Last week I was lucky enough to have a day to myself to visit the Tank Museum at Bovington. While I was in the area I decided to take a short detour (less than 2 miles) to visit Clouds Hill the holiday home retreat of T.E. Lawrence more commonly known as Lawrence of Arabia. The last time I came here I was just a little kid (I'm guessing this would have been about 1977!) and my only real memory of that visit was that it was a very small building. I'm 40 years older, considerably larger, and I can confirm this cottage is just as small as I remember!
|The Book Room - This was a favourite retreat for Lawrence and many of the possessions in the room belonged to him. Sadly many of the books are replacements (based on books known to have been in his collection).|
|The Book Room - Pictures from Lawrence's life provide a fascinating insight into his life. The large leather covered bed was for reading rather than sleeping and the large window provides very good light.|
|More pictures adorn the mantle in the reading room.|
|The Bunk Room - Lawrence lined this room in metal foil |
to keep it cool and damp free.
|The Music Room is where Lawrence did most of his writing.|
This is a very small building but it literally thrums with historic resonance so in that respect I would highly recommend visiting it. TE Lawrence was an incredible character and to a history buff like me to be able to walk in his footsteps was something of a thrill. However I'm not a great fan of the National Trust and my only regret is that this building isn't run by English Heritage or another charitable organisation.
All National Trust properties seem to suffer from the same general lack of information available to visitors (unless you buy the guidebook of course!). There is limited signage inside their properties and the tight lipped 'room guides' are universally taciturn at all their sites. I had to work hard to get any information out of the guides at Clouds Hill and the overriding impression I got was that I was an inconvenience and that I should be passing through in reverential silence! I've experienced this before at other NT properties - like Chartwell, home of Winston Churchill - and for me it sours what should otherwise be an exciting and educational pilgrimage into a building of historic significance.
Don't let the 'twin-set and pearls' brigade put you off visiting the site though and I suggest you go armed with a long, annoying list of questions for the guides!