Sir Hugh Walpole in Cumbria
Hugh Walpole was born in New Zealand in 1884, the son of a Bishop. He came to England when he was five years old. He was educated at King’s School, Canterbury, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
He lived in Cumbria from 1924 until his death in 1941. Hugh Walpole bought Brackenburn, overlooking Derwentwater, his ‘little paradise on Catbells’, in 1923. Originally a bungalow built of local Honister slate in 1909, he enlarged it and converted the upper story of the nearby garage into a library and study, which eventually housed his library of 30000 books, and his collection of paintings.
The terraced garden in front of the house was designed by Walpole, who channelled a small beck to feed fountains and a pond. Literary visitors included J.B. Priestly, Sinclair Lewis, Arthur Ransome, W.H. Auden and Francis Brett Young.
Walpole wrote a great deal while at Brackenburn, including his Cumberland family saga ‘The Herries Chronicle’ (‘Rogue Herries’, ‘Judith Paris’, ‘The Fortress’, and ‘Vanessa’). He also wrote the 15 volumes of his diaries, which are now in the Keswick Museum & Art Gallery. The manuscripts of many of his novels are also in the Museum, along with work by William Wordsworth and Robert Southey.
Hugh Walpole died in 1941, and his grave is in St John’s Church, Keswick. It is marked by a Celtic cross, at the corner of the terrace on the South side of the church.
‘Judith Paris’ uses Watendlath as its main setting. ‘Rogue Herries’ uses Uldale as the location for David Herries farmhouse, and nearby Ireby is the location for Walter Herries home in ‘The Fortress’. He sometimes worshipped at St Andrew’s Church in Borrowdale, and mentioned it in his writings. His home, Brackenburn, features in ‘Vanessa’.
Brackenburn [NY 249192] is now privately owned, and the garage/study has been converted into a luxury holiday cottage. The gardens are occasionally open under the National Gardens Scheme.
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