A Room Of One’s Own

Shakespeare’s England travels forward in time in this post, to visit two historic and literary properties in Sussex. One dates from the seventeenth century, and one contains a unique Shakespeare collection, so I hope you’ll permit the deviation.

Today, armed with my trusty National Art Pass, a friend and I set out for an afternoon of Bloomsbury loveliness. The Art Pass is an excellent way of saving money AND contributing to the preservation and exhibition of the arts in the UK. It entitles the holder to free and discounted entry to many museums, art galleries, exhibitions, and historic houses. Single membership costs £53 a year. Find out more here.

Our first stop, and free entry for me with my Art Pass, was Charleston Farmhouse, situated in the rolling Sussex countryside not far from Lewes. Charleston was home to the artist Vanessa Bell and her partner Duncan Grant. They initially rented the house in 1916 to escape London during World War One, but they gradually fell in love with Sussex and relocated to Charleston permanently. The house, which dates back to the 1690s, is an eclectic cornucopia of Bloomsbury art. Inspired by French Impressionism, the couple and their Bloomsbury friends designed and painted the walls, furniture, curtains, and even the bathroom in bold geometric patterns, flowers, acrobats, and Greek gods. Charleston has had many famous house guests including Lytton Strachey, E M Forster, and the economist Maynard Keynes, who had a bedroom set aside for him in which he wrote for lengthy periods. Vanessa Bell’s sister, Virginia Woolf, was, naturally, a regular visitor. The house also has a large collection of paintings, including works by Renoir, Picasso, Derain, Matthew Smith, Sickert, Tomlin and Eugène Delacroix.

To find out more or to visit Charleston, and to view photographs of the interior, visit the website here

 

Door Knocker, Charleston

 

Our next stop was Monk’s House in Rodmell, just a few miles down the road from Charleston. Monk’s House was the retreat of Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard. Unfortunately it does not as yet permit free entry with an Arts Pass, but I was happy to pay the entry fee since I’d saved so much money at Charleston. The interior of Monk’s House is similar in style to that of Charleston, although it has a calmer, less chaotic feel. Fortunately, unlike at Charleston, photography was allowed, so I did my best to capture the bohemian interior of the house. To find out more about visiting Monk’s House visit the website here.

Below are photos of both houses. I’m no photographer and almost all of these were snapped with my iPhone, but they should give a sense of both houses and perhaps even tempt a few people to visit. And if history is your thing, you might like to visit the wonderful new Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum this summer. Arts Pass holders save 50% on the entry price!

 

Vanessa Bell’s Bedroom, Charleston

 
 

Charleston

 
 

Charleston

 
 

Charleston

 
 

Charleston

 
 

Monk’s House

 
 

Monk’s House

 
 

Monk’s House

 
 

 Monk’s House

 
 

Monk’s House

 
 

Monk’s House

 
 

Monk’s House

 
 

Monk’s House

 
 

 Virginia’s bedroom

 
 

 Virginia’s bedroom

 
 

Chair in which Virginia wrote when it was too cold for the summer house

 
 

 Virginia’s personal Shakespeare Collection, with Bloomsbury dust covers

 
 

 Virginia’s Shakespeare Collection with her hand-written spines

 
 

 
 

Monk’s House, garden

 
 

Monk’s House

 
 

 Virginia’s writing desk in the summer house,

 
 

 Bronze marking the place where Virginia’s ashes are buried, beneath a Magnolia tree

 
 

Monk’s House

 
 

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