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Archive for the ‘Monk’s House’ Category

Once our Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens was over, it was time for a pilgrimage. So on a bright and sunny July Saturday, we climbed aboard our coach and headed to Monk’s House from Cambridge.

Our driver dropped us off in Rodmell after our three-hour trip and we literally headed down The Street. After a brief walk, we arrived at the front gate of the country home that Virginia and Leonard occupied, beginning in 1919.

It was magical. Walking through the gate and down the path, I felt as though I was on hallowed ground, following in the footsteps the Woolfs had made.

We ate lunch in the garden, watched a dramatic reading of a scene from Between the Acts, with Virginia’s Writing Lodge as a backdrop, toured the ground floor of the home fitted out with the Woolfs’ belongings, and wandered through the garden filled with colorful and profuse blooms.

Follow along as I share some photos from our day.

Front gate of Monk’s House

The path behind the Monk’s House gate

As the Monk’s House guidebook states, “Books dominated the house.” And books are the first thing you see as you enter through the low back doorway. They line the stairs to the second floor.

Off to the left is the original Monk’s House sitting room, furnished with pieces ranging from the 17th to the 20th centuries. The still life design on the fire screen is by Duncan Grant, with the needlework by his mother, Ethel Bartle Grant. The upholstered armchair to its right was Virginia’s favorite, featuring a print by Vanessa Bell.

Another view of the original Monk’s House sitting room, which was created when the Woolfs knocked down a partition wall in 1926. It combined areas for reading, writing, and eating. Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant painted the dining table — with its geometric design of criss-cross strokes — and four chairs in the early 1930s.

The square coffee table in the center of the room is topped with tiles by Duncan Grant. They depict Venus at her toilet.

A table and six painted chairs with needlework panels designed by Vanessa Bell dominate the dining room. The needlework panels depict bowls of flowers against a window. Grant’s mother completed the embroidery.

The Monk’s House dining room fireplace

The oil portrait of Virginia Woolf painted by Vanessa Bell in 1912. It hangs on a wall between the stairway and the dining room at Monk’s House.

The doorway, framed with roses, that leads from the garden to Virginia Woolf’s bedroom at Monk’s House

Virginia Woolf’s bedroom was part of an extension to Monk’s House built in 1929. It truly was a room of her own as one had to enter it from the garden, as in the photo above.

The fireplace in Virginia Woolf’s ground floor bedroom is decorated with tiles that were a gift from Vanessa Bell. They depict a ship with a lighthouse in the distance.

Virginia Woolf’s Writing Lodge, built in 1934 and and extended in the 1950s by Leonard for his companion Trekkie Parsons. The new space is now used as an exhibition room.

This table sits inside the Writing Lodge covered with her tortoiseshell glasses, folders with handwritten labels that she used for her manuscripts, pen and ink, newspapers, and wads of rumpled paper.

Just one view of the extensive Monk’s House garden, lovingly tended by Leonard, with the central part consisting of a series of small spaces enclosed by plants and joined by a network of narrow paths.

The Millstone Terrace, whose name comes from the millstones the Woolfs found in the garden.

The Fish Pond, one of three ponds Leonard installed, this one on a narrow strip of south-facing garden enclosed on three sides by flint walls.

The lawn at Monk’s House where the Woolfs played bowls and visitors today continue the tradition.

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Our marvelous Literature Cambridge course on Virginia Woolf’s Gardens ended last Friday. But perhaps the best was yet to come.

Our class, along with some of those enrolled in this week’s Fictions of Home class, went on an all-day outing to Monk’s House, Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s home in Rodmell, and Charleston, the nearby home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and others. Beautiful, incredibly moving, and breathtaking.

I’m traveling today, so only have time to post these tweets. But I promise to provide more about the trip after I am back in a room of my own.

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To mark the 90th anniversary of the first publication of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Malvern Garden Buildings has created  a writing retreat inspired by Woolf’s writing lodge at Monk’s House in Rodmell for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which runs through May 25.

VW's writing Lodge

Virginia Woolf’s writing lodge at Monk’s House

The shed, which was created with the help of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain and Monk’s House, was unveiled by Woolf’s great-niece Cressida Bell on Press Day, May 20.

It is painted a dove grey color and features double French doors opening onto a deck, as does the Monk’s House Lodge.

Inside, the lodge is furnished with a desk in the spirit of Woolf, an armchair with a tray, and a bookcase filled with a set of volumes covered in marbled paper — as was Woolf’s Shakespeare collection. Completing the look are writing paraphernalia and other objects from the 1920s and 1930s.

Once you view Malvern’s creation, I guarantee you will want one for your own back garden. I know I do.

Read more about the project and view photos as well.

A screenshot of the Malvern Garden Buildings Facebook post, as shared by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain.

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Virginia Woolf’s writing lodge at Monk’s House

Emily Florence, a researcher for Lonelyleap, is working on an audio project about people’s connection to place. She sent the message below to the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. Please contact her directly if you would like to be involved in the National Trust audio project she describes.

I am a researcher at Lonelyleap working on an audio project for the National Trust about people’s connection to place. I wondered whether you or any of your members who have visited Monk’s House might be interested in participating in the project. Obviously the house is a special place for anyone with an interest in Virginia Woolf and so I imagine there may be many people who feel a strong connection to it. Would you mind posting this on your group and asking anyone interested to get in touch via the email stories@lonelyleap.com?

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Share a photo of your room of your own with Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Monks House.

The National Trust property in Rodmell, East Sussex, is creating a Woolf installation in her writing lodge, and there are two ways you can get involved:

  • Send an image of “A Room of Your Own” and briefly describe what you do in the space.
  • Donate your copy of the book, highlighting your favorite word, lines, or passage. Doodles, highlights and margin notes are welcome!

All images used will be added to a database and combined with other images to create an audio-visual installation. Books will not be returned.

Find out more about the A Room of One’s Own project.

This project explores the significance of the room in Virginia Woolf’s text as a creative space, be it real or psychological. – National Trust website

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This Christmas day, I unwrapped a present from my landlady and, completely unexpectedly, a small purple hardback book with gold lettering and a beautiful portrait of Virginia Woolf fell onto my lap. I was delighted, and proceeded to read it cover to cover amidst wrapping paper and ended up holding back tears to prevent myself being utterly embarrassed in front of my in-laws.

virginia woolf life portraits

© Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford

Virginia Woolf (Life Portraits) by Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford poetically weaves the story of Woolf’s life with Alkayat’s considered text and Cosford’s illustrations, a fresh response to the Bloomsbury aesthetic. It opens with the following quote from Mrs Dalloway:

She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was on the outside, looking on.

This liminality, both the relation between work and life and Woolf’s psychological flux, is represented thoughtfully throughout the biography.

street haunting in life portrait

© Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford

Alkayat focuses on the personal details of life: how Vanessa Bell’s sheepdog Gurth accompanied her “street haunting”, how Leonard and Virginia Woolf spent nights during the First World War in their coal cellar sitting on boxes, and that they later named their car “the umbrella”. She also puts us on a first name basis with Virginia, Vanessa and Duncan, et al. – a choice which made me feel closer to their world.

charleston in woolf life portrait

© Nina Cosford

Cosford’s illustrations are both sensitive to the Bloomsbury style and offer a fresh perspective. Her bold lines and patterns used to illustrate the pages about Vanessa Bell’s cover designs for Virginia Woolf’s novels, for example, are edged with mark-making in the mode of Bell. Her use of colour also seems emotive, following the waves of high and low that punctuate the narrative. Her illustrations capture the paraphernalia of every-day life, from the objects atop Woolf’s writing desk – diary, hair grips, photo of Julia, sweets – to the plants in the garden at Monks House, bringing Virginia’s life closer to home.

monks house plants

© Nina Cosford

Illustration and text come together beautifully in this miniature autobiography and would provide any reader with a poetic and surprising escape into the life of Virginia Woolf.

 

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Virginia Woolf’s diary entries from around Christmas bring into sharp relief the feelings that the festive season stirs. Her pieces are coloured by the unpredictable shifts of British winter weather, express the pull between social event and solitude, and are self-reflective in their review of the past.

The following entries span the twenty-year period from 1920-40 and express the layered and complex connotations that our annual traditions hold.

woolf-xmas

“A Virginia Woolf Christmas – Monks House Welcome Home” design by Amanda White

19 December 1920, Hogarth House

In 1920, Woolf’s entry anticipates her New Year’s return to Rodmell and the comfort and routine this will bring. She imagines the “soft, grey walk” she will take in the dappled cool winter light on the greyed heather and chalky mud of the Sussex Downs. Woolf weaves this expectation for the New Year with the immediacy of Christmas at the end of the entry where we join her in delighting in an early Christmas gift from Leonard:

So we reach the end of the year; which is for us cheerful, I think. For one thing we want to get to Rodmell; to see what has happened to the garden. I shall like a soft grey walk. Then the post. Then reading. Then sitting in the chimney corner […] (I use my new blotter, just given me by L., for the first time).

26 December 1929, Monks House

In 1929 Monks House delivers the atmospheric weather that Woolf had imagined at the beginning of the century. She writes, moreover, of its changeability and its effect on her – producing a “violent Christmas” which gives way to a “serene Boxing day”. Here we also see her desire for solitude in the face of incessant society and the hope that, for once, this will truly be possible:

And I am sitting in my new room, with curtains, fire, table; and two great views; sometimes sun over the brooks and storm over the church. A violent Christmas; a brilliant serene Boxing day. I find it almost incredibly soothing – a fortnight alone – almost impossible to let oneself have it. Relentlessly we have crushed visitors: we will be alone this once, we say; and really, it seems possible.

21 December 1933, 52 Tavistock Square

Christmas’s habit of repeating itself is hinted at in 1929 where the impossibility of retreat seems to be routine. In 1933, Woolf is particularly reflexive on the patterns of Christmas, calling the morning of preparing to go down to Rodmell a “relic”, seemingly aged and outdated:

This is the relic of a morning when I should tidy, pack, write letters and so on. We lunch at quarter to one, and then go, this yellow cold morning. No longer the great tradition that it used to be.

24 December 1940, Monks House

Woolf’s seasonal self-reflection is also present in our final entry from 1940, which begins by fantasising about living at Alciston Farm House but ends on a note of quiet contentment with home at Monks House:

“We lunched with Helen [Anrep at Alciston]; and again ‘I could have fancied living there’. An incredible loveliness. The downs breaking their wave, yet one pale quarry; and all the barns and stacks either a broken pink, or a verdurous green; and then the walk by the wall; and the church; deep hollows, where the past stands almost stagnant. And the little spire across the fields… L. is now cutting logs, and after my rush of love and envy for Alciston farm house, we concluded this [Monks House] is the perfect place.”

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