Our attention turns to all things literary this week after the return of the Hay Festival. It comes during a bumper year for book sales, when lockdown encouraged many of us to read more and escape our repetitive reality for fictional worlds.
But what of the authors' own abodes? Here we look at five homes for sale with links to literary greats.
The Queen of Crime bought this five-bedroom house in Wallingford, Oxfordshire, with her archaeologist husband Max Mallowan in 1934 and lived there until her death in 1976, taking inspiration for her popular detective fiction from her surroundings. 'She wrote some of her bestselling novels in the house and Winterbrook itself is thought to have been the model for Danemead – Miss Marple’s house in the village of St Mary Mead,' says Stephen Christie-Miller (no relation), head of residential sales at Savills Henley. The house is on the market for offers in excess of £2.75m.
Set in about five acres by the River Thames, the Grade II-listed property has a blue plaque on its Queen Anne façade to acknowledge its connection to the literary dame. The main house, which has a one-bedroom cottage attached, has a dual aspect library with a working fireplace - but hopefully no body.
Only accessible by boat or on foot, this secluded Cornish home is situated in its own creek, Bodmin Pill, on a bank of the River Fowey. The picturesque setting is said to have inspired Grahame, a regular visitor to the nearby town of Fowey, for a picnic scene featuring Mole and Rat by a mill house in the opening chapter of his classic children’s book The Wind in the Willows: 'It was so very beautiful that the Mole could only hold up both forepaws and gasp, "O my! O my! O my!"'
But its link to the 1908 novel is not the Old Sawmills’ only claim to creative fame: more recently, musical acts including Robert Plant, Oasis, the Stone Roses and Supergrass have found inspiration in the property’s recording studio. Priced at £2.25m by Strutt & Parker, the property includes a seven-bedroom main house and a two-bedroom lodge.
A London blue plaque to the right of the black front door alerts visitors to this terraced house in Richmond to its role in literary history. Virginia Woolf - known for her modernist novels including Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse - and her husband Leonard, also a writer, established the Hogarth Press publishing house here in 1917. The couple, who lived in the now Grade II-listed property between 1915 and 1924, typeset, bound and printed modernist works including T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land using a hand-printing press set up in the dining room.
Spread across four storeys, the accommodation today includes four bedrooms, four bathrooms and three reception rooms with high ceilings, herringbone wood flooring and panelling. There is a private, low-maintenance courtyard garden at the back of the property. The house is being offered for sale through Knight Frank with a guide price of £3.3m.
Fans of Hardy’s work may already be familiar with this Grade I-listed manor house in Dorset as it features as Oxwell Hall in the Victorian author’s only historical novel, The Trumpet-Major, which is set in nearby Weymouth during the Napoleonic wars. In the book, first published in 1880, Hardy describes Oxwell Hall, with its 'weather-worn front', as a 'crumbling place', a 'rambling and neglected dwelling'. There is mildew, mushrooms and rust.
Fortunately, the real life Poxwell Manor is in much better nick. Set within 10 acres of beautiful landscaped garden including large lawns, a walled garden, two small lakes, a pond and paddocks - not to mention a helipad and hangar - the grand nine-bedroom house has features including original fireplaces, leaded mullion windows and wood panelling. Across a courtyard from the main house, Stable Cottage offers a further three bedrooms. All could be yours: Strutt & Parker is listing the property for £3.75m.
The Brideshead Revisited author bought this 18th-century manor house in the Somerset village of Combe Florey in 1956. It remained in the family following his death 10 years later until the current owners bought the country estate in 2008. Now on the market with Strutt & Parker for £5.5m, the Grade II-listed property offers original features such as its newel staircase alongside the more modern perks of a heated outdoor swimming pool and pool house with changing facilities.
Set within nearly 35 acres including parkland, pasture, walled and formal gardens, and a lake, the main red ashlar sandstone house has 10 bedrooms, with Keepers Cottage providing a further three.
Readers will feel at home: there is a library in which to enjoy all the famous former owner’s works. Other features include a large orangery, a 'party barn' with a function room, a kitchen and two cloakrooms, and a tennis court.