The most influential of Britain’s many historic legacies to the world is the English language. The literature created in and by our tongue over the last 700 years expresses universal human experience in the circumstances and challenges of particular times and places. Our sceptered isle is peppered with scenes from the lives and works of our justly beloved poets, playwrights and novelists. Most evocative and influential of these, not surprisingly, are their homes. If you happen to be in the neighborhood, here are some fascinating home visits that bring their famous residents to life.
Newstead Abbey, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
Dove Cottage, Grasmere, Cumbria
Abbotsford, Melrose, Borders
Jane Austen’s House, Chawton, Hampshire
Hilltop, Near Sawry, Cumbria
Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Alf Wight’s Surgery, Thirsk, Yorkshire
Far better known by his nom de plume, James Herriot’s veterinary surgery in the gritty Yorkshire market town was also his home. All Creatures Great and Small becomes real with a visit to this period-correct office and residence just off the market square, closely surrounded by the bare hills and dales of the agrarian countryside.
Max Gate, Dorchester, Dorset
The heart of “Thomas Hardy Country” and the great novelist’s fictional Wessex, Dorchester was the writer’s birthplace and home. He was trained as an architect, and Hardy’s success as a novelist enabled him to design and build this comfortable Victorian home on the outskirts of town in 1885—just a few miles from his thatched-cottage birthplace.
D.H. Lawrence’s Birthplace, Eastwood, Nottinghamshire
When Lawrence was born here in 1885, Eastwood was a rural mining village a few miles from Nottingham. Today, the collieries are gone from the landscape and the city has swallowed the suburb. Starting with this brick miner’s cottage, however, fans can trace the scenes of his early life and his autobiographical novels.
Greenway, Galmpton, Devon
Everyone’s favorite mystery writer, Agatha Christie, grew up here on the English Riviera of Torbay. When her fame and income provided, she bought Greenway in 1938 as a holiday and summer house, much loved until her death in 1976. The estate also featured in several of her novels.