The Montagu Arms, Beaulieu – stayed in by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he was researching The White Company. Conan Doyle wanted to focus instead on his historical novels, and it was while researching for The White Company – said to be his favourite work – that he discovered the New Forest. This led to him buying a country home, Bignell Wood, near Minstead, as a birthday present for his second wife Jean, and the couple used it as a rural retreat from their main home at Crowborough in East Sussex. The village of Minstead featured strongly in The White Company.
Grave of Arthur Conan Doyle, All Saints Church, Minstead – Conan Doyle turned to spiritualism following the deaths of several close family members around the time of the First World War. It is said that Bignell Wood was used to hold séances and that local postmen refused to deliver mail to the door; also that Charles Dickens and Joseph Conrad ‘came through’ to Conan Doyle to ask him to complete their unfinished works. He was first buried in the grounds of his Crowborough estate and his widow was buried alongside him when she died 10 years later. In 1955, when the last of the Crowborough estate grounds were sold out of the family, the couple’s remains were removed and re-interred at All Saints’ Church in Minstead. The grave can still be visited
Grave of Alice Liddell (Alice in Wonderland) Churchyard of St Michael and All Angels, Lyndhurst – Alice Pleasance Liddell (1852 – 1934) was the little girl who inspired Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Under her married name of Alice Hargreaves, she came to live in Lyndhurst and was a society hostess. Alice was four years old when the author, whose real name was Charles Dodgson, became a close family friend. His fantastic stories were made up to entertain young Alice and her sisters on a boat outing and formed the basis for Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, the first draft of the Alice stories, which went on to become the most popular children’s books in England. Alice’s connection with the New Forest began in 1880 after she married wealthy Reginald Hargreaves, who had inherited the Cuffnells country estate near Lyndhurst. Alice became a society heiress and was the first president of Emery Down Women’s Institute. She is said to have found being the original storybook Alice something of a burden.
The ‘crinkle crankle’ wall in Lymington, built by Devil Rides Out author Dennis Wheatley – His house, Grove Place in Lymington, has been demolished but the wall he is said to have built (a specific style found in the area known as crinkle crankle, because of its wavy construction) reportedly survives. Described as a ‘mini stately home’ by his friends, Grove was an eighteenth century Georgian mansion of modest size built onto a Jacobean farmhouse. When DW moved in, there was a fair amount of work to be done, and he set about renovating the house and grounds with gusto. He wrote 18 books there, including a series set in the Napoleonic era following the career of dashing Republican secret agent Roger Brook; The Launching Of Roger Brook (1947) and The Ka Of Gifford Hillary (1956).
Beaulieu River – used as London for the film of the Robert Bolt book and play ‘A Man For All Seasons’ (made into an Oscar-winning film starring Paul Schofield and Orson Welles) about the conflict between King Henry VII and Sir Thomas More.
The Ruth Rendell Mysteries (Inspector Wexford novels) were filmed in New Forest at locations including Breamore House and Rhinefield House.
Lymington hosts regular Pens and Personalities Tours encompassing literary connections.
From Dennis Wheatley’s satanic novels to Captain Marryat’s ‘Children of the New Forest’ Lymington has more links with books and their writers than you might think. Come and hear about some of the literati of Lymington and discover where they gained the inspiration to put pen to paper.
And finally, the New Forest Arts Festival 2017 has a literature element – check out the events happening from 10 to 25 June 2017.