Cloud’s Hill - History and Facts | History Hit

Cloud’s Hill

Bovington, England, United Kingdom

Peta Stamper

21 May 2021
Image Credit: CC / LordHarris

About Cloud’s Hill

Cloud’s Hill is an isolated idyllic cottage in Dorset, England, and is known as the former home of T. E. Lawrence. The humble cottage became a sanctuary for Lawrence, who returned from Arabia as the media’s romanticised hero pictured in Arabic dress, becoming ‘Lawrence of Arabia‘.

The cottage has been owned by the National Trust since 1936 and is open for the public between 11am and 5pm every day, remaining largely as it did when T. E. Lawrence lived there.

Cloud’s Hill history

The cottage at Cloud’s Hill was originally built as a forester’s cottage in the early 19th century. Dilapidated and uncomfortable, Lawrence began renting Cloud’s Hill in 1923 when he was stationed nearby at Bovington Camp with the Tanks Corps. After World War One, Lawrence gained significant celebrity and recognition for his service as an intelligence officer in the Middle East. Seeking solace from this attention, he bought the secluded Cloud’s Hill in 1923.

With the help of his friend, Lawrence renovated the cottage in the Arts and Crafts style, using it as a holiday home. Cloud’s Hill was a place of comfort and also little luxury: there were no electric lights and instead of heating, Lawrence lined the walls with asbestos and aluminium foil.

Lawrence made Cloud’s Hill a sanctuary for himself and others, the mantle over the front door a Greek inscription from Herodotus reading ‘OU PHRONTIS’ meaning ‘Don’t worry’. The cottage welcomed the likes of Siegfried Sassoon and Thomas Hardy, Lawrence himself avidly writing and reading, amassing a large book collection. His writing also hinted at queer experiences: Lawrence dedicated ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ to Dahoum Ahmed, a man he had an intimate relationship with in Syria.

Weeks after having left the Royal Air Force in 1935, Lawrence suffered serious injuries in a motorbike accident close to Cloud’s Hill. He died shortly after, leaving Cloud’s Hill to his brother who passed the property to the National Trust.

Cloud’s Hill today

Since falling under the National Trust’s management, Cloud’s Hill has continued to welcome visitors, telling them to leave their worries at the door. Inside you can see the Book Room, where Lawrence would spend evenings reading on a large leather bed or in the small chair made to fit his slight frame.

Another highlight is the Bunk Room: while Lawrence slept at the barracks, guests could sleep on a ship-style bunk he made himself. The walls are lined with metal foil to keep the room cool as he also stored his food their in glass jars.

Outside, the Motorbike Shed provides a display about Lawrence’s life and reminds visitors of his passion for motorbikes. After exploring Cloud’s Hill cottage and the shed, clamber up through the trees to the top of the small hill overlooking the cottage. Stop for a sandwich and enjoy Lawrence of Arabia’s favourite meditative spot.

Getting to Cloud’s Hill

By train, you can reach Cloud’s Hill from London: head to Wool and get a taxi for the final 3 miles. Alternately, you could get the train to Moreton and walk the Lawrence Trail, joining from the church and following the land to a footbridge over the River Frome.

By car, Head to the A35 and take the Tolpuddle Ball exit and onto the B3390. Follow signs to Bovington Camp/Wareham. There is free parking.

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