Literary heritage is big business. Last year, 13.5 million visitors toured National Trust houses, including several associated with Britain’s most celebrated writers. At one time, more than 100,000 Beatrix Potter aficionados flocked to her Cumbrian cottage, Hill Top, each year, and other popular writers’ homes include Thomas Carlyle’s Chelsea town house and Red House, William Morris’s Arts and- Crafts residence in Kent.
Wandering around the home of an author is a fascinating experience, but actually residing where a playwright or novelist once put quill to parchment or finger to laptop key is a literary buff’s dream come true. Some buyers are mainly concerned with price and finish, but a cultural connection can certainly make it easier to market a property, according to Philip James from Strutt & Parker in Sevenoaks (01732 459900).
The unique selling point of Grade II-listed Eynsford Hill, built in 1913, is that it was once home to author Arthur Mee, who wrote nearly 200 books, including the acclaimed Children’s Encyclopaedia.
Although Mr James admits that Mee is ‘not terribly fashionable now’, one of his titles, How The House On The Hill Went Up, superbly depicts the house’s construction, and potential purchasers love to flick through it. ‘Perhaps even more impressive is the revelation that Mee was a friend of George Bernard Shaw, who named Pygmalion’s Freddy Eynsford-Hill after the house,’ adds Mr James. Eynsford Hill is on the market at a guide price of £1.95 million.
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Another literary home that’s attracting interest is Ovingdean Grange, near Brighton. For sale through Strutt & Parker (01273 475411) at a guide price of £2.45 million, it was once home to Victorian novelist William Harrison Ainsworth. His book Ovingdean Grange, set in and around the area, tells the story of Royalists who help Charles II escape from Cromwell’s forces. Dylan Thomas’s former house in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, is also on the market, with Savills at £695,000 (for further details, visit www.countrylife. co.uk/dylanthomas).
However, you don’t need to have had a writer in residence to increase your home’s literary allure. Desperate to escape the noisy demands of the Xbox, iPad and widescreen televisions, many buyers are hankering after a library of their own, where they can retreat from the modern world.
‘A library is near the top of many purchasers’ wish lists, and is particularly attractive to men who require a refuge from the rest of the house,’ explains Jamie Macnab from Savills in Edinburgh (0131-247 3711). Mr Macnab is selling the West Wing of Tyninghame House in Dunbar, East Lothian, at a guide price of £1.45 million.
The home of Sir Timothy Clifford, former director general of the National Galleries of Scotland, it comes with a second-floor library. ‘People who appreciate books recognise that they’re almost living things in their own right,’ he explains.
Another vendor, an academic writer who lives in central Bath, certainly appreciates the wonderful synthesis of bricks and books, which is why he’ll find it such a wrench to leave the mahogany panelled library in his Georgian town house, for sale through Winkworth (01225 829000) at a guide price of £2.25 million. ‘It will be difficult pulling me out of my library, where I have a fountain pen and bottle of ink on my early-19th-century lap-desk, and ladders I scramble up to fetch some of my 5,000 books,’ he says, adding that it was his life’s dream to have such a library. Hopefully, the next owner of this Grade I listed gem will enjoy an equally happy ending.