Follow in the footsteps of George Orwell and nine other celebrated writers to the places that inspired their work
Sitting in the pretty walled garden of Montague House on Southwold High Street, it’s as if the clock has stopped. There is the same slope of pretty 19th-century roofs and tiles over the wall, the same languor and stillness. There are the same ancient bells ringing out from St Edmund’s church around the corner. All under the same low-slung gloomy Suffolk sky. No sounds of traffic, no distractions. Modern life is held at bay. In other words, the perfect place to write your novel. Or in George Orwell’s case his second.
It was here, at the top of the high street, that Orwell completed A Clergyman’s Daughter, set in the town of Knype Hill, the fictional name for Southwold. Orwell’s parents, Richard and Ida Blair, had lived in the town for more than a decade before they bought Montague House in 1932. Richard was one of the town’s many Anglo-Indian civil service retirees, while Ida ran the flourishing Copper Kettle tea room on Queen Street, along with her daughter Avril – today it’s the RNLI charity shop. For Orwell it was a handy bolthole and he returned many times to stay with his parents – while railing against the town’s stuffy character. Years later he was remembered in the East Anglian Times as a “rather dishevelled, unshaven figure, dressed in suits handmade by a local tailor that needed a good iron, a long scarf, and no hat … People felt rather sorry for his parents.”