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Bateman House, Burwash

On what may well be the last hot day of this glorious summer extending into autumn, I was delighted to be visiting yesterday Bateman’s, the home of Rudyard Kipling, just east of Lewes which he bought in 1902 for £9,300 which came with 33 acres.

At the height of his popularity and fame Kipling was earning £5,000 pa. To put this in perspective, a secretary would have earned £80 and a  maid in service at Bateman’s £23 annually.

Kipling had lived in Rottingdean where his uncle, the celebrated pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne Jones, resided.  However, so many came from Brighton with their ladders to stare that he sought the greater privacy that Bateman’s afforded.

As there was no sign outside you could easily  miss it.

It’s a Jacobean house with an orchard, pond, woods and water mill. The grounds alone are worth a visit especially on a spectacular autumnal day.

The house is well preserved, it was bequeathed to the National Trust by Kipling’s only surviving child Elsie.

Despite his fame and fortune, Kipling had family tragedy.

His daughter Josephine died of pneumonia aged 6 in 1899.

His only son John – commonly but incorrectly referred to as Jack – went to Wellington College and was under pressure to enlist for the Great War. He failed the examination board for poor eyesight but Kipling leant on General Roberts and he was conscripted. He went missing at the first Battle of Loos in 1915 apparently leading from the front with a revolver and was one of the 60,000 fatal casualties on the first day.

Kipling did receive the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907. Yet, despite his fame he never got over John’s death, especially as he was the ultimate empire loyalist, but his death came much later in 1936.

I walked the grounds first before visiting the house.

A helpful chatty guide explained to me that the house was very much run by Kipling’s wife Caroline.

Typically Kipling, a hard worker but hospitable man, would work at his writing all day and at 6 visit the parlour where party games were played in front of the fire.

Kipling described the house as a “good and peaceable place”.

Always something of an adventurous traveller and motorist he purchased in 1928 a royal blue Rolls Royce Phantom for £2,833 which is still housed in the garage.

Bateman’s is well worth a visit on many counts: the grounds are lovely, the house fascinating and you can learn more about one of Britain’s most enduring authors.

About Nancy Bright-Thompson

A widely-respected travel editor, Nancy is a past president of the Guild of Travel Writers (GTW). She and her husband Phil now run a horse sanctuary in East Sussex. More Posts