This is a picture of Cloud’s Hill (above), the home of T.E Lawrence “Lawrence of Arabia”, in Moreton, Dorset, England, taken by me about 15 years ago on a basic SLR camera and restored using Gimp 2. (all subsequent pictures were not taken by me)
The cottage was built in 1808 and housed a forester(s) for about 100 years, until the outbreak of world war one, after which it fell into disrepair, until being renovated by a Sergeant of the nearby Bovington Camp for tanks, who rented it and began renovations that were completed by Lawrence after he took on the lease in order to have some quiet time for thinking, reading, and writing his masterpiece, “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, despite him being overdrawn at the bank and having to sell a gold Arab dagger to fund the renovations. He would later sell some land he owned in Essex and translate Homer’s Odyssey into English for a fee of £800, both to help pay for renovations.
The cottage is small, with a high-pitched roof and was very damp and cold to begin with, but more or less habitable by 1923, when Lawrence began using it as his postal address and spent Christmas there alone that year. It is still surrounded by oak trees, birch, fir trees, laurels and heather, planted by Lawrence and his brother, A.W Lawrence.
The lintel over the doorway has a Greek inscription “οὐ φροντὶς”, which means why worry.
The cottage never had a kitchen; food was bought in from the Bovington Camp canteen and a local grocer; “bread: butter: jam: honey: reinforced by potted things: and things in tins. Beastly I call it.” Tea could be made and eggs boiled provided there was wood for fuel. Nor was there a water-supply, until 1935, when a bathroom was installed, but never a toilet; visitors were instructed to go outside and take a shovel with them.
The roof was made watertight, had a log fire installed, the firewood being stored downstairs in the early days and the upstairs of Cloud’s Hill was used as the place where Lawrence could work and entertain. As a serving officer, he was required to sleep at the Bovington Camp, spending his evenings at Cloud’s Hill, between 4.30pm and 9pm. Some friends from the Tank Corps were his most frequent visitors, but “few of them care for abstract things”
Lawrence also had famous guests, artists – Augustus John, William Roberts, Gilbert Spencer and writers – E. M. Forster, Edward Garnett, Robert Graves, Thomas Hardy, Bernard Shaw, Siegfried Sassoon and H.M. Tomlinson. They ate toast and listened to classical music, Mozart and Beethoven being particular favourites and I remember on my visit there that one of the upstairs rooms had a gramophone and sofas.
E.M Forster describes having lunch with Lawrence on their knees at Cloud’s Hill – cold chicken and ham, stewed pears and cream, after he had given Lawrence some criticisms on the early texts of Seven Pillars.
The main downstairs room was later converted into a bedroom and one of the upstairs rooms into a bunk room for guests. Lawrence had a sleeping bag marked meum and for visitors who stayed in the bunk room a sleeping bag marked tuum.
After successfully getting a transfer back to the RAF Cranwell, Lawrence spent little time there. His brother, A.W Lawrence, briefly lived there with his wife, but as an archaeologist, was frequently travelling abroad to work on excavations. A private at Bovington Camp often looked after Cloud’s Hill whilst Lawrence was away and later on the duty fell to Sergeant Knowles. The cottage was let to pay for further improvements.
Lawrence didn’t actually settle at Cloud’s Hill until late 1934, spending his last Christmas there. Lawrence died after riding his 998cc Brough Superior motorcycle back from Bovington Camp, where he had been to send a telegram, having completed some 100,000 miles since around 1922 on five successive Brough Superiors.
His trips on the Brough Superior could sometimes range from 500 to 700 miles per day, on visits to friends, such as Winston Churchill and Nancy Astor. There is an account of him racing a Sopwith Camel biplane en route.
After the new broke in the press, Clouds Hill was besieged by souvenir hunters and the press. His brother, A.W Lawrence, had bars installed on the windows, which are no longer in situ.
On the announcement of his death, Winston Churchill said the following;
There have been rumours that Lawrence’s crash was an assassination and, apparently, there is a forthcoming film “Lawrence: After Arabia”, which examines the crash in more detail.