Lancashire. The coach leaves Piccadilly Station, Manchester at 2.00pm. Elizabeth Gaskell lived with her family in a Regency villa in Plymouth Grove for the last fifteen years of her life, 1850–65, and wrote most of her books here. The house re-opened in 2014 after comprehensive restoration and is fully furnished as a home of the period with some of Gaskell’s belongings. Overnight Halifax.
Yorkshire, Derbyshire. The Brontë family came to live in Haworth parsonage in 1820. The austere gritstone building in a moody moorland setting became the scene for the literary outpourings of Charlotte, Emily and Anne. As a backdrop to a trio of creative siblings, Renishaw Hall could hardly be more different: a large and colourfully opulent country house with extensive gardens. Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell were brought up here and considered it home for the rest of their lives. First of two nights in Nottingham.
Nottinghamshire. Newstead Abbey became the Byron family home in 1540, but when it was inherited by George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron, it was dilapidated and denuded. The poet patched it up and lived here for six years, but after he left England he sold it to a school friend – to whom he also left many of his belongings. The son of a coal miner, D.H. Lawrence was born in a tiny terraced house in Eastwood, now furnished as in 1885, with museum adjacent.
Warwickshire, Hertfordshire. During the headmastership of Thomas Arnold 1828–41, Rugby became the model for the English public school. Our visit focuses on alumni Matthew Arnold (son of the headmaster), Thomas Hughes and Rupert Brooke. George Bernard Shaw lived in an Arts and Crafts rectory in Ayot St Lawrence 1906–50; it remains as he left it. He wrote in the garden in a hut which swivelled to face the sun. Overnight St Albans.
Buckinghamshire, Berkshire. John Milton rented a cottage in Chalfont St Giles in 1665 to escape the plague ravaging London; here he completed Paradise Lost and began Paradise Regained. It houses an important Milton collection of rare books, prints and paintings. Eton College was founded by Henry VI in 1440, and the library has accumulated extraordinary collections relating to some of its more talented pupils, such as Shelley and Orwell, and to English literature generally. First of three nights in Winchester.
Hampshire. Jane Austen lived in a house in Chawton with her mother and sister Cassandra 1809–17. The few alterations since have been reversed. Here she revised Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice and wrote Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion. Cassandra lived here until 1845 and the house became a museum in the 1940s. Visit Winchester to see the house where Austen died and her tomb in the cathedral. Free time in the afternoon. Overnight Winchester.
Dorset. The cottage at Higher Brockhampton in which Thomas Hardy was born had been built by his grandfather; the writer was descended from a line of stonemasons. He trained as an architect, and when literary success enabled him, in 1885, to build a house outside Dorchester, named Max Gate, he irked the builders – his family – with his obsessive attention to detail. Here he wrote the majority of his novels and poems until his death in 1928. Overnight Winchester.
Hampshire, Sussex. Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812 and spent his early years in this maritime city. The birthplace is now a museum. In 1919 Leonard and Virginia Woolf bought Monk’s House, a weatherboarded cottage in the South Downs. They created a garden and built a shed in which Virginia wrote. She walked from here to her death in 1941; Leonard remained until he died in 1969. The ashes of both are buried in the garden. Overnight near Uckfield.
Sussex. Rudyard Kipling bought the substantial Jacobean manor house in the Sussex Weald, Bateman’s, in 1902 as a sanctuary from the intrusions which come with fame. Most of his works from Kim onwards were written here. The house has been in the care of the National Trust since the author’s death in 1937, and the rooms, with plentiful Indian artefacts, have scarcely changed. The tour ends in central London by 4.00pm.
Writers’ houses and associated buildings in Stratford-upon-Avon and in the Lake District are visited on other tours of ours – Shakespeare and his World and Literature and Walking in the Lake District. Contact us to register your interest.
Professor Andrew Sanders
Andrew Sanders is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Durham. His Short Oxford History of English Literature (now in its third edition) was first published in 1994. He is the author of several books on Charles Dickens and of studies of Anthony Trollope and Victorian historical fiction. He has also edited novels by Dickens, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Thackeray and Thomas Hughes for various paperback editions. His most recent books include Charles Dickens's London (2010), In the Olden Time: Victorians and the British Past (2013) and English Cathedrals (2015).
Price, per person
Two sharing: £3,030 . Single occupancy: £3,330.
Travel by private coach; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts; 2 lunches and 5 dinners with wine, water, coffee; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Holdsworth House, Halifax: 4-star, a small Jacobean manor hotel, rooms vary in size due to the historic nature of the building. Hart’s Hotel, Nottingham: 4-star, centrally located with contemporary rooms. The Wessex, Winchester: 4-star, excellently located overlooking the cathedral in a 1960s building. St Michael’s Manor Hotel, St Albans: a country manor-style hotel with gardens and smart rooms. Horsted Place, Uckfield: 4-star, traditional hotel in the countryside. Rooms vary in size. Single rooms are doubles for sole use throughout.
The tour involves various hotel changes and days with lots of driving. There is a lot of standing in museums and churches. A good level of fitness is essential. You will be on your feet for lengthy stretches of time. Average distance by coach per day: 83 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.