In the small village of Rodmell in East Sussex, England, there is a 17th-century weather-boarded cottage that served as a weekend home for the famous English novelist Virginia Woolf.
The writer and her husband, political activist and journalist Leonard Woolf, bought the home in 1919.
In the early years in Rodmell, the couple lived in relatively basic conditions. The house was small and it had a three-quarter acre garden.
During the next several years, Woolf made substantial additions to the house. She repaired and improved the kitchen and installed a system for hot water.
In 1928, the couple bought an adjoining field to preserve the magnificent view from the garden to Mount Caburn. The house was expanded by two additional floors in 1929.
Virginia and Leonard spent more and more time in the cottage in the following years. In 1940, their flat in Mecklenburgh Square was damaged during an air raid, so they moved to Rodmell. The calm village life suited Virginia Woolf and Monk’s House is where a many of her novels were written, including Jacob’s Room, Mrs. Dalloway, The Years, Between the Acts, among other. Her last novel, Between the Acts, was published posthumously and it is heavy with references to Rodmell’s inhabitants and their lives, values, and traditions.
The novelist documented her life at Monk’s House in photographs, safeguarded today in the house’s albums. The photographs include portrait and group pictures of the many visitors the Woolfs hosted in Rodmell. Many of them were connected to the Bloomsbury Group, an influential set of English intellectuals, artists, and writers, in which Virginia Woolf was one of the central figures.
The beautiful garden was a very important part of the couple’s life. Leonard started as an amateur horticulturist and later became an expert in the field and founded the Rodmell Horticultural Society. He planted and grafted his own trees and grew vegetables. Virginia’s room in the house looked directly onto the garden.
In March of 1941, Virginia Woolf committed suicide in the nearby River Ouse. Her husband continued to live in the house until his death in 1969. Leonard played an active role in village life. He became a manager of the school in Rodmell in the 1930s and was a president and treasurer of the Rodmell and District Horticultural Society.
After Leonard’s death, the house was entrusted to his close friend, the artist Trekkie Parsons. Parsons sold it to the University of Sussex in 1972, and in 1980 Monk’s House was turned over to the National Trust.
Shortly after, it was opened to the public and the ground floor, including the kitchen, the dining room, and Virginia’s bedroom were put on display. At the bottom of the garden, Virginia’s writing lodge, where her novels came to life, can be seen.