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2017 - Year of Literary

VisitEngland has declared 2017 to be the “Year of Literary Heroes”, in recognition of this, 1066 Country has pulled together some of the noted authors and places that have lived and worked in the area.

Rye is the fictional town of Tilling, the setting for the E.F Benson novels and two TV series (1980s and 2014), ‘Mapp and Lucia’. The novels feature humorous incidents in the lives of (mainly) upper-middle-class British people in the 1920s and 1930s. Social prestige and extreme cultural snobbery are at the heart of the stories.

The novels are set in the small fictional seaside town of Tilling, closely based on Rye, East Sussex, where Benson lived for a number of years and (like Lucia) served as mayor.

“Mallards", the home of Miss Mapp—and subsequently Lucia—was based on Lamb House in Rye. The house had previously been the residence of author Henry James, between 1897 and 1916 and later of E.F. Benson.  Novelist Rumer Godden was also a tenant of the house.  Frequent visitors to the house included Rudyard Kipling and war poet Rupert Brooke.  The house is now a National Trust property.

Bateman’s is a 17th-century Jacobean house located in Burwash, East Sussex. Author Rudyard Kipling lived in Bateman's from 1902 to his death in 1936. His wife bequeathed the house to the National Trust on her death in 1939, and it has since been open to the public.

Kipling wrote some of his finest works here including: ‘If’, and ‘Puck of Pook’s Hill’, named after the hill visible from the house. The house's setting and the wider local area features in many of his stories in Puck of Pook's Hill (1906). Kipling's poem ‘The Land’ is inspired by the Bateman's estate.

Bateman's was also used in the coloured 1966 edition of Tintin,’The Black Island’ as the basis for the residence of Müller, the ex-Nazi antagonist. In the fictionalised adventure, the house is razed to the ground when a burning log from the hearth is used as a weapon during a scuffle.

Exterior scenes for the TV film My Boy Jack about the death of Kipling's young son Jack in the First World War and his family's grief were shot at Bateman's

Hastings has two strong literary connections; Robert Tressell wrote movingly of the plight of the working-class at the turn of the century.  His portrait of the town, which he called 'Mugsborough' is perhaps the first socialist novel in English.  In honour of its centenary anniversary, Hastings Borough Council produced a limited edition of this literary classic which is still available from the Hastings Tourist Information Centre.

Catherine Cookson worked in Hastings as manageress of the hospital laundry, married in town, joined the writers' circles in the local library and wrote her first novels there, before returning to her native North East.

Other notable persons:

Beatrix Potter – while on holiday in Hastings in 1903, Beatrix Potter wrote The Tale of Two Bad Mice, The Tale of Tuppenny, and The Pie and the Patty-Pan. Little Pig Robinson is pictured walking down Rockanore Road, Hastings, among the netshops. There is a blue plaque to Beatrix Potter at Robinson Terrace, Hastings.

Rider Haggard (King Solomon’s Mines) lived in North Lodge, Maze Hill, St Leonards (Hastings).

George MacDonald (who inspired C S Lewis and Tolkien) lived at 21 Tackleway, then in Holloway House in Old London Road, Hastings.

Dickens performed in Robertson Street, Hastings, at what is now Yates’s Wine Lodge, and stayed in the Marine Hotel in Pelham place, where the Deluxe amusements now are.

Lewis Carroll was a regular visitor to Hastings, staying with his aunts in 2 Wellington Square. He preached in St Mary Magdalen Church in Church Road

Gabriel Dante Rossetti (pre Raphaelites) was a poet as well as a painter and stayed in High Street, Hastings Old Town, marrying one of his muses, Elizabeth Siddal in St Clement’s Church, where one of his paintings remains. The altar light was a gift in thanks from Rossetti.

Grey Owl, whole life as a Canadian Indian trapper and later conservationist has been the subject of a film, was actually born Archie Bellaney in Hastings.  The Hastings Museum has a major exhibition on Grey Owl.


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