Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places - Music & Literature

Historic England

England's historic sites are hotbeds of musical and literary invention and creativity. The musicians and writers that have lived and worked in and around them, and been inspired by them have stimulated the emotions of millions at home and in the wider world. With images from the Historic England Archive, this exhibit illustrates just a handful of amazing places linked to England's musical and literary heritage.

Where Shakespeare was born

William Shakespeare, England's greatest playwright, was born in this house in 1564.

His father John had lived and worked here from around 1551. William inherited it in 1601 and it remained with descendants of the family until the late 18th century.

The house became a tourist attraction from at least the 1740s and was bought by the Shakespeare Birthplace Committee for preservation as a national monument in 1847. It is now a museum in the care of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Shakespeare Memorial Theatre

The first Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in the Bard's home town opened in 1879 on riverside land donated by local brewer Charles Flower.

Much of the theatre was destroyed by fire in 1926. The competition for its replacement was won by Elisabeth Scott, the first woman to win a major architectural competition in Britain.

Opening in 1932, the year this photograph was taken, the theatre's design was considered radical. It was even condemned as 'unspeakably ugly and wrong' by the composer Sir Edward Elgar, who refused to go inside!

Where Jane Austen died

Jane Austen spent the last few weeks of her life here being treated for a short illness from which she died on 8 July 1817.

While not widely known during her lifetime, her novels about social mores in Georgian England gained greater popularity later in the 19th century. She is now regarded as one of England's most well-known writers.

Jane Austen in buried in the north aisle of Winchester Cathedral.


Where Hardy was inspired

Upwey Mill is a corn mill near Weymouth in Dorset. It was built in 1802.

One of England's most popular novelists, Thomas Hardy, set most of his stories in the southwest of England. Hardy named the area Wessex after the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom and gave fictional names to established places.

In his 1880 novel 'The Trumpet-Major' Hardy used the mills at Upwey and Sutton Poyntz as inspiration for the story's Overcombe Mill.

Where Stoker found Dracula

It was during a stay in the North Yorkshire coastal town of Whitby in 1890 that Bram Stoker discovered inspiration for his novel 'Dracula'.

The atmospheric ruins of Whitby Abbey, names on graves at the nearby St Mary's Church and the town itself would help formulate his classic Gothic adventure.

It was here where Count Dracula arrived in England on the doomed ship 'Demeter', running aground on 8 August - the same date that Stoker first came across the name 'Dracula' in a book in Whitby library.

Where Kipling discovered England

After living the life of a journalist and writer in India, United States and South Africa, Rudyard Kipling purchased Bateman's in 1902 and resided there for the remainder of his life.

The house, originally called Lane Bridge, was built by John Brittan, a prosperous iron-master, in 1634. It was from here that Kipling would take car journeys discovering the local countryside and traditions.

Kipling died in 1936. Bateman's was bequeathed to the National Trust by his widow in 1940, together with the contents. Kipling's study is preserved as when he occupied it.

Where crimes were plotted

The detective fiction writer Agatha Christie and her husband Max Mallowan bought Greenway House in 1938.

Set in an elevated position overlooking the River Dart, Greenway House was built in the late 18th century. It was later extended and remodelled. Having been born in nearby Torquay, Christie had known Greenway since childhood.

Greenway features as a location in at least two of Agatha Christie's novels, 'Five Little Pigs' (1943) and 'Dead Man's Folly' (1956).

Where Wordsworth wrote

The poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy moved to Dove Cottage at Grasmere in the Lake District in 1799. It remained their home for the next eight years.

One of the earliest poems he wrote here was 'Home at Grasmere'. Despite difficult conditions and ill health, Wordsworth settled here, enjoying married life and writing some of his most memorable works.

In 1808 the Wordsworths moved to a more spacious house. The following year the tenancy of Dove Cottage was taken up by their friend, the essayist Thomas De Quincey.

Where Byron couldn't afford to live

After the dissolution, Newstead Abbey was acquired by Sir John Byron in 1539 and converted into a country house. It eventually passed to the sixth Lord Byron, the poet George Gordon Noel Byron.

Living there sporadically between 1808 and 1814, existing debts on the estate resulted in Newstead's sale in 1817.

Byron cultivated a notorious reputation during his lifetime. His sense of adventure took him to Greece to support the fight for independence from the Ottoman Empire. He died there in 1824. His body was brought back to England and buried in the family vault near Newstead.

It has been written that no English writer except Shakespeare acquired more fame than Byron.

Where great writers read

Built between 1823 and 1847 the British Museum was designed as a quadrangle with an open courtyard.

In 1852-7 the quadrangle was filled with the Round Reading Room and its walls lined with bookcases and shelves. Its design was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.

Applications to use the Reading Room had to be made in writing. Those who were successfully admitted included Karl Marx, Lenin, Bram Stoker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf.

Where Promenaders stand

The Royal Albert Hall is probably England's most recognisable concert venue.

It was built between 1867 and 1871 to designs by the engineers Captain Fowke and Major-General HYD Scott. It has an eliptical plan and is faced in red brick and has an overall Italian Renaissance style.

The Hall was named to commemorate Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's late consort, who died before his vision of 'Albertopolis' - a complex of buildings to house exhibits from the 1851 Great Exhibition and to study art, science and industry - could be completed.

More than a concert hall

The Royal Albert Hall has played host to scores of internationally-famous artists, from Richard Wagner to Marin Alsop; from Cream to Kate Bush.

An enduring presence has been The BBC Sir Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, known as 'The Proms', which have been held here since the end of the Second World War.

The Royal Albert Hall has been more than just a concert venue. It has held exhibitions, conventions, boxing contests and political party conferences, and between 1908 and 1918 it hosted over twenty women's suffrage meetings.

From steam engine shed to psychedelic happening

Camden's Roundhouse became one of England's most happening performing arts venues when it opened in 1964.

The launch of the radical underground newspaper 'The International Times' in 1966, with a performance by The Pink Floyd, helped further establish the Roundhouse as a major new arts and performance venue.

The building's life had begun a long time before. It was built in 1846-7 as a goods locomotive shed and later became a liquor store.

Where a metamorphosis happened

The transformation of the Victorian industrial building to an arts venue resulted in some of the 1960s and 70s most celebrated performers thrilling audiences in this unique setting.

Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath, Patti Smith, The Sex Pistols and Blondie all played here. Theatrical performances included Peter Brook's 'Themes on the Tempest' and Steven Berkhoff's 'Metamorphosis'.

Financial difficulties led to closure in 1983 but the Roundhouse reopened in 1996 and again in 2006 following a major refurbishment.

Where church and entertainment work together

The Union Chapel is one of England's outstanding Nonconformist buildings of the 19th century.

Replacing an earlier chapel, it was built in 1876-7 by architect William Cubitt. Its octagonal design was inspiration by the church of Santa Fosca at Torcello near Venice.

The chapel's membership was in decline after the Second World War and was threatened with demolition in 1981. Since the 1990s, however, it has seen increasing use as a performing arts venue, with the resulting funds used to finance repair projects.

Where awards have been won

Since opening as a music venue in 1992, the Union Chapel has been voted London's best music venue by readers of 'Time Out' magazine.

A whole host of renowned performers have stepped on stage here, including Björk, Tori Amos, Beck, Amy Winehouse, Spiritualized, Patti Smith and Elton John.

Where Handel meets Hendrix

Remarkably, two of history's great musical talents lived next door to each other, albeit separated by 200 years.

From 1723 until his death in 1759, the German-born composer George Frideric Handel lived at 25 Brook Street in London's Mayfair district. Next door, in the upper floor flat of 23 Brook Street, the American rock musician Jimi Hendrix lived briefly from July 1968 to March 1969.

Both properties are now looked after by the Handel House Trust, which was formed in the 1990s to purchase and restore Handel's home. It was opened to the public in 2001, with Hendrix's flat following in 2016.

London's Tin Pan Alley

Named after Prince George of Denmark, Denmark Street in the London Borough of Camden was developed in the late 17th century.

The street has been associated with the popular entertainment and the music industry since the early 20th century, and particularly from the 1950s, and as a result has been considered the London equivalent of New York's Tin Pan Alley.

It has been home to music publishers, record shops, musical instrument shops and recording studios. The 'New Musical Express' and 'Melody Maker' newspapers had offices here. Many famous musicians worked and socialised in the street's studios and cafes, including David Bowie, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, and the Sex Pistols.

Where a city of tents forms

Worthy Farm in rural Somerset is the venue for the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.

Established by Michael Eavis in 1970 as a pop, folk and blues festival, Glastonbury's first incarnation attracted an audience 1,500. The one pound entrance fee included free milk from the farm.

This photograph was taken four days before the opening of the 2005 event, which saw 153,000 rain-sodden festival-goers enjoy acts such as White Stripes, New Order and Elvis Costello.

Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places

We think everybody should know about the places in England that have witnessed some of the most important historic events.

Historic England's Irreplaceable campaign, sponsored by specialist insurer, Ecclesiastical, aims to highlight the places that have changed England and the world.

Image: 'Musicians' Alley', Camden, Greater London
Handbills and flyers cover the passage that runs between Denmark Street and Denmark Place.

Credits: Story

Discover more about 100 Places

Listen to our podcast

Subscribe on iTunes

Discover the Historic England Archive


Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google
Home
Explore
Nearby
Profile