It was fascinating to visit George Bernard Shaw’s Edwardian villa, ‘Shaw Corner’ in the tiny Hertfordshire village of Ayot St Lawrence, where he lived for over 40 years from 1906 and wrote some of his most famous plays. Born in Dublin, on 26 July 1856, George Bernard Shaw is the only person to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and an Oscar (for his contributions to literature and the film My Fair Lady, based on his play 'Pygmalion'.) A passionate Socialist, Shaw used his fame to campaign for improvements to social injustice and equality.
Shaw Corner has been preserved by The National Trust much as he left it, so there is a real sense of how it must have been to live and work there. I was particularly interested in his study, where his writing desk faces the window looking out across the lawns and gardens. Shaw wrote fifty-two plays and five novels in his lifetime and always aimed to write at least five pages every day, regardless of whatever else was going on in his life.
|George Bernard Shaw's study|
The Remington typewriter on his desk was apparently reserved for correspondence, however, as much of his writing was done in a shed at the bottom of his garden. Still in good condition, Shaw’s hut is famous for a special design feature that meant it could be easily rotated to make best use of the available light. (Shaw called his writing hut ‘London’ so that unwanted visitors could be told he was ‘visiting the capital’.) A report in the 1932 Modern Mechanix magazine said "Mr. Shaw has a plan to keep the sun shining on him constantly while he works. He has constructed a small hut on his grounds that is built on a turntable. When the morning sun shifts, he merely places his shoulder against the side of the hut and gives it a push so that the warming beams fall through his window at the correct angle. Mr. Shaw’s plan to keep the sun shining on him is a simple health measure, and not a wanton eccentricity. The author has spent most of his life out of doors, but when he moved to London he didn’t get as much sun as he thought he needed. Hence the hut."
|Shaw's Rotating Writing Hut|
George Bernard Shaw's writing hut also featured in The Guardian's Writers' Rooms series, where his biographer Michael Holroyd points out that this was also where Shaw went to hide from people. As well as the turntable technology, Shaw’s writing hut included “an electric heater, a typewriter, a bunk for Napoleonic naps and a telephone to the house which could be used for emergencies such as lunch: surely everything a writer could need."