Exploring Britain with British Authors

One of the things I love most about Britain is the history and what better way to explore Britain’s history than through Britain’s authors who can transport you to a specific time and place in only a few pages? If you are even half the bookworm that I am, and are interested in understanding how some of Britain’s best writing came to be created, I suggest visiting some of the places that inspired Britain’s authors.

There are too many magnificent British authors to list them all here. The following are five of my favourites and five that were clearly associated with certain places that are great to visit in their own right.

Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford Upon Avon

Shakespeare – Stratford Upon Avon
Possibly the most famous of all British writers, poet and playwright William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford Upon Avon. The house in which he was born has been preserved and is visited by millions every year. Other buildings relating to his life include Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, which was his wife’s family home, his daughter Susanna’s house and Nash House. Nash House was the neighbouring house to New Place, which was Shakespeare’s house that he died in. England’s national poet actually spent most of his life in London but returned to Stratford when he retired. Shakespeare was buried in the Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford and his grave can be visited there. To enjoy a bit of Shakespeare’s London visit the Globe Theatre, a replica of the original building, which hosts performances of his works during the summer months.

Royal Crescent, Bath, UK
Jane Austen – Bath
Tales of the romantic misadventures of high society, peppered with irony and realism, made Jane Austen one of Britain’s most widely read authors. Austen lived a fairly privileged life with her family in Bath during the early 19th Century when her most popular books Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice were published, and her writing provides amusing insight into society at this time. Bath honours her residence in the city with the Jane Austen Centre, a permanent exhibition that tells the story of her life and experiences in Bath. Austen was buried in Winchester and a memorial plaque can be seen in Winchester Cathedral. Other attractions in Bath include the Roman Baths, Bath Abbey, The Royal Crescent and various museums and galleries. Bath has been a UNESCO listed heritage site since 1987. 

The Old Curiosity Shop, London, UK

Charles Dickens – London
From a young age Dickens lived and breathed poverty in London. His writing demonstrated him to be an acute social critic and a keen observer of character. Visitors can learn a lot about his life through displays and period costumes at the Charles Dickens Museum that is located at the Bloomsbury home where he wrote Oliver Twist. The Marshalsea Prison in Southwark, where Dickens’ father was imprisoned, and the family lived for an early period of Dickens’ life, was destroyed but a portion remains on Borough High Street. London Bridge featured in Oliver Twist and Charing Cross Train Station now stands on the site where Dickens was sent to work in a blacking factory as a young boy. Dickens visited Kent frequently during his life and died there. His commitment to Kent is represented at Dickens World in Chatham, an interactive telling of his life and his stories. His remains were buried in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Cathedral, London.

Haworth Farmhouse, Yorkshire, UK

Bronte Sisters – Yorkshire
Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte were born in the early 19th Century in Thornton, Yorkshire. The family later moved to Haworth, Yorkshire. The Bronte Parsonage in Haworth is preserved as a museum and a library of the largest collection of the original works of the Bronte sisters. Bronte Walks offer a guided tour of the village, brought to life through the sisters’ writing. The whole Bronte family, apart from Anne, are buried at Haworth Parish Church. The vast and wild Yorkshire Moors that surround Haworth were a rich source of inspiration for the Brontes and can still be explored in much the same condition they were in when the sisters were enjoying them.

Thomas Hardy's birthplace, Bockhampton, UK

Thomas Hardy – West Country
Despite spending a few years in London, Hardy’s writing focused on fictitious ‘Wessex’, modelled on his observations and experiences of life in the west of England near Dorchester. In keeping with his fictitious location, Hardy invented new, but not vastly different, names for existing places such as ‘Wintonchester’ for Winchester and ‘Sandbourne’ for Bournemouth. Some names are very different however; examples being ‘Casterbridge’ for Dorchester and ‘Christminster’ representing Oxford. Fans can visit Hardy’s birthplace in Bockhampton and admire his statue at the top of Dorchester. Somewhat strangely Hardy’s heart is buried in Stinsford, with his first wife, while the rest of him, in ashes, is buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Cathedral.

Have you been interested enough in what inspired an author that you wanted to know more about their life? Have you travelled to places specifically to learn more?

Photo credits:  Man Alive, Clicheshots, MousyBoyWithGlasses, James Petts, Rob Glover, Peter Broster

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