War.
Though considerably more pleasing than its immediate surroundings, the house is also a symbol of national decay, an old building in an advanced state of dilapidation. T. represents the new spirit of social leveling, one that wishes to sweep away the old hierarchies of British society to usher in a new era of equality in which the common man is king. T. wants to destroy the house, representing as it does an enervated social system in which his family once thrived. He and the other boys in the gang will act as worms, eating away at society from within. They are the products of this almost apocalyptic landscape; society has produced its own gravediggers, its own destroyers.