Behind the blue plaque

Forget the gloomy garret - many writers of the 19th and 20th centuries lived in style. Mary Wilson discovers an array of leading authors' homes for sale
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The Independent Online

It was in a sculptor's studio in Chelsea that Katherine Mansfield worked on some of the stories that were to secure her place in the literary canon. During the First World War, the New Zealand author lived for some time in Old Church Street, London SW3, possibly spending hours scribbling away in a small hut at the bottom of the garden.

It was in a sculptor's studio in Chelsea that Katherine Mansfield worked on some of the stories that were to secure her place in the literary canon. During the First World War, the New Zealand author lived for some time in Old Church Street, London SW3, possibly spending hours scribbling away in a small hut at the bottom of the garden.

She reputedly wrote some of her best known works, including "Prelude" in 1916, during her time at the house. "A German television company made a film in the house about the author a few years ago," says Peter Bainbridge, who has lived there for the last 12 years, "and the house is entitled to have a blue plaque, but because there is already one in Hampstead where she moved to, the council will not pay for a second one."

This slice of literary history is now for sale through Lane Fox (020-7225 3866) for £1.45 million. The three-bedroom house is rather unusual, being narrow and tall, with 1,400 square feet and a private front courtyard behind a high wall. The rear garden is similarly long and thin, stretching back 60 feet to the slightly dilapidated summer house. Inside, on the ground floor are a split-level reception room and kitchen; other features include a study over the stairs, a bedroom on the second floor with huge windows and a high ceiling, and another on the third floor. Above that, through a large hatch, is a roof garden.

Two London houses connected with the satirical author and essayist, George Orwell are for sale. One is in Parliament Hill, NW3 where he lived for six months during 1935 while he was working in a book shop in South End Green. It was in this year that he published A Clergyman's Daughter and Burmese Days. There is a plaque outside and the house has now been refurbished into considerably smarter flats. FPDSavills (020-7472 5000) is selling one of the contemporary duplexes, which has lovely views over Hampstead.

The flat has three bedrooms on the ground floor and living room, kitchen/breakfast room and roof terrace on the first floor. It has a guide price of £1.2 million. Another of Orwell's homes, where he also lived in 1935, is in Lawford Road, NW5. This semi-detached house has a blue plaque and an two-bedroom top-floor flat in need of modernisation and is for sale through Stickley & Kent (020-7267 1010) for £260,000.

Another blue plaque can be found outside 121 Ebury Street, in Belgravia, where George Augustus Moore lived from 1911 until his death in 1933. During that time he wrote many books including Heloise and Abelard, which was published in 1921. The mid-terrace townhouse has a south-facing garden, five bedrooms and four reception rooms and is for sale through Knight Frank (020-7591 8600) for £1,385,000.

From 1823, Charles Lamb lived with his sister Mary at Colebrooke Cottage, in Duncan Terrace, Islington. He was a prolific writer, but made his name with Tales from Shakespeare, which he wrote with Mary. This early Georgian house now has three reception rooms, four bedrooms and a mature garden. Lamb wrote about his harmonious living arrangements: "A cheerful dining room is studded all over and rough with old books. I feel like a great lord, having never had a house before." It is for sale through Hugh Grover and Associates (020-7226 1010) for £1.15 million.

Moorlands in Bath, a 19th-century property with six-storey tower and castellated battlements, was once the home of Anna Sewell and although she wrote her only novel, Black Beauty, while living in Norwich, it is said that she was inspired to do so by the views at Moorlands. There are many references to Bath and its surrounding countryside in the book and it has even been suggested that Sewell met the horse on which Black Beauty was based grazing in nearby Durley Park.

The house still looks the same externally, but it has been refurbished and turned into 16 apartments. The two-bedroom tower apartment is for sale with the bedrooms on the first and second floors, a kitchen and dining area on the third floor, sitting room on the fourth and a gallery area with superb views at the top. It is for sale through Andrews Estate Agents (01225 310570) for £249,950.

Another home with a literary past is Flint Cottage in Boxhill, Surrey, where the Victorian author George Meredith lived for more than 40 years until his death in 1909. In the 1870s, Meredith wrote of the Grade II-listed Georgian house: "I work and sleep in my cottage at present and anything grander than the days and nights in my porch you will not find away from the Alps: for the dark line of my hill runs up to the stars, the valley below is a soundless gulf. There I pace like a shipman before turning in. In the day with the south-west blowing I have a brilliant universe rolling up before me." In 1876, he built a Norwegian-style chalet, which he used as his study. It is still there, almost hidden in the trees at the bottom of the three acre garden.

The four-bedroom house, which has a 99-year lease from the National Trust, is for sale through Hamptons (01306 885466) with a guide price of £1.35 million.

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