The month of October saw the London Literature Festival return to the capital. From the 13th of October to the beginning of November, the Southbank Centre played host to an array of names from the literary world, from Philip Pullman and Lauren Childs to Claudia Rankin and Hilary Clinton.
Travel five miles west of Southbank and you come to Wandsworth. Although not necessarily known for its literary heritage, the area has an unexpectedly strong connection to the world of writing, with many well-known authors having called the south-west London borough home at some point in their lives. With former residents ranging from Thackery and Hardy to Mary Shelley and Voltaire, Wandsworth’s literary club has almost as many illustrious members as the Bloomsbury group. Here is your guide to who’s who in London’s unassuming literary capital.
William Makepeace Thackeray
The man who would later go on to write the acclaimed Vanity Fair is one of the borough’s most cited literary residents. Indeed, Thackeray lived in South West London for much of his childhood after his family returned from India, at one point attending school in Chiswick.
Mary Anne Evans, known by her pen name ‘George Eliot’, was one of the leading novelists of the 19th century. From 1859 to 1863, she lived at Holly Lodge on Wimbledon Park Road with her lover, George Henry Lewes. Although the union was a scandalous one due to Lewes being married, the couple went on to live together for 20 years. Eliot was fond of the area, and wrote in a letter in 1859 of the “glorious breezy walks and wide horizons” surrounding her house. She completed her novels The Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner whilst living in Wandsworth, and even once entertained Charles Dickens in her home.
Despite being a notable Irish resident, playwright Sean O’Casey spent 11 years in London after falling in love with Eileen Carey on a visit to the capital to collect the Hawthornden Prize. During this time, the couple were Wandsworth residents at 49 Overstrand Mansions, Prince of Wales Drive in Battersea, where an English Heritage blue plaque can be seen today. O’Casey was famed for writing about the Dublin working classes, with his notable works including The Shadow of a Gunman and Juno and the Paycock.
The prolific French writer, historian and philosopher was sent to England in exile in 1726 following a brief imprisonment at the Bastille. During the two years he resided in London, Voltaire lived mainly in Wandsworth with various friends. One such friend was Everard Fawkener, with whom Voltaire lived at Sword House – the site that is now Wandsworth Police Station.
Louis de Bernières
De Bernières was a Wandsworth resident for 10 years, residing in Earlsfield. It was during this time that he wrote some of his most famous works, including his novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World, the latter of which is a tribute to the borough’s diverse community.
Wells was one of the most prolific writers of the Victorian era. Although his work covered many genres, he is most well-known for his pioneering of science fiction, being dubbed by the literary community as the “father of science fiction”. He was famously the author of The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, and was nominated for the Nobel Literature Prize 4 times. He lived on Haldon Road, Wandsworth, from 1981, where he moved after marrying his cousin, Isabel Wells. Their wedding also took place in Wandsworth’s All Saints Church.
No. 68 Lower Richmond Street, just back from the Thames in Putney was once home to Mary Shelley, the author of ‘Frankenstein. It was here, and before at nearby Layton House, where she lived after the death of her husband, the poet Percy Shelley, and spent much time working on his ‘memoirs’.
Despite being more commonly associated with Dorset, Hardy lived in London for a number of years from his early twenties. Before he came to establish himself as a writer, he lived in Wandsworth with his wife, Emma. The Hardys occupied a house on the corner of Trinity Road and Broderick Road near the common – now the sort-after Bellevue Village. They lived here from 1878 to 1881, until they returned to his childhood home of Dorset.
Just up the road from Hardy’s house on Trinity Road sits Charles Baker Place – a new development comprising of nine family homes including modern townhouses, mews houses, and cottages. Each property is finished to the highest standard and boasts desirable features including off-road parking.
So if you like the idea of joining the glittering alumni of Wandsworth’s illustrious former residents, why not arrange a viewing?
Currently, there is one four-bedroom mews available with double height studio and two five-bedroom townhouses with single storey garden studios.
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