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 jewellry 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.
Photograph © Charles Dickens Museum
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 containes 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, cafe and woodland trails.
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. Official Website >>
Photograph © DeFacto