A writer’s retreat

The Sitting Room at Monk's House. The armchair was one of Virginia Woolf's favourite reading chairs. It is upholstered in a fabric designed by her sister, Vanessa Bell. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Courtney Barnes at Style Court has just added a post inspired by the 1992 Sally Potter film based on Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando (and she even quoted me, which is flattering). So I thought I would show a few images of the house in Rodmell, East Sussex, that Virginia Woolf shared with her husband Leonard.

The walled garden next to Monks House. Leonard Woolf was a particularly keen gardener. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Virginia and Leonard bought Monk’s House in 1919 for £700. It was ‘an unpretending house’ as Virginia called it, and she liked it that way.

Virginia Woolf's bedroom. The pale green was a favourite colour. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Life was fairly spartan at Monk’s House. When the Woolfs’ friend E.M. Forster visited he burnt his trousers trying to get warm beside the little stove in his room.

The Dining Room. The canvas-work mirror frame was designed by Duncan Grant. He also designed the chairs, together with Vanessa Bell. The naive painting over the chimney came with the house. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

As Virginia made more money from her books, however, various improvements and extensions were added. In 1929 the house was ‘luxurious to the point of electric fires in the bedrooms’.

The writing lodge. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

When the Woolfs had no visitors, Virginia would write for three hours every morning in her writing lodge in the garden.

Another view of the sitting room. ©NTPL/Eric Crichton

Monks House was acquired by the National Trust in 1980 with grants from the University of Sussex, the Department of the Environment and the Royal Oak Foundation.

5 Responses to “A writer’s retreat”

  1. Janet Says:

    I do love the inter-connectivity of your post with those on Style Court. Brightening a cold monday with a tapestry of interiors.

  2. Hels Says:

    Fantastic photos. I am lecturing a course on the Bloomburies this very semester and would have given my eye teeth for some of these peeks into their life style.

    You labelled one photo “Virginia Woolf’s bedroom”. Did Leonard have his own bedroom? Did Duncan Grant have his own bedroom? How were the sleeping arrangements organised?

  3. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Janet, yes Courtney’s posts are inspirational.

    Helen, yes in spite of their libertarian attitudes, the members of the Bloomsbury group did keep some nineteenth-century upper-and-upper middle-class customs, such as chambres séparées (and they also kept live-in servants, of course)

    The separate bedrooms also helped to facilitate the sometimes complicated liaisons that were going on, for instance when Duncan Grant became the lover of Vanessa Bell, with the tacit consent of Vanessa’s husband Clive, who himself had girlfriends as well, etc etc.

  4. Adrian Says:

    Got here from Jean’s Garden. These pictures make the place seem somehow more homey than some spreads I’ve seen in shelter magazines–don’t know why. Perhaps it’s the color? The houseplants? Have never visited and didn’t know about what appears to be a lean-to greenhouse. How lovely!

  5. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    I am glad you like the pictures, Adrian. The greenhouse was added by Leonard after Virginia’s death.

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