Clouds Hill: Desert to Dorset

A visitor relaxing in the garden at Clouds Hill ©National Trust/Tony Gill

To mark 100 years since T E Lawrence’s part in the Great Arab Revolt, the National Trust team at Clouds Hill in Dorset will be hosting an array of events from 6-21 May which explore the life of this secretive and fascinating man.

Bronze bust of T E Lawrence by Eric Kennington in the Book Room at Clouds Hill ©National Trust/John Hammond

Bronze bust of T E Lawrence by Eric Kennington in the Book Room at Clouds Hill ©National Trust/John Hammond

Born the illegitimate son of an Anglo-Irish baronet and his Scottish governess, Lawrence gained fame as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ before seeking obscurity in the pseudonym ‘T E Shaw’ at Bovington Camp, near his retreat Clouds Hill. The events will cover aspects of his life, from a cycle ride to celebrate his love of cycling and visits from Brough motorbikes, to talks on his life including performances of his writings and a look at his relationship with local author, Thomas Hardy.

Marilyn Holehouse talks about Lawrence, Clouds Hill ©National Trust/Tony Gill

Marilyn Holehouse talks about Lawrence, Clouds Hill ©National Trust/Tony Gill

Over the fortnight, spanning the anniversary of his death, there will be ten speakers giving free talks on key parts of Lawrence’s life, from ‘T E Lawrence: Influences of family life’, by Marilyn Holehouse, to ‘Why Aqaba?’ and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’s War’, by Roger Holehouse and Neil Faulkner respectively, examining his military tactics and strategy around 1917. All talks take place at Clouds Hill during opening hours and are free, but normal admission applies.

As well as these talks, visitors have the opportunity to book into ‘Breakfast Wet/Fine’, a collection of readings of extracts of Lawrence’s correspondence. These are given in the intimate setting of his ‘Music Room’, where he would entertain such literary greats as Thomas Hardy and E M Forster.  Held on Monday 8 and Friday 12 May at 9.30-10.30am, this special out-of-hours event includes a Lawrence style breakfast, and the chance to see the cottage as it wakes up in the morning, before the bustle of normal visiting hours.  Booking is essential.  Tickets £10, please call 01929 405616 to arrange.

Andy Munro reads from Lawrence, Clouds Hill ©National Trust/Tony Gill

Andy Munro reads from Lawrence, Clouds Hill ©National Trust/Tony Gill

On Thursday 19 May at 4pm, there will also be a performance at Thomas Hardy’s home of Max Gate, imagining one of the regular tea visits and the subsequent conversations that took place between these two very different literary figures. Booking not required.  Tickets £3/£2 plus normal admission.  For more information ring 01305 262538.

The middle of the fortnight will be marked by a visit to the cottage of the Dorset Brough Group on Saturday 13 May at 2pm (weather permitting). They will be bringing a selection of Brough motorcycles, as favoured by T E Lawrence, and one of the few luxury items that he indulged himself.

The fortnight will then end on a ‘Round the Houses’ cycle ride between Dorchester, Thomas Hardy’s houses of Max Gate and Hardy’s Cottage, and Clouds Hill. This is organised in partnership with West Dorset Cyclists Touring Club, as part of an initiative to encourage visitors to use greener transport to visit National Trust properties and share in Lawrence and Hardy’s love of cycling.  It also gives visitors the chance to see, hear and breathe in the beautiful and varied Dorset scenery from a higher vantage point.  Tickets £10, includes admission to three properties on day; registration 9.30am for 10am start from Top o’ Town car park, Dorchester.

For more information on any of the events, please visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/clouds-hill/ or ring Clouds Hill (National Trust) on 01929 405616.

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