If there was an award for National Trust Property That Doesn't Look Very Interesting But Turns Out To Be Brilliant then Clouds Hill would win it.
And I'm sorry if that offends anyone but it's true. When I looked up Clouds Hill on the National Trust website, this is the first thing I saw:
Remember, this is the National Trust. Clouds Hill could have been a castle. It could have been a manor house. It could have been a hill. In fact it's a little hovel with no windows.
But I've watched enough episodes of A Touch of Frost to know that you have to look beneath the surface of these things. WHY, I asked myself, would the National Trust own a little windowless cottage?
The answer is Lawrence of Arabia. The great TE Lawrence used this little place as his rural retreat from 1923 until his untimely death in 1935:
And in fact, until today, that is all I knew about TE Lawrence - that he was killed in a motorbike accident. Here are some other facts about him and Clouds Hill:
- He was born in 1888 at Tremadoc in Wales
- After university in 1915, he was posted to the British Military Intelligence office in Cairo
- He became an expert on Arabia and in 1922 he wrote the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, an account of his experiences
- He agreed to write a shorter version of this text while he was enlisted in the Tank Corps, which was stationed near Bovington in Dorset
- He rented a little ramshackle woodsman's cottage nearby called Clouds Hill, where he could write and listen to music
- He received many illustrious visitors there, including EM Forster and Thomas Hardy
- He returned to the RAF in 1925 and was posted to India
- It was during this time that he bought Clouds Hill, loaning it out to friends
- In 1929 he returned and began remodelling the house - it was completed in 1934 and remains the same today
- He was killed half a mile up the road in 1935 when he swerved his motorbike to avoid some cyclists on the way back from the post office
The rooms at Clouds Hill are fascinating. It somehow manages to be austere and yet cosy at the same time. My favourite feature was the enormous gramophone - Lawrence was a music buff apparently and had the latest hi-fi equipment. You can just about see it on the right in this very poor photo:
There were no scones at Clouds Hill - there was no anything at Clouds Hill - but it didn't matter at all. It's a fascinating little place that gives an insight to a very interesting man and I highly recommend it.
Clouds Hill: 5 out of 5
Scones: 0 out of 5 (there aren't any, but I knew that)