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.
Photograph © Jason Ballard
14. Dr Samuel Johnson: Gough Square, London
This Grade I listed, 300 year old townhouse in the City of London still has many of its original period features, despite it having many uses after he had lived there.
This was where Johnson lived when he wrote his epic Dictionary of the English Language, which took him seven years in total. All items within the house are connected with Johnson and include paintings, books and artefacts. The museum holds regular events, exhibitions, tours and open days.
Photograph © Jim Linwood
15. William Wordsworth: Rydal Mount, Lake District
The Wordsworth family home from 1813 until his death in 1850, the house is still owned by the Wordsworth family.
The five acre garden remains much as he designed it and has views over the lakes. His writing hut is still in the garden and the house contains some of his possessions.
Both house and garden are open to visitors. Tours run regularly and there is a café on site.
Photograph © Rydal Mount
16. Gilbert White: The Wakes, Hampshire
The Wakes in Selborne was where Gilbert White studied nature, leading him to write Natural Histories and Antiquities of Selbourne, said to be the third most published book in the English language after the Bible and Bunyan.
His house is now a beautifully curated museum, which also houses the Oates Collection; the artefacts of both Frank Oates, a naturalist and his nephew, Captain John Oates, from the ill-fated expedition to the Antarctic. The house has an extensive garden, loads of activities for kids to do and a café.
Read about a visit to Gilbert White's House >>
17. T.E. Lawrence: Clouds Hill, Dorset
T.E Lawrence, often known as Lawrence of Arabia, bought Clouds Hill after his adventures in the middle East, when he was looking for an escape to his unwanted fame. A tiny cottage of just four rooms, here he lived a life of material austerity, focusing on his writing, conversation and music.
Set in heathland and next to the road on which he died, the house is now owned by the National Trust and open to visitors over the warmer months. It is very quirky and gives a glimpse into the mind of this complex man.
18. Horace Walpole, Strawberry Hill House, London
This magnificent gothic revival palace was home to Horace Walpole, author of The Castle of Otranto, considered to be the world’s first Gothic novel, which he had printed in the grounds of Strawberry Hill on the world’s first private printing press.
He spent three years on a Grand Tour from 1739 and the house is filled with the treasures he collected. With extensive grounds, regular events and guided tours, this palace is a truly unique place to visit.
Photograph © Chiswick Chap
19. Vita Sackville-West: Knole House, Kent
Knole House was built as a Bishop’s Palace, passing into ownership of the Sackville family in the 17th century, who still live there today.
One of the largest houses in the country at just under 4 acres in size, sitting in 1000 acres of land, this magnificent late Medieval/Stuart mansion is Grade I listed. Vita was born here in 1892 and used Knole as the inspiration for her most famous novel, The Edwardians. It is one of the National Trust’s biggest properties.
Photograph © tnmthalfshell
20. Charles Darwin: Down House, Kent
The home of world-renowned scientist Charles Darwin, it was here that he wrote The Origin of Species. The house contains many of his personal possessions, some from his time on HMS Beagle.
His study has been faithfully recreated and the gardens are extensive and include the Sandwalk where he would stroll up and down to allow himself thinking time. Owned by English Heritage, the site is open all year round and has regular events and exhibitions.
Photograph © anthonyeatworld
21. John Keats: Keats House, London
John Keats lived as a lodger in part of this house in Hampstead for two years before he left for the warmer climes of Rome to ease his worsening tuberculosis. It was here that he wrote many of his best works, including Ode to a Nightingale and La Belle Dame Sans Merci.
He met his fiancée and muse, Fanny Brawne here, but he died whilst still abroad and before they could marry. The house is now run as a museum and literary centre, with regular events and activities.
22. Elizabeth Gaskell: Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, Manchester
This neoclassical villa was where Gaskell lived for 15 years from 1850 until her death. She wrote her most famous books here, such as Cranford, North and South and Wives and Daughters.
Opened to the public in 2014, the museum has been restored in the style of an authentic Victorian home, and has regular tours, exhibitions and events, many of which are family friendly.
Photograph © Patyo1994
23. John Milton: John Milton’s Cottage, Buckinghamshire
This 16th century building was where Milton came to live with his family when he fled London due to the plague outbreak. He completed Paradise Lost here, and started the sequel, Paradise Regained.
Opened as a museum in 1887, it houses early editions of his poetry and prose, and has a Grade II historic cottage garden, filled with plants which he wrote about. The museum holds regular exhibitions, events and workshops, many of which are family friendly.
Photograph © Alan
24. Anne Lister: Shibden Hall, Yorkshire
Anne Lister was never a published author. Nevertheless, she wrote over 5 million words in her diaries, which were found behind the walls of her home at Shibden Hall, and detailed her unique life as an English landowner and traveller. She wrote about events and politics, as well as her private life, which was written in code.
Known by the locals as ‘Gentleman Jack’, her diaries are said by UNESCO to be a ‘painfully honest account of her life as a lesbian’. Her home dates back to 1420 and is run as a museum with visitor attractions for all the family.
25. DH Lawrence: The Breach House, Nottinghamshire
This miners' cottage from the 1880s was where Lawrence was born and was his childhood home. It is often known as 'the Sons and Lovers house', as it was represented in that 1913 novel as 'The Bottoms'.
The house is run as a museum and has a browsing library upstairs and a garden trail outside. Visitors can take guided tours to see the authentically recreated rooms, and there are often exhibitions and events held there.
Photograph © Breach House
26. John Clare Cottage: Cambridgeshire
The home of poet John Clare for 40 years of his life, the cottage has recently opened to the public. He was a farm boy and agricultural labourer whose poetry records the minutae of rural life at that time of great change. His works were met with great acclaim, only to fall out of favour until after his death.
His birthplace has been recreated with authentically furnished rooms, regular workshops and exhibitions, a poet in residence and a garden.
Photograph © Clare Cottage
27. Izaak Walton: Izaak Walton's Cottage, Staffordshire
Published in 1653, Walton's The Compleat Angler is a celebration of the art of fishing and one of the most famous early printed books, with copies now fetching hundreds of thousands of pounds.
His thatched cottage is a museum dedicated to his life as a writer, churchman, royalist, conservationist and to angling. Decorated to reflect rural life in the 17th century, the museum also has a knot garden and runs regular events throughout the summer months.
28. James Herriot: World of James Herriot, Yorkshire
This is the home of England's most famous vet, James Herriot, which was the nom de plume of Alf Wight. Faithfully recreated to look as it did in the 1940s, this is where he lived, worked and wrote.
Filled with his possessions and personal effects, as well as his dispensary and a TV studio to show the filming of the original series, there is plenty here for kids to do and see. Located in the heart of Yorkshire, it also provides guides to all of the beautiful filming locations.
29. Phillip Sydney: Penshurst Place, Kent
The manor house was built in 1341 with various additions over the years, and was the ancestral home of poet and courtier Phillip Sydney, who was born in 1554. Renowned for his sonnets, he also wrote several love stories. He died at the age of 31 when he was shot in the Battle of Zutphen.
The house remains in the Sidney family and is open to the public, with extensive grounds and lots for kids to do.
30. Thomas and Jane Carlyle: Carlyle's House, London
Thomas Carlyle was a writer, historian and social commentator in the 1840s-50s and his wife is considered to be one of the best ever English letter writers. They lived in the house from 1834 until their deaths 50 years later. Their home was host to the great literati of the day.
Now owned by the National Trust, the house is filled with their personal possessions including their library and paintings.
31. Lord Byron: Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire
A former 12th century abbey, Newstead was the home of Lord Byron for six years. It is open to the public and contains some of his personal belongings such as his bed, pistol and the desk where he wrote some of his finest work.
With 800 years of history, the house has ruins, medieval cloisters, formal gardens, a fort, and plenty to do. Visitors can book a tour of the house or follow the trails around the gardens.
32. The Richard Jeffries Museum, Swindon
This Victorian farm was the birthplace of Richard Jeffries, a nature writer who wrote about rural life through novels, essays and nature books. He was born in this house near Swindon in 1848, the son of a farmer. Initially working as a journalist, he developed a love for the natural world which filled his writing.
The house is open as a museum and is filled with ephemera from his life as well as the wider area, with other attractions on the site as part of Coate Water Country Park.
33. L. Ron Hubbard: Fitzroy House, London
An original 18th century house in the heart of literary London, Fitzrovia, this house was once home to both George Bernard Shaw (from 1881-1882) as well as L. Ron Hubbard, prolific author and founder of Scientology, who lived there from 1956.
The museum is over 4 floors, much of it a 1950s time capsule of L. Ron Hubbard's life and works. It is free to visit but is only open by appointment.
Photograph © LRonHubbard.org
34. Henry James: Lamb House, Sussex
A Georgian house in Rye, Sussex, Lamb House was home to American writer Henry James and later to E.F Benson, author of the Mapp and Lucia novels.
The house itself has featured in several novels written by both James and Benson, as well as Joan Aitken.
The house is owned by the National Trust and is now open to the public, after being tenanted for many years.
Photograph © Klotz