I’d never made it to Bateman’s, Rudyard Kipling’s home in East Sussex, until recently. I arrived with very basic knowledge of both the writer, his life and his home.
The house and over thirty acres were left to the National Trust after the death of Kipling’s wife in 1939 and much of the house remains similar to how the Kipling’s lived.
Hidden away in the winding lanes near the picturesque village of Burwash, the carpark was full of vintage cars on a car club outing making the scene a little surreal since Kipling was a keen pioneer motorist.
It was easy to picture the Kipling’s house hunting in the very early 1900’s through the winding lanes around East Sussex in their own motor and coming upon Bateman’s, slightly rundown, no running water or electricity and imposing in its Jacobean splendour but no doubt giving that first impression of a project that could be their future home for the next thirty-four years.
I loved the fact that Kipling was apparently quite obsessed with houses, the countryside of West Kent and East Sussex were a delight to him and enabled him to find peace away from the literary limelight.
Whilst at Bateman’s he seemed to have found a haven for his family but sadly it couldn’t protect him from his own personal tragedies including the death of a daughter from pneumonia and later, his son in the First World War. I came away wanting to read much more about Kipling and the events that shaped his life, travels and work.
The house certainly feels like a time capsule, full of varied artefacts from around the world. There are a number of knowledgeable volunteers around the house who can answer any ‘Kipling’ questions. A recording of Kipling’s voice brings him to life and the library is fascinating in its detail with items on show from time spent in India and the Communist bloc. Bateman’s is one of those properties that just feels as if you have stepped back in time and that the owners have just popped out for a drive (one of Kipling’s cars, a not too shabby 1928 Phantom 1 Rolls-Royce, is on display). I felt affected by the house, it clearly harboured sad times, much emotion and many frustrations as well as hopefully being a hideaway that Kipling found therapeutic by enabling him to continue writing, enjoying his love of cars and the space of the countryside.
The gardens are lovely, you can take your dog and there are longer walks around the estate if you don’t want to visit the house. There are a number of areas to the garden to stroll around, a water mill (you can see the milling process in action) and a lovely picnic area, beautiful lilied pond and rose garden (paid for with Kipling’s prize money that he received for winning the 1907 Nobel Prize for literature). Tea and alluring cake in a lovely cafe near to the house.
Definitely worth a visit, it’s so much more than ‘The Jungle Book’.