Okay hands up bookworms; who else loves history as much as they do fiction?
Well I for one certainly do, and I know I’m not alone!
And for us joint book/history lovers, there’s often no better place than a museum dedicated to the life of one of our favourite authors, where we can be free to indulge in this joint passion!
And here in the UK we are exceptionally lucky, as we boast some of the best literary museums in the world, dedicated to some of history’s most famous authors!
So put down your book, sit back and relax as I take you through my list of 5 Unmissable Literary Museums to Visit in the UK!
1. Jane Austen’s House Museum, Hampshire
Located in the village of Chawton, Hampshire, this beautiful country home is the very place that Jane Austen lived and wrote during the last eight years of her life!
A gift from Jane’s brother, the house provided a place where she could at last be free to focus on her love of writing. It was subsequently where she went on to complete works such as Emma and Mansfield Park, and it’s also believed that drafts of the beloved classic Pride and Prejudice were also revised during her time at the property.
The property itself is as charming as it is fascinating; boasting beautifully restored gardens, which guests are very welcome to use for picnics! Even dogs are allowed in the gardens – providing that they are well-behaved!
As for the house itself, it houses a number of pieces of furniture originally belonging to the Austen family, in addition to an extensive collection of manuscripts, letters and first editions of Jane’s works. Even some of her clothes and jewelry are on display, providing fans with a real, intimate sense of the woman behind the stories!
Jane Austen is an absolute heroine of mine, and I for one definitely have the Jane Austen’s House Museum on my bucket list! Find out more about it here!
2. Bronte Parsonage Museum, Yorkshire
In the Yorkshire town of Haworth, you will find a parsonage that was once home to not one, but three of the greatest female authors who ever existed! Now a museum, the Bronte Parsonage was both the childhood home of Anne, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, and the place where all three of them lived, worked and died as well.
The Bronte’s first moved in to the parsonage in 1820, and even from the beginning it was a place where the young Brontes would dream up their own stories and imaginary worlds! As adults they would go on to pen such groundbreaking works as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights; heavily inspired by the rugged Yorkshire landscapes surrounding them.
Two centuries on the museum delightfully brings to life the 18th century Bronte household, allowing you to immerse yourself in the daily lives of this extraordinary literary family! And you definitely can’t miss the parsonage’s exhibition room, which displays an extensive collection of handwritten letters, manuscripts and even artwork by the three sisters!
Charlotte Bronte’s writing desk – as well some of her clothing – are also on display in the museum, which is certainly enough to excite many a literary geek! Find out more on their website!
3. Hill Top House, Cumbria
Beatrix Potter remains one of the most beloved children’s authors of all time, and her former home in Hawkshead, Cumbria is no less captivating than her tales!
Brought by Beatrix in 1905 from the royalties of her first few stories, ‘Hill Top House’ became nothing short of a haven for the writer and illustrator. An avid lover of nature, her wonderfully nurtured garden and lush country surroundings provided her with a constant source of inspiration! Both for the tales themselves, and for the iconic illustrations accompanying them!
And those same gardens can still be enjoyed by the public today! Beatrix Potter donated Hill Top House to the National Trust following her death, and the property’s been preserved exactly as she left it ever since!
Colourful flowers and vegetables continue to bloom in the gardens, and Beatrix’s own furniture and china collection still furnish the rooms inside. Almost nothing has changed since Beatrix died – it’s almost as though she’s simply popped out for a walk!
Hill Top House provides a truly unique time-capsule for the many people who adore the tales and characters of Beatrix Potter, and you can find out more over here!
4. Sherlock Holmes Museum, London
Sherlock Holmes; he wasn’t actually a real person, was he?
But that fact still hasn’t stopped them from creating a museum dedicated to the fictional Detective! And I, for one, think that’s pretty bloody brilliant!
Built on location at 221B Baker Street (something that actually took quite a lot of legal-wrangling to make official), the Sherlock Holmes Museum playfully dedicates itself to the fictional life of Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary sleuth!
Here, and only here you’ll be able to explore the living quarters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson; paying a nosy visit to the Consulting Detective’s bedroom, perusing a grisly collection of murder weapons, and even checking out Mrs Hudson’s living quarters!
And don’t forget to see the museum’s collection of waxwork models recreating some of the most famous scenes from the assorted mysteries, or to check out the gift shop for some quirky souvenirs before leaving!
While Holmes and Watson may not have really existed, it is very easy – and incredibly forgivable – to forget this fact for a while when visiting this museum! Because come on – who doesn’t want to believe that they actually existed? So if you – like me – thinks that this all sounds absolutely amazing, do check out the museum’s website for more!
5. The Charles Dickens Museum, London
While this grand building may only have been home to Charles Dickens for a mere three years, it’s still the very place that some of Dickens’ most famous works were written!
Purchased by Charles Dickens in 1837, the 48 Doughty Street went on to be the birthplace of his two oldest daughters, and the place where he wrote some of his most successful novels, including Oliver Twist.
The household also witnessed the tragic death of Dickens’ 17-year-old sister-in-law Mary; a figure whom Dickens formed a strong attachment with after she moved in with the family. Mary died in Dickens’ arms following a brief illness, and went on inspire many of his characters, including Little Nell.
The family would move to a larger property in 1839 as Dickens’ family and career continued to grow, but not before literary history had well and truly been made within its walls.
In the modern-day the Dickens’ former home is now a museum, dedicated to the literary legacy of Charles Dickens himself, as well as providing a fascinating insight in to the household lives of Dickens, Catherine, Mary and other members of their family.
The museum proudly retains some of the Dickens’ original furniture, as well as articles such as family portraits, handwritten letters and manuscripts. Different temporary exhibitions are also on display throughout the year, making this museum well worth checking out more than once! Do visit their website for more information!
What literary museums have you visited and loved? Do let me know in the comments!
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