Monk’s House - History and Facts | History Hit

Monk’s House

Rodmell, England, United Kingdom

Peta Stamper

26 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Daderot / CC

About Monk’s House

Monk’s House is a 16th century weatherboarded cottage in Rodmell, 3 miles south of Lewes in Sussex. The house is known as the home of author and Bloomsbury Set member Virginia Woolf and her husband, the editor and socialist-activist, Leonard Woolf.

Monk’s House is today owned by the National Trust and is a historic house and museum open to visitors. A highlight of any visit must include Virginia’s writing lodge at the bottom of the garden with views of Mount Caburn.

Monk’s House history

Virginia and Leonard Woolf bought Monk’s House in 1919 whilst searching for a quiet writing retreat far from the bustle of London. Monk’s House was also close to where Virginia’s sister, Vanessa Bell, lived at Charleston. When the couple moved in, there was no water, gas or electricity, and the location was remote from city living. The house was accompanied by a small garden including an orchard and several outbuildings.

However, the Woolfs made a number of alterations to the property, including improving the kitchen, installing hot water and a 2 storey extension in 1929. Virginia’s bedroom was built without a link to the indoors of the house, which was rustic and featured decorative furniture painted by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. At Monk’s House, Virginia and Leonard would host and entertain artists, thinkers and writers, particularly from the Bloomsbury Set.

In 1928, they bought the adjoining field to preserve the views of Mount Caburn and installed a small wooden writing lodge for Virginia – a room of her own. It was in this lodge that her novels took shape: notably ‘Orlando’ in 1928 about Vita Sackville-West, ‘The Waves’ in 1931 and ‘The Years’ in 1937. Virginia also occasionally slept in the lodge on warmer summer evenings.

In March 1941, as World War Two raged on, Virginia died by drowning herself in the nearby River Ouse. Following her death, Leonard continued to live at Monk’s House and play an active role within Rodmell village life until his death in 1969. Monk’s House was left to Leonard’s painter friend, Trekkie Parsons, who sold it to the University of Sussex who in turn, passed the property to the National Trust in 1980.

Monk’s House today

Today, the ground floor including the sitting room, dining room, kitchen and Virginia’s bedroom and lodge are available to explore, recreated to look as if the Woolfs still lived there. The walls and furnishings are covered in artwork by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, painted for Virginia. Try to note her initials in the designs.

After touring the intimate home, step out into the idyllic garden, the stone paved walkways bordered by a rainbow of tulips. The lodge contains not only Virginia’s writing desk, but a photo exhibition documenting the visitors to Monk’s House – many of the photos taken by Virginia herself.

Getting to Monk’s House

For keen cyclists, Rodmell is a short cycle off the South Downs Way via the Egrets Way from Newhaven and Lewes. Follow Virginia’s steps and walk from Southease train station or Lewes, the latter a 1.4 mile walk. For those driving from Brighton or London, take the A27 and follow the Lewes exit towards Kingston. There is parking 100 metres from Monk’s House.

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