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A New Kind of Tourism
Category: Writing
Tags: Literary Famous Writers


A New Kind of Tourism

Have you ever wandered around a famous writer’s home?  Perhaps stood beside the writing desk secretly hoping you would find inspiration? Maybe gazed from their windows and wondered what they were thinking as they pondered the same landscape? The scattering of dust on the mantelpiece might contain microscopic particles of ‘writerly DNA,’ which by standing close, was possible to absorb.

There is often something special about the atmosphere of these homes, is it the location, the tranquillity or merely the fact that the author was successful?

Literary tourism is booming. If we consider that Chawton House in Hampshire, the only house that Jane Austen lived (and wrote) in is open to the public and saw 40,000 visitors visit last year, we can see that this brand of tourism has become quite an industry.

There are myriad well-known writers homes open around England and as 2017 has been declared the  Year of Literary Heroes in Britain, let’s visit a couple here   

Winston Churchill lived at Chartwell in Sevenoaks, Kent for forty years until his death in 1965. Apart from his role in politics, a love of art and his ability as an artist, he was a prolific writer. His work comprised historical books, memoirs, short stories and one novel, forty-three books in total. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1953 and is often quoted as saying – “HISTORY WILL BE KIND TO ME FOR I INTEND TO WRITE IT.” 

Chartwell is now managed by the National Trust and in 2016 saw over 232,000 people visit. The library and study are set up just as if the former prime-minister had momentarily left the room. We can almost imagine him returning to the room to retrieve his glasses left on the blotter or the briefcase cast under the desk.



Let’s also look at the home of Vita Sackville- West whilst we are still in Kent. Vita loved reading and writing, she was passionate about words. A quick check on Goodreads says she wrote 92 books. Her work comprised mainly novels, poetry and several biographies. Her love life is legendary and her affair with Virginia Woolfe well-known but she remained married to Harold Nicolson, a politician and a writer. In 1930, they purchased Sissinghurst Castle which was built in the middle ages and surrounded by a moat. At the time of purchase, the castle was extremely run down and in need of much restoration which Vita and Harold accomplished over the years. One of the main features being an octagonal four storey tower where Vita used to write. Aside from writing, Vita was a keen gardener and her purple garden a work of art. To quote the National Trust website – ‘Today the Purple Border is a complex tapestry of purples ranging from violet-blue through to crimson-magenta and every shade in between.’

Sissinghurst is run by the National Trust and was visited by almost 199,000 people in 2016. I have touched on three writer’s homes but there are many others. Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-on-Avon, Dickens home in Doughty Street, London, Charlotte Bronte in Thornton, Yorkshire to name but a few.

Do you visit writer’s homes? How does the visit affect you? Are your writerly batteries recharged? In conclusion, I leave you with my favourite quote from Vita Sackville-West.

"It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop."



















This Week on Writers Abroad
Category: Site News
Tags: This Week

This Week – 31st July 2017


How fast this year has gone, it’s only 21 weeks till Christmas appears again. Never mind that though, let’s concern ourselves with this last week and what’s been going on.

The Bragging Stool.  Laura is still on a roll and had another story published in an online journal called Spelk Fiction.

Well done, Laura.

Five of us are in Ad Hoc again, the five being, Sue, Angela, Laura, Chris N and me. Congratulations all and come on team – lets up the quota of Writers Abroad in this weekly competition. Why not give it a go? 150 words and written to a chosen word. Until August 2nd the word is Drag.

The Blog    Alyson has written a very inspiring blog on smells and the various emotions they evoke. She reminds us of how we can use smells to denote a change in the story we are writing. Plenty to think about here.

The Monday Muse.     Laura will be writing this and will no doubt provide us with plenty of interesting topics.

The Formal Meeting of 30/7/17      It was an interesting meeting yesterday & Jill has provided us with some excellent minutes. Those unable to attend will find them perfect for catching up on all the discussion.

August Opportunities & Challenges   Several competitions have been listed by Jill in the minutes of yesterday’s meeting and please, feel free to add if you find another competition somewhere.

That appears to be all but if I have forgotten something please let me know.

In conclusion, I leave you with this lovely quote. Have a great writing week.

Who Knew? Tags: Birmingham Pen Museum


Who Knew?

Imagine if you will, Birmingham in the Industrial Revolution. It was a rapidly expanding city and its population grew from 74,000 to 630,000 in the 19th century.

Not the prettiest of places, smoke billowed from its many factories and in order to accommodate the expanding city, houses were hastily built, often back-to-back and they soon became slums.

Located in the middle of England, one hundred and twenty miles from London, there were few telephones, cars made their appearance at the end of the century and trains were slow. The aeroplane merely a dream. Computers would have been beyond comprehension and a large part of communication was by the written word, the old fashioned way, pen to paper.

Known as ‘The City of a Thousand Trades’ owing to the diversity of goods manufactured there, buttons, cutlery, nails and screws and jewellery to name a few but who knew that 75% of everything written in the world at that time was written with a Birmingham pen?

There were in excess of 100 factories in Birmingham producing steel pens in the nineteenth century. Quills had been the writing tool of choice before this but they took time to prepare and didn’t last. The tips would require attention with a knife to remain pointed, coining the term pen-knife.

Today on the corner of Legge Lane and Frederick Street is the Birmingham Pen Museum. It is housed in what was once Wiley’s Pen Factory and is now dedicated to preserving the memory of this industry.

The Pen Museum exhibits all manner of writing memorabilia. Feather quills, steel pens, typewriters, examples of Braille and much more. They even offer calligraphy lessons.

Fanny Philips, (pictured below) worked for C Brandauer Pen Company for seventy-one years and she is seen sitting at a manual nib-making machine. Nibs and pens had names and one of Brandauer’s slogans or advertisements stated –

They come as a boon and a blessing to men.

The Pickwick, The Owl and the Waverley Pen. 

Whilst Birmingham may not be at the top of your dream destinations, if you do find yourself there, as a writer you  might consider visiting The Pen Museum. It is situated in the well-known Jewellery Quarter, an area with many heritage listed Georgian buildings, trendy shops, quirky bars and restaurants.

To conclude, imagine for a moment life in two hundred  years time. Perhaps by then there will be museums full of laptops, desktops and Ipads.

How will we communicate? Will we still be able to write? We are excellent at punching in text messages on our phones and typing on computers but is it possible we won’t know how to write with a pen or pencil in the year 2216?

For those interested in the history of writing implements

So what do you think is next?


















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