I went down to Sussex this week to visit an old friend, and we spent a very pleasant, sunny afternoon visiting Monk’s House, the former home of writer Virginia Woolf, in Rodmell, a pretty village not far from Lewes. Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard bought it in 1919, and it became the country retreat for the Bloomsbury Group.
It’s a pretty little eighteenth century weatherboarded cottage, the sort of place you could imagine yourself retiring to.
But it’s the garden that’s the real attraction – three-quarters of an acre of brick paths, low stone walls and tumbling roses, with the spire of Rodmell church in the background.
Beyond the main garden there’s an orchard and a waterlily pond.
In 1928 the Woolfs bought an adjoining field to preserve the beautiful views from the garden. You can see why.
Over the years the Woolfs altered and added to the house, building on a two-storey extension in 1929. The ground floor of this, with its windows looking out onto the garden, became Virginia’s bedroom.
Virginia wrote many of her novels in the small wooden lodge at the bottom of the garden, which has been restored to show her writing desk.
The Woolfs lived full-time at Monk’s House from 1940 when their flat in Mecklenburgh Square in Bloomsbury was damaged during an air raid.
But her love affair with the house came to a sad end when Virginia committed suicide by drowning herself in the nearby River Ouse in 1941. Her ashes are buried in the garden. Leonard continued to live at Monk’s House until his death in 1969.
Monk’s House now belongs to the National Trust and is open Wednesday to Sunday afternoons.