Monday 4 June 2018

Clouds Hill - Home of T E Lawrence

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 cottage is just as small as I remember it. This 19th century building was built as a foresters cottage and was first rented by Lawrence in 1923. He later bought and restored it to use as a holiday retreat while he was stationed at Bovington with the Tank Corp. 

This bust of Lawrence is in the Motorbike Shed which contains
more pictures of his life and a short film about his death and
funeral. This shed was where he kept his motorcycles including the
one he was riding when he had his fatal motorbike accident. 

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! 


  1. Cloud Hill is a lovely spot and a fascinating place to visit. Nearby is St Nicholas' Church where Lawrence is buried. It also has some really spectacular engraved glass windows.

    1. I didn't have time to visit St Nicolas's Church but maybe when I'm in the area again I'll bare it in mind. Thanks for the link

  2. Cool spot to visit by the looks of it! Enjoyed reading that. Thanks!

    1. It is a strange location and a peculiar building that really seems to encapsulate the unique character of Lawrence.

  3. Thanks Lee. For those of us unlikely to be able to take the trip there, I enjoyed your photo journal of it immensely.

  4. Hi Lee,

    Many thanks for the review old chap - I was unable to go to Clouds Hill when I last visited Bovington (I should try and get there again at some point) although I did get to the cemetery and saw his grave. As a lifelong student of Lawrence it was a quite a moving experience seeing where he was laid to rest.

    Thanks once again for the post.

    All the best,


  5. I've driven past on a number of visits to the Tank Museum. I really should stop of one day. My grandad knew TE Lawrence as A/C Shaw when he was in the RAF and stationed at RAF Mountbatten in Plymouth. He said he kept himself to himself even then.

  6. Duly noted for next time in the area. And pleased it’s not just me thinksthe the same on the NT guides


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