4 July 2010

George Bernard Shaw at Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire

George Bernard Shaw and his wife Charlotte began looking for a house in 1904, and found one that suited them two years later. This was a former rectory at Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire. The house suited them because neither of them liked it, which provided Charlotte with the opportunity to continue her love of travel, and GBS to continue writing. They moved in as tenants in 1906 (though still keeping their London flat), and bought the house in 1920.

The painting on the cover of the booklet above is one of three of Shaw that Augustus John made in 1915.

Shaw died in the house in 1950, at the age of 94.

Locally, the house acquired the nickname 'Shaw's Corner', a fact that Shaw recognized by incorporating the name into his gate. This is one of the few uses of the apostrophe of which he approved.

The north entrance from the road, which is only wide enough for one vehicle - many roads around here are positively hazardous to negotiate, and a very low speed and constant use of the horn are essential.

The south elevation, which looks out onto the three-acre garden (extended in 1920) where the Shaws would often exercise by taking walks, or simply relax.

The east elevation.

A sculpture of a lurcher stands at the west end of the terrace, and one of a lamb at the east.

Prince Paul Troubetzkoy designed them both, inscribing the base of the lamb 'A mon ami GBS'.

Troubetzkoy's signature on the north side of the base of the lamb.

The south elevation again, showing part of the extensive garden.

Originally Charlotte's summer house, this became Shaw's writing hut, where he had a telephone link and electricity. The most interesting feature is that it revolves to catch the direction of the sun.

The interior is reconstructed, with only the telephone being original. The bunk bed is just visible to the right of the photo.

The statue of St Joan in the Dell was executed by Shaw's neighbor Clare Winsten. Shaw particularly liked it as it depicted Joan not in the usual armor, but in peasant clothing.

Shaw had become a vegetarian toward the end of the 19th century partly because of Shelley, but mainly out of economic necessity. He had a large vegetable patch at Shaw's Corner that ran north from the orchard to what is now the parking lot. As part of their 'Food Glorious Food' promotion, the National Trust - the present owners - have re-introduced a vegetable patch.

The Shaws frequently exercised by chopping wood.

Ayot St Lawrence originally had no mains water supply, but the well and pump house to the west of Shaw's Corner provided water for drinking, washing, and cleaning.

The accumulator house, now scarcely visible because of the surrounding foliage, provided electricity for the Shaws right up to the late 1940s. There was also an electric motor here to pump water to the property after technological advances rendered the pump room redundant.

Shaw was not a drinker, but he sometimes - out of respect for the sick Charlotte - met friends in the village pub, The Brocket Arms.

1 comment:

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