This tiny cottage outside the rural village of Wareham in Dorset was once home to T. E. Lawrence, one of the best-selling writers of his day, and the inspiration for David Lean’s multiple Academy Award-winning film Lawrence of Arabia.
Although Lawrence had already published, and reaped considerable financial gains from, his magnum opus Seven Pillars of Wisdom by the time he came to purchase the cottage at Clouds Hill in 1925, he nonetheless chose to live a life of absolute simplicity. The home contains only four rooms and electricity was never installed. The building was derelict when Lawrence first came to live there, and he spent a number of years refurbishing it, lining the walls for insulation and also installing a basic running water system. He even designed all of the furniture to his own specifications, with an emphasis on spacial efficiency.
Lawrence welcomed many famous literary guests to the cottage during his years there, including George Bernard Shaw, E. M. Forster, Thomas Hardy, and Robert Graves, some of whom stayed the night in a specially embroidered sleeping bag kept for guests. (This sleeping bag was embroidered with the Latin word “tuum” [yours] while Lawrence’s was labelled “meum” [mine]).
Lawrence tragically died in a motorcycle accident on his way back to the cottage from the post office in 1935, and visitors to Clouds Hill today can also visit his burial place in a cemetery in the nearby village of Moreton. The shed which used to house Lawrence’s beloved motorcycles now features exhibits on his life for visitors, and another small shed has been erected to serve as a gift shop and information center.
A visit to Clouds Hill is a fascinating insight to the life of one of the most iconic figures of 20th century British history, as well as a meditative experience on the benefits of simple living.