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? Sarah lists over 20 famous writer’s houses throughout England, all of which are open to visitors. Can you think of any that should be added?

Th exterior of Thomas Hardy's cottage in Dorset.

Thomas Hardy’s Cottage in Dorset show his humble origins.

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.

If you know of any we have missed, please do email and let us know.

Jane Austen: Chawton, Hampshire

The house in Chawton, Hampshire where Jane Austen lived when her works were sent to publishers.

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.

Charles Dickens: Doughty Street, London

The front door of the Charles Dickens Museum.

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 hold regular exhibitions, events and tours, including a Housemaids’ Tour where you can see life below stairs. There are plenty of kid friendly activities and a cafe on site.

Photograph ©Charles Dickens Museum

William Shakespeare: Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire

The medieval outside of Shakespeare's Birthplace.

William Shakespeare: Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire

A playwright that needs no introduction, 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.

Thomas Hardy: Hardy’s Cottage, Dorset

The outside of Thomas Hardy's cottage in Dorset surrounded by a garden.

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, and his fictional setting of rural Wessex where his novels were set. A visitor centre provides background information, there are woodland trails and a cafe nearby.

Agatha Christie: Greenway, Devon

The exterior of Agatha Christies House in Devon.

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. She was an avid collector and many of her possessions are on display here, along with many of the archaeological finds found by her husband, the archaeologist 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.

Rudyard Kipling: Batemans, East Sussex

The outside of Kiplings House.

Rudyard Kipling: Batemans, East Sussex

This Grade I listed Jacobean sandstone manor house was bought by Rudyard Kipling in 1902 and is where he lived with his family 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, the items preserved by his daughter who wanted to ensure that visitors saw the house she grew up in. Now owned by the National Trust, it holds regular events and tours and also has a working flour mill in the grounds.

Wordsworth: Dove Cottage, Lake District

The exterior of Willaim Wordsworth's cottage in the Lake District.

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, including the couch he refers to in one of his most famous poems, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. With events, tours and a new museum opening in Summer 2020, this quiet spot in the Lake District provides a fascinating insight into one of the UK’s most famous poets.

Brontë Family: Parsonage Museum, Yorkshire

The outside of the Bronte Parsonage Museum in the sunshine.

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

Beatrix Potter: Hill Top, Lake District

The exterior of Beatrix Potter's Hill Top in Near Sawrey.

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. Jason visited the house when visiting the Lake District in March.

Virginia Woolf: Monks House, East Sussex

The exterior of Monks House where Virginia Woolf lived.

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.

Photograph ©Oliver Mallinson Lewis

Thomas Hardy: Max Gate, Dorset

The exterior of Max Gate where Thomas hardy lived.

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 with both wives until his death in 1928. The house is now 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.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Coleridge Cottage, Somerset

The back garden of Coleridge's Cottage in Nether Stowey in Devon.

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 three 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.

George Bernard Shaw: Shaw’s Corner, Hertfordshire

The exterior of GB Shaws house in the sunshine.

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

Dr Samuel Johnson: Gough Square, London

The exterior of Dr Samuel Johnsons House

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

William Wordsworth: Rydal Mount, Lake District

The exterior of Rydal Mount.

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 possesions. Both house and garden are open to visitors. Tours run regularly and there is a cafe on site.

Photograph ©Jim Linwood

Gilbert White: The Wakes, Hampshire

The exterior of Gilbert White's House in Selborne.

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 fellow 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 cafe.

T.E. Lawrence: Clouds Hill, Dorset

The exterior of Clouds Hill seen through trees.

T.E. Lawrence: Clouds Hill, Dorset

T.E Lawrence, often better 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 instead on his writing, conversation and music. Set in wild 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 unusual and truly gives a glimpse into the mind of this complex man.

Horace Walpole, Strawberry Hill House, London

The exterior of Strawberry Hill House in the sunshine.

Horace Walpole, Strawberry Hill House, London

This magnificent gothic revival palace was home to Horace Walpole, the author of The Castle of Otranto, considered to be the world’s first Gothic novel, which he had printed in the grounds of Stawberry 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

Vita Sackville-West: Knole House, Kent

The exterior of Knole House.

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

Charles Darwin: Down House, Kent

The exterior of Charles Darwins House surrounded by gardens and flowers.

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 possesions, 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

John Keats: Keats House, London

The exterior of Keats House and Museum.

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 as she was his next door neighbour, but he died whilst still abroad and before they could be married. The house is now run as a museum and literary centre, with regular events and activities.

Elizabeth Gaskell: Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, Manchester

The stone exterior of Elizabeth Gaskell's house in Manchester.

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

John Milton: John Milton’s Cottage, Buckinghamshire

The exterior of John Miltons Cottage.

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, the museum 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

Anne Lister: Shibden Hall, Yorkshire

The exterior of Shibden Hall.

Anne Lister: Shibden Hall, Yorkshire

Anne Lister was never a published author. Nevertheless, she wrote over 5 million words in her personal 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, politics, finances 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.

Many of the properties in this list are owned by the National Trust, so if you are thinking of visiting any of them, then it may be worth considering taking out membership, which will significantly reduce your costs.

Map of Writer’s Houses you can Visit in England

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