"Heaven looked after it in the dissolute times of mid-Victorian restoration and caused the vicar to send his bailiff to live in it for 40 years, and he lived in peaceful filth and left everything as he found it," wrote Rudyard Kipling.
He was writing of Bateman's (tel. 01435/882302), the 17th-century ironmaster's house in the village of Burwash, on the A265, the Lewes-Etchingham road, some 43km (27 miles) northeast of Brighton, close to the border with Kent. Born in Bombay, India, in 1865, Kipling loved the countryside of Sussex, and the book that best expressed his feelings for the shire is Puck of Pook's Hill, written in 1906. The following year he won the Nobel Prize for literature. He lived at Bateman from 1902 until his death in 1936. His widow died 3 years later, leaving the house to the National Trust.
Kipling is known mainly for his adventure stories, such as The Jungle Book (1894) and Captains Courageous (1897). He is also remembered for his tales about India, including Kim (1901). He lived in America after his marriage to Caroline Balestier in 1892. But by 1896, he had returned to the south of England, occupying a house at Rottingdean, a little village on the Sussex Downs, 6.5km (4 miles) east of Brighton. Here he wrote the famous line: "What should they know of England who only England know?" In a steam-driven motorcar, Kipling and Caroline set out to explore Sussex, of which they were especially fond. Though the population of Rottingdean was only that of a small village, they decided at some point that it had become too crowded. In their motorcar one day, they spotted Bateman's, their final home. "It is a good and peaceable place standing in terraced lawns nigh to a walled garden of old red brick, and two fat-headed oasthouses with redbrick stomachs, and an aged silver-grey dovecot on top," Kipling wrote.
The Burwash city fathers invited Kipling to unveil a memorial to the slain of World War I, and he agreed. It's in the center of town at the church. Kipling said that visitors should "remember the sacrifice." Both the church and an inn across the way appear in the section of Puck of Pook's Hill called "Hal o' the Draft." The famous writer and son of Anglo-Indian parents died in London and was given an impressive funeral before being buried in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey.
The interior of Bateman's is filled with Asian rugs, antique bronzes, and other mementos the writer collected in India and elsewhere. Kipling's library is quite interesting. The house and gardens are open mid-March to October Saturday to Wednesday 11am to 5pm. Admission is £7 for adults, £4 for children, and £18 for a family ticket.
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