34 HISTORIC WRITERS’ HOUSES YOU CAN VISIT IN ENGLAND
From the humble lodgings of an impoverished writer yet to make their fortune, to the grand stately mansions of the successful writer, a writer’s home can tell us a lot about the person behind the words: how they lived, what their passions were, what were the personal stories that produced such incredible literature? Here we list over 30 famous writer’s houses throughout England, all of which are open to visitors.
A person’s home can tell us a great deal about them, and in England we are fortunate that some writers’ homes have been preserved to enable us to have a glimpse into their lives.
We can see the same walls, the same views they looked at while they wrote, often sit on the same furniture, and learn far more about the person that we can through their fictional works or poetry.
In their homes we learn about their families, the tragedies and triumphs that made them who they are, what they kept hidden and what they were happy to share, all of which led them to write the works that are still part of our literary landscape.
This list includes writers from Shakespeare onwards, and all of them are open to visitors, but do check their websites before leaving as some are only open over the summer months.
1. Jane Austen: Chawton, Hampshire
The Jane Austen House Museum is the only house she lived in which is open to the public. She spent the last eight years of her life in this small house and it was when living here that all her major works were published.
Her brother owned the much larger Chawton House nearby and she was a regular visitor there: Chawton House is also open to visitors. The museum contains letters and personal possessions such as her jewellery and the table she wrote at. Official Website >>
2. Charles Dickens: Doughty Street, London
This is the house in which Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickelby.
It is now open to the public as a museum and contains over 100,00 important manuscripts, rare editions, personal items and assorted artefacts.
It holds regular exhibitions, events and tours, including a Housemaids’ Tour where you can see life below stairs.
3. William Shakespeare: Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Shakespeare’s Birthplace is where his story began in 1564. He was born and lived here, including for the first five years of his marriage to Anne Hathaway. He inherited this house on his father’s death and leased it to an Inn, who stayed there until the 19th century when the house was bought by the Shakespeare Trust.
It contains rare artefacts from their collection and is one of five properties in Stratford that visitors can see connected to Shakespeare and his life.
4. Thomas Hardy: Hardy’s Cottage, Dorset
In the heart of rural Dorset is this small traditional cob and thatch cottage, built in 1800 by Thomas Hardy’s great-grandfather. Hardy was born and raised here writing much of his early poetry and novels at a small desk overlooking the front garden.
Now owned by the National Trust, this cottage is furnished in rural Victorian style and gives a revealing glimpse into Hardy’s love for nature and the outdoors. There is a visitor centre, café and woodland trails.
Read about a visit to Hardy's birthplace >>
5. Agatha Christie: Greenway, Devon
Set on the River Dart estuary, Agatha Christie’s holiday home has a huge garden and a wealth of her personal items, along with many of the archaeological finds found by her husband, Max Mallowan.
The boat house features in some of her novels, and it was also the location for some of the televised adaptations of her works. With regular events and exhibitions, a cafe and stunning gardens, Greenway makes for a fascinating glimpse into the life of the world’s best crime writer. Official Website >>
6. Rudyard Kipling: Batemans, East Sussex
This Grade I listed Jacobean sandstone manor house was bought by Kipling in 1902 and is where he lived until his death in 1936. Here you can see his Nobel prize for literature, paintings from The Jungle Book, the family’s Rolls Royce and so much more.
His study looks as if he has just left it, preserved by his daughter who wanted visitors to see the house she grew up in. Now owned by the National Trust, it also has a working flour mill in the grounds.
7. Wordsworth: Dove Cottage, Lake District
Described by Wordsworth as ‘the loveliest spot that man hath ever found’, he and his sister moved here in 1799, and he wrote some of his finest poetry within these walls.
Dove Cottage is small with whitewashed floors and slate floors and a semi-wild cottage garden and contains many of his personal items. This quiet spot in the Lake District provides a fascinating insight into one of the UK’s most famous poets.
8. Brontë Family: Parsonage Museum, Yorkshire
The Bronte family moved to the Parsonage in Haworth on the edge of bleak the Yorkshire Moors in 1820, and remained there until their deaths. The three daughters of Parson Bronte, himself a published novelist, all wrote poetry and novels, with Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall considered to be amongst the greatest in English literature. The house is now a museum and contains a wide rage of Bronte artefacts and manuscripts.
Photograph © DeFacto
9. Beatrix Potter: Hill Top, Lake District
This 17th century farmhouse was bought by Beatrix Potter after the success of her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and provided the inspiration for the many books that followed.
She left the house and her vast, eclectic collection of objects to the National Trust, who now look after it and the landscape around it, including the most famous vegetable patch in the world. There are regular events and exhibitions and the house does get very busy in peak season.
10. Virginia Woolf: Monks House, East Sussex
This 16th century cottage was her home from 1919 until her death in 1941. She is still considered one of the foremost writers of the early 20th century. The house contains many of her possessions and books, as well as her writing lodge in the garden.
Visitors included the intellectuals and artists of the Bloomsbury Group and much of their artwork is still hung on the walls. Now owned by the National Trust, it is open over the summer months. Official Website >>
Photograph © Oliver Mallinson Lewis
11. Thomas Hardy: Max Gate, Dorset
Max Gate was Hardy’s home once he was a successful published author, only a few miles away from the cottage where he was born. He designed this house himself, a grand Victorian villa, and lived here until his death in 1928.
The house is owned by the National Trust, contains some of his personal belongings and has been recreated as faithfully as possible. There are regular events and exhibitions which provide insight into his complicated marriages and show the emotions behind some of his greatest poetry. Official Website >>
12. Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Coleridge Cottage, Somerset
This little cottage, now owned by the National Trust, was where Coleridge and his family lived for just three years from 1796; however it was in those years that he produced some of his finest works, such as Kubla Khan and Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
He would walk in the countryside for inspiration, and his poetry marked the start of the Romantic literary movement. It was in this cottage that his addiction to laudanum developed, and he was never able to repeat his early successes.
13. G.B Shaw: Shaw’s Corner, Hertfordshire
Bernard Shaw and his family moved to this beautiful Arts and Crafts home in 1906 and stayed there for over 40 years until his death in 1950.
He is still renowned as one of the country’s leading playwrights and his Nobel prize is on display inside the house. Now owned by the National Trust, the house and gardens are as he left them, and include his revolving writing hut in the garden, which he would turn to face the sun.