10 places that have influenced classic stories for children

By Historic England

This gallery of images from the Historic England Archive illustrates the places that have given inspiration to the writers of some of our most-loved children's stories. From ruined castles and country houses to factories and schools, England's remarkable historic places have helped to shape the stories that have entertained generations of children.

Kensington Gardens, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea, London (2006-10-29) by Damian Grady, English HeritageHistoric England

1. Kensington Park, London

The author JM Barrie lived close to Kensington Park. It was in the park that he began a friendship with the Llewelyn Davies family. The family's children and the park inspired Barrie to create the adventures and child characters that appear in his enchanting tales that feature his magical, flying boy, Peter Pan. When their parents died at a young age, Barrie adopted the five Davies boys.

Women and children at the Peter Pan statue, Kensington Gardens, Westminster, London (1955/1965) by John GayHistoric England

Barrie commissioned Sir George Frampton to create a statue of Peter Pan. It has stood in the park since 1912, on the spot where Peter lands his thrush-nest boat in the story The Little White Bird Or Adventures in Kensington Gardens.

Tom Quad, Christ Church College, Oxford (1860/1922) by Henry William TauntHistoric England

2. Christ Church College, Oxford

Charles Lutwidge Dodgeson, aka Lewis Carroll, lectured at Christ Church. Alice, the daughter of the College's Dean, and Christ Church's historic halls and gardens inspired Carroll's stories of the young heroine in 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass'. 

The interior of the Great Hall at Christ Church College, Oxford (1919-07) by London Midland and Scottish RailwayHistoric England

The Great Hall at Christ Church was for centuries the largest of all the college halls in Oxford. Details in its windows and fireplaces inspired Carroll.

It was also the inspiration for the Great Hall at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the films of JK Rowling's tales of the boy-wizard, Harry Potter.

Read the List entries for Christ Church and its garden.

83 St Aldate's Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire (1943-01-01/1943-04-20) by Margaret Tomlinson, National Buildings RecordHistoric England

3. 83 St Aldate's Street, Oxford

The shop at 83 St Aldate's Street in Oxford was the inspiration behind the Old Sheep Shop in 'Through the Looking Glass', the 1871 sequel to Lewis Carroll's 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'. Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church College, and inspiration for Carroll's Alice, would buy sweets here.

Read the List entry for 83 St Aldate's Street.

Hardwick House, Whitchurch-on-Thames, Oxfordshire (1888) by Henry William TauntHistoric England

4. Hardwick House, Whitchurch-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Situated on the banks of the River Thames, the Tudor-style Hardwick House is one of several houses that are said to have inspired EH Shepard's vision of Toad Hall, illustrated in Kenneth Grahame's 1908 children's novel, 'The Wind in the Willows'. He also illustrated editions of other classic children's stories, including 'Winnie-the-Pooh', 'The Secret Garden' and 'Tom Brown's School Days'.

Hardwick House, Whitchurch-on-Thames, Oxfordshire (1890/1921) by William James DayHistoric England

Kenneth Grahame lived near the River Thames as a child and returned there after he retired from the Bank of England. His experiences by and on the river were an obvious inspiration for 'Wind in the Willows', which has been described as 'one of the most famous books in the English language'.

Read the List entry for Hardwick House.

Coniston Water, Lake District, Cumbria (1947-08-11) by Aerofilms LtdHistoric England

5. Coniston Water, Lake District, Cumbria

For hundreds of years, England's Lake District has been an inspiration for poets, artists and writers, including Arthur Ransome, author of the children's classic 'Swallows and Amazons'. Ransome spent childhood holidays here and would return in adulthood when finances allowed. A summer at Coniston Water in 1928 proved the inspiration for his most famous children's story about holiday adventures and Lakeland life. 

Coniston Water, Lake District, Cumbria (1939) by Walter ScottHistoric England

Arthur Ransome wrote 'Swallows and Amazons' at Low Ludderburn on Cartmel Fell, a house he lived in betweeen 1925 and 1935.

Read the List entry for Low Ludderburn.

The ruins of Corfe Castle, Dorset (1933/1966) by Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of EnglandHistoric England

6. Corfe Castle, Dorset

During her lifetime, Enid Blyton, produced over 600 books. Her Famous Five series resulted in twenty-one titles, the first of which, 'Five on a Treasure Island' was published in 1942. Blyton often holidayed in the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset and it is said that Corfe Castle is the inspiration for Kirrin Castle that features in the Famous Five stories.

Corfe Castle, Dorset (1953-05-04) by Aerofilms LtdHistoric England

Read the List entry for Corfe Castle.

Bramshill House, Bramshill Park, Bramshill, Hampshire (2016-09-14) by Steve Baker, Historic EnglandHistoric England

7. Bramshill House, Bramshill, Hampshire

Charles Kingsley's 'The Water Babies' is a moral fairy-tale of a young chimney sweep who appears to drown in a steam after being chased out of a country house, accused of being a thief. Kingsley was Rector to Sir John Cope, who lived at Bramshill House. It is thought that Bramshill was the inspiration for Hartover Place, the house from which Tom, the unfortunate sweep, is chased.

Bramshill House, Bramshill Park, Bramshill, Hampshire (2016-09-14) by Steve Baker, Historic EnglandHistoric England

Read the List entries for the house and gardens at Bramshill.

Great Maytham, Rolvenden, Kent (2017-10-03) by Damian Grady, Historic EnglandHistoric England

8. Great Maytham, Rolvenden, Kent

The writer Frances Hodgson Burnett lived at Great Maytham between 1898 and 1909. It is said that the rose garden here was an inspiration behind her 1911 book 'The Secret Garden'. It tells of the rediscovery of a neglected rose garden at Misselthwaite Manor, and the transformation of the lives of the children who live there. 

Great Maytham, Rolvenden, Kent (2017-10-03) by Damian Grady, Historic EnglandHistoric England

While spending much of her life in America, Hodgson was born in Cheetham Hill, Manchester. Another inspiration for 'The Secret Garden' is said to be an abandoned garden that she knew during her childhood in Manchester.

Read the List entries for the house and gardens at Great Maytham.

The Old Quad at Rugby School, Rugby, Warwickshire (1920/1939) by Marshall Keene and CompanyHistoric England

9. Rugby School, Rugby, Warwickshire

Thomas Hughes was sent to Rugby School in 1834. His experiences there inspired his story about life in an English public school, 'Tom Brown's School Days', which was published in 1857. In under five years it had sold 28,000 copies and by 1892 had gone through fifty-three editions.

Detail of graffiti at Rugby School, Rugby, Warwickshire (1920/1939) by Marshall Keene and CompanyHistoric England

This photograph shows some graffiti carved into some wood at Rugby School. At the bottom is 'Hughes'. Could this have been made by Thomas Hughes?

Cadbury Cocoa and Chocolate Works, Bournville, Birmingham (1928-08-07) by Aerofilms LtdHistoric England

10. Cadbury Cocoa and Chocolate Works, Bournville, Birmingham

Roald Dahl is probably the nation's favourite writer of children's books. 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory', first published in 1964, is one of his enduring classics. Inspiration for the story came early to Dahl. While a pupil at Repton School, Dahl and his classmates taste-tested Cadbury's latest chocolate inventions. It is little wonder that the adventures of Charlie Bucket would emerge to delight countless children.  

A loading bay at Cadbury's Chocolate Factory, Bournville, Birmingham (1928-05-01) by London Midland and Scottish RailwayHistoric England

Roald Dahl loved chocolate and believed that children should learn the dates of chocolate bars rather than the dates of the kings and queens of England!

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Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England's spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops.

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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.
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