Not just for children

Burwash, East Sussex, England. Of course, as a young reader, I knew of Rudyard Kipling, though I always thought of him as a boys’ writer and never did pay much attention to his works for children.

But that didn’t prevent me from being very interested in his home in East Sussex, Bateman’s. We often heard his name in India, as he was born in Bombay, and wrote so much about the country. His father, Lockwood Kipling, was an English art teacher, illustrator, and museum curator who spent most of his career in British India.

Thanks to Disney, most everyone is familiar with The Jungle Book, and may know Kim, as well as poems like Mandalay, Gunga Din, If, and The White Man’s Burden. He was one of the most popular writers in the UK in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1907, at the age of 41, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize and its youngest recipient to date.

It was that very popularity that sent him on a house hunt for some peace and privacy, and ultimately led him to Bateman’s, built in 1634. He lived there from 1902 until his death in 1936.

The house, along with the surrounding buildings, the mill and 33 acres was purchased for £9,300. It had no bathroom, no running water upstairs, and no electricity, but Kipling loved it: “Behold us, lawful owners of a grey stone lichened house—A.D. 1634 over the door—beamed, panelled, with old oak staircase, and all untouched and unfaked. It is a good and peaceable place. We have loved it ever since our first sight of it.”

The approach, with the magical wall, the romantic oast house and the wonderful landscaping, make his love for it easy to understand.

Though some of the missing modern conveniences of the time were added as the Kiplings lived there, nothing was done to touch the integrity of the house, and it was furnished in a style that matched its age as much as possible.

Highlights were his study, an exhibit of his work and recognition, and reliefs done by his father to illustrate Kipling’s books. His young son’s room was touching, as were samples of the original illustrations from his books.

It’s wonderful home and a spectacular setting. How gratifying to find it packed with visitors on a Bank Holiday weekend, eager to see and learn. Can’t imagine a similar crowd packing an author’s home in America on Memorial Day weekend, but maybe it happens.

We were fortified by an excellent pub lunch with June and Alan at the nearby Rose and Crown. We had an excellent nook for our nourishment, which ranged from a hearty breakfast to the traditional meat pie. All delicious and in a pub so ancient it surely attracted many a Kipling during their time.

We’re off to glorious Dorset to visit other friends for the next few days, so may be MIA while we take in the picture-perfect countryside of that part of England. We have almost forgotten what cement looks like!


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