7 Inspiring Writers’ Retreats

1. Henry Williamson’s self-built sanctuary

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Oxford Cross (Grade II), Georgeham, Devon

For many writers, the ambiance in which they work matters. Recently listed, this writing hut was built by Henry Williamson in 1929 from the proceeds of Tarka the Otter, and he went on to write more than 50 novels in this simple yet characterful writing sanctuary.

2. T.S. Eliot’s seaside shelter

Margate sands - T.S. Eliot's Waste Land
Nayland Rock promenade shelter overlooking Margate Sands, listed at Grade II. © JohntheFinn

Some locations are used only fleetingly. T.S. Eliot was in Margate for three weeks in autumn 1921 as part of a rest cure following a mental breakdown. In a letter he wrote that he had started work on the poem The Waste Land during his stay, some of which we know was written in this shelter.

3. George Bernard Shaw’s garden hut

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In the grounds of Shaw’s Corner (Grade II*), Hertfordshire   © Eric Meyer

Dubbed “London”, the name of George Bernard Shaw’s writing hut was chosen so that his staff would not be lying when they said he had “gone to London”.  He wrote numerous plays here, including Pygmalion in 1912.

4. Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top idyll

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Hill Top, Lake District, (Grade II*)     © Allen Watkin

Beatrix Potter enjoyed country holidays and decided to buy her own rural retreat. She often wrote here and illustrated this house in many of her books, including The Tale of Tom Kitten, The Tale of Samuel Whiskers and The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck. In 1908 she left the farm to our friends the National Trust, in whose care it remains today.

5. Vita Sackville-West’s tranquil tower

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Sissinghurst Castle (Grade I), Kent    © Oast House Archive and National Trust

While some writers prefer humble huts, Vita Sackville-West chose this impressive tower. Best known for her works The Edwardians (1930) and All Passion Spent (1931), the novelist and poet had the tower elegantly restored to provide a room from where she could write.

6. Virginia Woolf’s writing workshop

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Monks House (Grade II), near Lewes, East Sussex  © Oliver Mallinson Lewis

This picturesque writing shed lies in the garden of Virginia Woolf’s rural retreat, which she used from 1919 onwards. During this time she published works including Night and Day (1919), and Mrs Dalloway (1925).

7. Lawrence of Arabia’s country cottage

Clouds Hill (Grade II), Purbeck, Dorset © Karyn Cuglietta

T. E. Lawrence’s last home seems an appropriate site to end with. Lawrence lived at Clouds Hill Cottage between 1925 and his death in 1935, during which time he wrote his last works whilst receiving regular visitors including Thomas Hardy. Today the cottage is open to the public and remains exactly as he left it.

Henry Rothery is studying for a Masters in Rhetoric at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has a keen interest in history and heritage, and is looking to pursue a career in Communications.

17 responses to 7 Inspiring Writers’ Retreats

  1. Auntie Doris says:

    That’s a great article Henry. And I bet its fun working for English Heritage. I do most of my writing in my armchair in my front room. You can come and take a photo of me if you like.

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  2. Valerie Fish says:

    Interesting article and I am planning a move to another house nearby with a room that overlooks a playing field, then a steam railway and then the Bristol Channel! Kensal Green Cemetery in West London has a chapel under the wing of English Heritage and when my daughter died in 1990 the funeral service was held there. Its very plain on the outside but has a good interior and looks out onto an avenue lined with older graves and tombs that I have quite often seen in BBC programmes as its not far from the old tv studios at Shepherds Bush.

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  3. Susanne Curtis says:

    So glad I signed up with this website! Enjoy all that comes my way. Have to go to Hill Top!!!

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  4. head4space says:

    What a wonderful list. Love that George Bernard Shaw called his hut ‘London’.

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  5. Reblogged this on BRIDGET WHELAN writer and commented:
    I was due to hold a one day workshop in Virginia Woolf’s home in the autumn, buit have been forced to put out. But I can tell you that Monks House is worth a visit. The writing room and gardens are enchanting and inside it feels as thouigh she has just popped out…

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  6. ksbeth says:

    these are fabulous. thanks for sharing them. i think every writer needs a ‘retreat’ even if it is in a room or a corner in their own house, their bed, or their garage. i love beatrix potter’s and lawrence of arabia’s here the best –

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  7. Mazda says:

    Charles Dickens’ Swiss Chalet should also be on this list. The chalet was presented to the author in 1864 by his French actor friend and arrived at Higham Station as probably one of the first ever ‘DIY’ flat packs. The author wrote several novels in this chalet when it was sited at his home, Gad’s Hill Place in Higham. The chalet is now located in Rochester, Kent.

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  8. Amy says:

    Really interesting. Next time I lack sufficient inspiration and motivation I will get along to Margate.

    Like

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