Follow the literary trail of historic buildings in Lancashire and Cumbria
PUBLISHED: 00:00 25 May 2017
Photo courtesy of visitlancashire.com
Homes across Lancashire and Lakeland appear in a new trail celebrating great writers and books.
He is one of the great literary creations of the last century – a teddy bear owning aristocrat who descends from happy and youthful teenager into a confused, depressed alcoholic who dies tragically young.
But while the character of Sebastian Flyte was created by Evelyn Waugh in his 1945 novel Brideshead Revisited, he may have been based on the squire of Lytham, who the author met in the years before the book was published.
Henry De Vere (Harry) Clifton was the last Squire to own Lytham Hall. He led a lavish lifestyle, making films in Hollywood in the early 1930s and running up huge gambling debts which he paid off by selling the family treasures. It is thought he died almost penniless.
Waugh visited Lytham Hall in June 1935 and wrote this account of his visit in a letter to his friend Katherine Asquith. ‘A lap of luxury flowing with champagne and elaborate cookery. Mrs Clifton, Easter (or so she seems to be called), Orsa, a youth seven feet high with a moustache who plays with a clockwork motorcar and an accordion. The above all Cliftons all are tearing mad. The children bright and giggling. Mrs C. more sombre and full of soul.
‘Large park entirely surrounded by trams and villas. Adam dining room. Five hideous Catholic churches on estate. All sitting at separate tables at meals. Two or three good pictures including a Renoir.’
This is just one of Lancashire’s literary connections celebrated in a new trail created by the Historic Houses Association (HHA) which features more than 40 homes around the UK – five of them in Lancashire or the Lake District – with links to literary figures, books and plays.
Around the time of Waugh’s visit to Lytham Harry Clifton sent an 18th century carved lapis lazuli stone to WB Yeats on his 70th birthday, which Yeats wrote about in his poem “Lapis Lazuli”.
This year has been named the Year of Literary Heroes by Visit England and the HHA also includes Stonyhurst College on its trail.
Arthur Conan Doyle studied there from September 1868 and the building and its grounds are said to have inspired some of the locations in his Sherlock Holmes novel ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.
Stonyhurst has also provided inspiration for others, including former classics teacher Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose poems feature details of the local countryside, and JRR Tolkien is also known to have written part of The Lord of the Rings in one of the Upper Gallery classrooms during his stay at the college.
Other literary connections include Poet Laureate Alfred Austin, and the poet Oliver St John Gogarty who were educated at the school, as were the sons of Oscar Wilde and Evelyn Waugh.
Hoghton Tower’s links to William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll feature on the trail too, as does Hutton in the Forest near Penrith which is said to be the site of the legendary Green Knight’s castle in the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Mirehouse at Keswick is on the trail too. The house, which has been home to the Spedding family for more than 200 years, has hosted William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey and drawings, portraits, manuscripts and letters are on display around the house.
For opening times, admission charges and to see the full trail, go online to hha.org.uk.