“ Address: Burwash / Etchingham / East Sussex TN19 7DS / Telephone: 01435 882302 „
Now if I asked what type of person your average National Trust member would be, I'm not sure if you would think of a single man in his early 30's? Well that is me, a fairly newly signed up member. I think it's my nosiness, being able to snoop around houses and other historic buildings, lovingly cared for by the NT and their army of volunteers. Being the person I have just described does have its down points when visiting these properties though, but more on that later.
So this morning was a slightly overcast sort of day in the south-east and I decided it was time to make use of my membership once more. A little trip down the A21 was in order to visit the country home of the author Rudyard Kipling. Batemans is a 17th century Jacobean country house, on the outskirts of the village of Burwash, in the glorious Sussex countryside. By the time I had got there the sun was out and I had lovely weather for my trip - another crazy autumn day, as now as I type it is chucking it down outside!!. The journey is a lovely one and mine took me through the pretty villages of Etchingham and Burwash amongst others. The advantage of some of these NT properties being in rural locations is that sometimes the drive can be part of the experience. Batemans is down a little lane from the village and is set in a lovely rolling valley. It has good car parking facilities though they seemed a little small and seemed full when I left. At the entrance there is a ticket booth and toilet facilities, and from there you walk through a lovely garden passing their herb boarders on the way to the main buildings.
Down in the main area of buildings there are a number of outbuildings housing, the gift shop, restaurant, and garage where Kipling's Rolls Royce can be found. The Rolls whilst originally being owned by Kipling in recent years has been in the hands of many different people and even used for transporting baby giraffes at Marwell Zoo!, but has been loaned to Batemans by its current owner. The shop sells you regular NT type of gifts from sweets, biscuits, jams etc to books, CD and other gifts. The Tea room was small, but had a good selection of snacks, main meals and of course my favourite, the NT cream tea. £4.50 will get you two freshly baked scones with jam and cream and a pot of tea of coffee. Mmmmmm. Though in complete fairness the best NT scones I have had, and there have been a few, have been at Chartwell (more on that in another review). Just a quick mention on toilets, there are more toilets here by the tea room, and they are clean and well looked after.
Right, moving onto the house. The house is set in some lovely formal gardens which have a lovely pond as a centrepiece which is full of fish. Now this is where me as a non stereotypical NT member comes into play. Now let's get this straight there are a lot more younger NT member than before, though when you go round sometimes you do get confused looks from the volunteer stewards who I have found in some properties to be a but stuffy and dare I say snobby. Though at Batemans I couldn't have been better looked after, what a lovely bunch of people, clearly enjoying what they were doing and their enjoyment about sharing the history of the property. They were all very welcoming and informative.
The house tour starts in the main hall of the house where you are given a double sided A3 sized map and guide, with things of particular interest to look for in each room. There is a steward as well in each room to offer more help. The hall is a wooden panelled room which leads into a smaller area which has the staircase as well as the parlour and a small sitting room. Both rooms are set out as they were when the house was given to the NT back in 1939 after Mrs Kipling's Death. The Kipling's owned the house from 1902 and Rudyard lived in it until his death in 1936, and most rooms are set up as they would have been back then. All round the house there are reminder of Rudyard's early years in India, as well as scenes from one of his most famous works "The Jungle Book" with bronze and stone pictures and carvings throughout.
Upstairs there is a small guest room which has the Kipling's actual bed in. The helpful steward informed me that this was the couple's bed and was moved into this room as their main bedroom is now an exhibition space. All the furniture is on a grand antique scale. The steward informed the Kipling's theory was he had to have furniture which fitted in with the house's style. From there you enter Kipling's study in which he did many of his most well known work including his poem "If..". His messy desk is how it was, and looking out through the window in front of the desk you can see that the views from his window must have been a great source of inspiration as well as to take time out.
The main bedroom is now an exhibition with lots of interesting bits and pieces from the Kipling's life at Batemans, as well as more about young Rudyard's life. It also has many excerpts of his work including a copy of the poem "If...". Now I have to admit, apart from the jungle book (and that's mainly down to the Disney film) I didn't know much of Kipling's work, so reading a copy of "If...", was an eye-opener. Basically it is a beautifully worded poem which is actually a guide to life for his son John. If you have never read it I highly recommend looking it up online, it's great. There is a small room devoted to The Jungle Book with original pictures adorning the walls. The final room upstairs is the small children's room. The Kipling's had three children, two girls and a boy, and this is a very sweet room, though at the moment it only has one single bed, so goodness knows how two more beds squeezed in the room.
From there you go down some steep stairs to the dining room. Apparently dinner parties at Batemans were known for serving fairly plain food, but they more than made up for that by serving sensational wine!!! Another interesting fact about this room is that the wall "paper" is actually made from calves' skin!
From there you leave the house back into the gardens. You can take a stroll down to the mill where on Weds, Sat and Bank Holidays they actually produce their own flour. Its interesting to look round whether they are grinding or not. It's a nice stroll through the meadow and along the River Dudwell.
All in all Batemans is a lovely place to spend an hour or two, for all ages and as a member entrance to me was free. There are numerous events throughout the year and today there were half term activity trails round the gardens for families. Current prices are below as found on the NT website:
Gift Aid Admission (Standard Admission prices in brackets) March to October: adult £8.60 (£7.80), child £4.30 (£3.90), family £21.50 (£19.50)
Please check http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-batemans.htm for more info about Batemans including winter opening times, accessibility and special events.
Mention the words "National Trust" and you'll likely get a variety of responses but one response is likely to be "oh yes, they of the stuffy houses and posh gardens oft frequented by late middle-aged, middle class bores". OK, maybe the language might not be that florid but the sentiment stands. Well, once, maybe this was the case, but the NT is changing and over the last few years has made a real effort to be less stuffy and far more accessible to all, so much so that we carried on a family tradition and bought my son life membership of the NT for his 5th birthday.
Bateman's is typical of many trust properties, a fine house and extensive manicured gardens - what was I just saying?! - but has much to offer all ages and interests. Situated in Burwash, East Sussex, not far from the historical towns of Rye and Battle, Bateman's is ideally placed to form part of a long weekend away (as we did) or a break from some of the more traditional seaside haunts of Hastings, Camber and, at a push, Eastbourne. It's a venue most easily accessed by car (and is clearly signposted) but there's also a station at Etchingham, around 3 miles from Bateman's with a bus service to Burwash (but you'll still be left with a bit of a walk and the busses are not that frequent!).
There's a large-ish car park on site (with facilities for bikes) and from the car park it's a short stroll to the ticket office and public conveniences. We were there on a July Sunday afternoon, arriving around 2.45pm. The car park at that stage was fairly full and we ended up in the overflow field, taking the space of a departing car. There was an event on over the weekend we visited and this might have contributed to increased visitor numbers but nonetheless the journey to the ticket office was easy, level and short making it one of the more accessible properties in the area.
On entering the property you are immediately met with a fairly formal garden which is home to a myriad of fruit trees and vegetable plots. For such a utility garden it is surprisingly attractive and a rather unusual first sight. From here it is a short path that takes you to the buildings that for many hold the most interest. Bateman's was once home to literary great, Rudyard Kipling, and it was here that he made house with his American wife, Carrie. Whilst the allure of Kipling makes Bateman's interesting the actual house far pre-dates Kipling's acquisition of it in 1902. The house dates, according to the engraving above the main door, to 1634. It is Jacobean in style and desparately attractive, being neither too large or grandiose to stop you from thinking "I could live here!". Unfortunately, for me, the allure of the house was to the exterior only, once inside I found it rather dark and oppressive in the main.
For those interesting in Kipling, his life and works, the house contains many exhibits and curios. There are some particularly nice illustrations inspired by what is perhaps one of his most famous works, The Jungle Book. Kipling's car, a wonderful Royal blue Phantom Rolls Royce, is also on display at the property in the garage.
Throughout the house (and gardens) printed guides are available telling you more about the property and exhibits. There are also, as with all NT properties, room guides who hold in their heads so much information about the property. All were helpful and clearly enthusiastic about their roles, imparting knowledge and answering questions. The NT seem to be making a concerted effort to remove ropes and barriers from properties and to allow visitors to interact with exhibits as much as possible. At Bateman's the ability to interact is fairly limited but there were some hands-on games and toys in Kipling's daughter's bedroom which amused many of the children.
Bateman's is also home to a working watermill. The mill is run on occasion (Wednesdays and Saturdays at the time of writing) and still grinds grain to flour which can be purchased on site. The mill is reasonably accessible to all who are able to climb stairs and is set out over two floors. Even when not in operation it is still easy to see how the mill works and a great place to educate kids.
Between the house and the mill lie several gardens, the most impressive of which lies next to the house and was created by Kipling upon winning the Nobel prize for literature. The centrepiece is a rectangular pond which was teeming with fish (Golden orf) and fry. Around this lies a formal garden that manages to marry formality with a very chilled-out and relaxed feel. Perfect for a sunny day and a book!
The mill stream area provides a more natural, wooded area for walks and part of this opens out into a meadow into which the NT have placed a bird hide and several bug hotels, perfect for a bit of nature watching.
It can often be hard to engage children in sites such as these but again NT are learning. Over holiday periods children's trails are available, encouraging youngsters to play detective, look for certain things and perhaps answer some questions. This summer there is an excellent Jungle Book trail where children have to locate stone statues of some of the Jungle Book animals hidden around the gardens. We've found that these trails allow us as adults the chance to explore more of a property than otherwise we might, although the downside is that, once an object is located junior invariably wants to dash off to find the next even if mum and dad want to linger a little longer! This particular trail cost us an additional £2.50 but a book prize at the end (worth around £7 RRP) made it feel like particularly good value.
Bateman's often hosts a number of events, particularly over the summer. When we visited there was an event on with Kipling readings on the lawn, "history in action" displays and reconstructions of soldiers and battles from the pre-war periods (including an excellent firearms display) and even tea with the Raj.
When you get peckish there is an excellent tea-room serving light snacks and drinks. They also sell wonderful local ice-cream. There's not much space for a formal picnic but there are spots should you so desire.
The NT shop is small and not easily accessible to those with mobility problems. This area, is, however, the only one suffering in this way (even the house has an audio-visual tour available for those who cannot manage the stairs). Toilets are available both at the entrance and near to the house and all are clean. Dogs, other than assistance dogs, are not allowed in the grounds, only on leads in the car park but there is, apparently, a dog crèche (whatever that may be!).
***Opening Times and Prices***
The property is open between 11 and 5, Monday - Wednesday and Saturday and Sunday between mid-March and the end of October and at Weekends during December. The gardens, shop and tea-rooms have slightly extended opening hours and are also open in the autumn and early spring. Best to consult the website for accurate details before visiting.
Entrance fees for peak periods (as at August 2011) are £8.60 for adults, £4.30 for children and £21.50 for a family. These prices include an element of Gift Aid which enables the NT to claim tax on the whole amount paid. You have the option of paying a lower price which does not include the Gift Aid element but no tax can be reclaimed by the NT on any of this price. As an example, a Gift Aid price of £11 would result in the NT being able to claim £3.10 from the Government making a total of £14.10 against a non-Gift Aid price of £10. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this split pricing - it's never been an issue for us as we are members (and the original membership was subject to the Gift Aid scheme) but there's a little bit of me that's uneasy with presenting a higher price by default with the option of a reduction. I think I might feel awkward asking for a lower price yet I'd rather more folks visited at a lower fee than less at a higher.
*** In Short ***
Overall I think Bateman's offers good value for money, particularly during events. You'd probably look to spending a couple of hours here plus any time added for picnicking or time in the tea-rooms. There are a number of other NT properties in the vicinity if you fancy making a day of it (and you may be able to justify NT annual membership on the basis of the number of properties nearby).
After visiting Portsmouth Historic Dockyard I continued my holiday. On 13 September 2010 I visited Bateman's, the home of Rudyard Kipling.
Brief information about Rudyard Kipling:
Rudyard Kipling was an English short-story writer, poet, and novelist. Rudyard Kipling was born in British India in 1865 and died in 1936. He is best known for his works of fiction The Jungle Book and Rudyard Kipling poems, including Mandalay, Gunga Din and If.
Rudyard Kipling received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907 and is regarded as a major "innovator in the art of the short story". Rudyard Kipling is the first English language writer to receive Nobel Prize for Literature, and to date he remains its youngest recipient.
Brief information about Bateman's:
Bateman's is located in Burwash, East Sussex. Rudyard Kipling lived in Bateman's from 1902 to his death in 1936. Rudyard Kipling's wife left the house to the National Trust on her death in 1939. That said Rudyard Kipling and his wife fell in love with Bateman's at the first time they saw Bateman's.
Bateman's is a 17th-century house surrounded by the wooded landscape of the Sussex Weald. Six brick columns form a massive central chimneystack above the gabled facades. Today the rooms remain much as they were when the Kipling family lived there.
My personal experience:
The day I visited Bateman's was not a weekend or a holiday, and the weather was not good, quite cold and cloudy. I thought there would be no visitors. However when I arrived Bateman's parking and saw many cars I realised that I was wrong. Bateman's parking is big and free. The reception, next to the parking, is quite small, and just has one staff. At the same time the reception is also a shop selling fruits grown in the garden of Bateman's. After showing my National Trust membership card I started my visit to Bateman's from the Orchard Garden.
1. The Orchard Garden
The Orchard Garden is situated at the rear part of Bateman's and lies on the gently sloping side of the Dudwell valley. Accessing via the main visitor entrance I saw a large expanse of lawn interspersed with an array of fruit trees. They are relatively current but are within a much earlier structural framework provided by old brick walls accompanied by straight tarmac paths. Because it is in autumn you can see pears and apples on these trees. I was particularly impressive with the pear trees. To be honest it was my first time to see so many pear trees. At the bottom of the slope, in the eastern corner of the Orchard Garden is the Pear Alley, which was designed by Rudyard Kipling and has been retained as a centrepiece. Incidentally, adjacent to the orchard, fringing the northerly path is a long, wide border of herbs. At the north eastern end of the orchard is the kitchen garden that provided food and cut flower for Kipling family.
2. The Rolls Royce
Leaving the Orchard Garden I walked in a garage, where one Rolls Royce, Phantom I, is displayed. Kipling bought the car in 1928. That said Kipling was one of those pioneer motorists for whom a short drive in a 'horseless carriage' was an adventure. He owned a number of Lanchesters and Rolls-Royces. There is an information panel on the wall that lists the technological index of Phantom I. Because it's a classical car so you can only see it through glass.
3. The House
Bateman's is built of local sandstone, quarried from a site across the lane. The tiles are all baked from Wealden clay. My first impression of the house is peaceable and comfortable.
Walking in the short entrance I came in the Hall where visitors would be received. The 17th century panelling, the simple stone doorways and the plain moulded fireplace of this room were what first attracted Rudyard Kipling to Bateman's. There is a mirror in gilt carved wood frame surmounted by a gilt eagle. The balls round the frame represent the number of states in the Union at that time.
At the Inner Hall there are Bronzed plaster reliefs that depicted Mowgli and other characters from Rudyard Kipling's early books. Interestingly those reliefs were made by Kipling's father, John Lockwood Kipling, who was a ceramics designer. I can see the Indian culture from these reliefs.
To the left side of the Inner Hall is the Parlour, where Rudyard Kipling would sit in front of the fire and talk with his guest or play word games after dinner. One staff kindly showed me a brass seal with swastika motif in a cupboard. Then I first time know the origin of the word 'swastika'. Surprisingly it's not originally from German. The name of Swastika comes from the Sanskrit and is derived from Svasti meaning well-being and prosperity. Rudyard Kipling was strongly influenced by Indian culture and had s swastika on the dust jackets of all his books until the rise of Nazism made this inappropriate. In the Parlour I also saw several portraits of Rudyard Kipling which I found very interesting. Until this point of my visit I had never seen an image of Kipling.
To the right side of the Inner Hall is Elsie's sitting room that was used for Kipling's children to have their lessons under the directions of a governess. When Elsie, his younger daughter, became sixteen it was made into her sitting room.
There is an exit to garden from the Inner Hall, and a staircase leading to the first floor. Stepping up I saw a portrait of Kipling on the stairs, which was painted by John Collier in 1900 shortly after losing his oldest daughter.
First I went into Kipling's Study. This room was his principal work space. I was surprised to see how small it was. I always imagined a Nobel Literature Prize winner required much larger space in which to be creative. There I saw his book collection: the classics of English literature and 500 volumes of India; large selections on the Navy and the Empire; books on beekeeping, angling, rural England and rat catching, etc. There is a photographic portrait of Dr L. S. Jameson who was one of Kipling's heroes and inspired his most famous poem, 'If'. There is a portrait of Kipling's wife, hanging above the fireplace. And in front of the fireplace there is a rug made from a wolverine skin.
Opposite to Kipling's Study it is the West Bedroom that was used by some distinguished visitors, one of which was Kipling's cousin, the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. The West Bedroom is quite small, but offers magnificent views over the garden and estate. There is a portrait of Kipling painted by John Collier, wearing an Indian tunic during the period he was living in London. There is a portable wardrobe at a corner that was used for travel. One staff kindly pointed out the pearlware jug to me. The pearlware jug was painted in blue and gold leap by Kipling's father; pear shaped body decorated with two portraits of Bacchus and male accompanist, in a horseshoe frame. After a shot chat with the staff I popped over to the Exhibition Room.
The highlight of Bateman's is the Exhibition Room that once served as a bedroom for Rudyard Kipling and his wife. At the Exhibition Room there are many valuable items displayed. I would like to mention a few that particularly interested me. Nelson relic, a piece of HMS Victory's Trafalgar bunting; The alphabet necklace from the story 'How The Alphabet Was Made' designed by Kipling to entertain his children and those of his friends; Kipling's pictures from his childhood to adult; Last but definitely least, the certificate of Nobel Prize in Literature that was awarded to Rudyard Kipling "in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author".
Aside the Exhibition Room there is a tiny room that probably was used as The Powder Closet. In 1660s it was fashionable for men to wear wigs. As the job of powdering them was extremely messy a room would be set aside for the purpose. People guess Rudyard Kipling used The Powder Closet as a dressing room. Now you can see characters from Kipling's books.
Before I went downstairs I had a short visit to the Kipling bedroom. The room gathered the memories of their three children. Although Rudyard Kipling and his wife always put on a brave face in public, they didn't recover from the deaths of two of their children and the grief never eased.
The downstairs Dinning Room was dominated by the English Cordoba leather wall hangings. The room was used to entertain many famous guests, such as President Clemenceau of France and Lawrence of Arabia. There is a fire screen made out of a piece of antique embroidery with the scenes from the life of the Hindu god Krishna. A oil painting is hanged above the fireplace. Surprisingly Kipling's wife didn't like it. However they couldn't get it rid of as it was a gift from one of their friends. So the solution was when she sat at the room for meal she always gave her back to the painting.
That's all what I saw at the house of Bateman's. Then I left to the Garden.
4. The Garden, The Wild Garden and The Meadow
The Garden is well designed with grass, trees and a pond. There is a site of Kipling's old grass tennis court ,a number of Kipling's pet graves. At my way to the Wild Garden I saw a stone that was originally marked Rudyard Kipling's grave in Westminster Abbey and was later replaced by a larger tombstone in poets corner.
The Wild Garden is situated at the southern end of the garden, extending south-westwards along the banks of the River Dudwell and the mill leat. There is a 18th working watermill at the end of the Wild Garden. The mill grinds corn most Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2pm. Unfortunately the day I visited Bateman's was Monday so I didn't see it. However walking around the mill and reading the information panel I finally figured out how the mill does the work.
On leaving the mill I had a short stay at the bench of the Meadow. The Meadow has been used for farming for many years. In 1902 when Rudyard Kipling bought Bateman's it came with 33 acres, but he bought more land as it became available. Today most of what you see to the north, west and east belongs to Bateman's.
I also stopped at Bateman's shop and bought a bookmark that has Rudyard Kipling's poem 'If' printed on it.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable day out. One day I hope I can visit Bateman's again, but only after I have read some of his works.
Bateman's is owned by National Trust. Bateman's prices are £7.45 for adults, £4.10 for children and £18.60 for family. If you're a member of National Trust you can get free entrance. However Bateman's is not open everyday. You can visit National Trust website for more details.
For more pictures please visit my blog: http://blossom-iwanttoseetheworld.blogspot.com/
Having never been a great one for literature, the works of Rudyard Kipling, whilst of passing familiarity, have not previously been of any great interest to me. However, the lifestyle and Sussex connections of this famous gentleman are well enough documented so as to be a fascinating story in their own right.......
......and for those of you even less versed in these things than I, no, this review has nothing to do with cakes and pastries - that is a very different Mr Kipling!
The subject of this review, a not terribly large or extravagant country house, by the name of Bateman's, is very much at the centre of the Kipling story. It would also, now, appear to form the basis of many a pilgrimage from far flung corners of the globe - if our international band of fellow visitors were anything to judge by.
In order to bring us to Kipling's arrival at, and subsequent purchase in 1902 of, Bateman's, we need to know just a little about his previous life in order to explain why this country retreat was so very dear to him.
At the time of his birth in Bombay in 1865 the world was a very different place. His English parents were part of a well established upper class, resident in many parts of the world. As was the custom of the day, at the age of six they sent Rudyard back to England for a formal education - in his case a military school in Southsea. "The years of desolation" as he was to describe them, they left a scar never to heal emotionally.
Kipling did not enjoy a strong constitution and was emotionally restless, which partly explained his constant search for an idyllic place to put down roots - almost throughout his life.
At the age of sixteen he returned to India to take a job as a journalist on "The Civil and Military Gazette" in Lahore. During the seven years that he was there, he honed his writing skills to such an extent that upon his arrival in London in 1889 he was quickly accepted and gained a reputation for being something of a literary genius.
Two years later he married an American, Caroline Balestier, more widely known as "Carrie". They moved to live near her family in Vermont, ten months later their first daughter, Josephine, was born. In 1896 their second daughter Elsie was born. They lived very happily for four years in America, but this period was to end in heart ache following a huge public disagreement with Carrie's brother, ending in a law suit that threatened to break the family.
In 1897, the Sussex part of the story begins, the Kipling family having left Vermont for good, set up home at The Elms, a house facing the green in Rottingdean just to the east of Brighton.
Kipling was at the pinnacle of his career at the turn of the last century; his writing was earning £5,000 per year, this compared to a secretary at the time who may have been earning £80. Whilst the family spent a lot of time away travelling the world, the house in Rottingdean was the home to which they returned. Rudyard became increasingly disenchanted living here due to his fame attracting many sight-seers and day trippers. The Elms was all too visible and publicly accessible for comfort. Time then, to seek a new home!
A NEW START FOR THE KIPLINGS
Adding to the desire for a new home, was the tragic death, in 1899, of the Kipling's adored first born daughter, Josephine. Both she and her father had contracted pneumonia in New York, he survived, to be permanently yet more weakened.
During their extensive travels in Sussex, in 1900, they stumbled upon Bateman's. They were so attracted to this house, situated very privately in its own valley, cut off from "road and village noise" as he put it, that they attempted to buy it on the spot. To their regret the owner had just let it to a tenant for two years. In the summer of 1902 they managed to purchase it, the mill, outbuildings and the 33 acres of land surrounding the house for £9,300.
Kipling was enchanted by Bateman's total authenticity. Almost everything about it was local, the stone from which it had been built was quarried within site of the windows, its' interior oak panelling and staircase had been formed from ancient oaks once growing on the site. Built in 1634 the whole house was remarkably original, unusually having escaped the Victorian trend for modernisation or restoration.
During his travels, Kipling acquired many seventeenth century pieces of furniture, much of it oak, with which to furnish and decorate his house in the original style. Ironically in those days, this furniture was regarded as "old second-hand" and had relatively little value, not until much later in the twentieth century did the term "antique" become applied to such pieces, along with the monetary premium that the term adds today.......
......AND TALKING OF TODAY......
......how are we, the general public, able to view this place of beauty and tranquillity? For this privilege, and I have to say that is a carefully chosen word in this case, we have to thank Carrie Kipling, Rudyard's widow, who survived him by three years. Upon her death in 1939, she left Bateman's to the National Trust, wishing that it be preserved exactly as he left it - as a permanent memorial to her late husband.
Whilst all the family photographs show Carrie to be a handsome, if not beautiful, woman, she was fiercely protective of her husband and took personal charge in organising every part of his life. As she saw it, this left him free to develop his literary ideas without the pressures of everyday life, every aspect of which she took care of. She was however, unable to shield him from the harshest of realities, having never recovered from the loss of their first child; they were to suffer the loss of their only son, John in 1915 at the Battle of Loos during the First World War. In 1924 their only surviving daughter married George Bambridge and moved to the grand splendour of Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire. They died without children and there the Kipling line ended, Bateman's remaining as a tangible reminder of a once great man.
AN ODE TO BATEMAN'S:
There was a young person of Bateman's
Who was guarded in most of her statements.
When they asked 'Where is your pa?'
She said - 'Out in his car'
Whereas really he was in Bateman's.
That was written by Elsie Kipling, who was fifteen years old at the time.
BATEMAN'S IN THE HANDS OF THE NATIONAL TRUST
Whilst this is actually one of our more local National Trust properties, for whatever reason, having been members for two years, we only actually made our first visit here in September (2007). As soon as we set foot in the grounds, we regretted not having done so sooner, especially as we were a touch pressed for time on this particular occasion.
Our new friend "Beckie" (a German GPS system) made rather a meal of guiding us to Bateman's, I rather think that Mr Kipling would have been amused by this, as by all accounts he rather enjoyed the circuitous route himself! However, in a sense our difficulties in getting there, to this slightly obscure part of Sussex, are partly what attracted the Kipling's to this spot in the first place.
Naturally when they arrived it was not to a large and rather dusty car park on the northern edge of the property! You actually enter the Bateman's estate, having been through the ticket office, via the herb garden and orchard which rise to the north above the house. Passing through an archway cut in the hedge you approach the house from the side.
The square front garden is predominantly a flat lawned area, with a gravel path cutting it in half - leading from a gate onto the lane (Bateman's Lane) to the front door.
Entering the house via the porch, picking up a walk around guide from the wooden bench, we step straight into the hall. As with the rest of this Jacobean house, not particularly grand, but nonetheless fascinating, this is the room in which guests were met and entertained by the Kipling's. As you enter, facing the door, you cannot fail to miss an internal window, behind which lay Carrie's office. Through this window she scrutinised all visitors before allowing them into the presence of her husband.
Whilst the Kipling's had rapidly installed electricity - generating sufficient power to light the house for four hours each evening - even in his later years Rudyard refused to have a telephone installed. He became ever more paranoid about privacy and his over-active imagination prohibited him from "speaking to someone that he couldn't see".
In his final years he burned at the fireplace in the hall many unpublished manuscripts, ensuring that nobody could read them after his death.
The "Inner Hall" is a more conventional hallway, having a door out to the garden and a carved oak staircase. Both this, and the majority of the panelling here, date from the building of the house.
Off of the inner hall is the Parlour. This was a room for relaxation and entertaining, often apparently, Rudyard would roll back the carpet and play ball with his dogs. This room, indeed the whole house, had something of a reputation for its' lack of comfort and austerity. Kipling had insisted on furnishing it only with period furniture - in his later years he joked that the place would not "allow" modern furniture and as a result, in the words of Elsie, his daughter 'was rather "stiff" and chilly in winter'.
In the Parlour and throughout the house are to be seen many of the oriental rugs and tapestries which Rudyard was so keen on collecting. Complimenting the tapestries are well chosen paintings and etchings, collected rather in the way that we ourselves may, that is because we like them, rather than for any monetary value they may have, or indeed acquire.
One such picture has pride of place to one side of the Parlour fireplace; it is of Rottingdean from the churchyard and was painted by Sir Ambrose Poynter, Kipling's cousin and best man at his wedding. Poynter was an architect by profession and played a major role here at Bateman's, modernising the house and converting some of the out-houses into servants quarters.
Upstairs the rooms are very much in keeping with the rest of the house, although were regarded more as an "inner sanctuary" by the ever private Kiplings. Honoured guests were occasionally permitted into his study, but never to the bedroom suites beyond. We see this all important room, both the hub of Bateman's and, of the latter years, Kipling's life, very much as the great man left it. As with many such rooms of many creative people, the study here is tightly packed with an extraordinarily eclectic mixture of objects, but primarily books.
The bookshelves themselves draw the eye in a sense, because they appear rather "Heath Robinson" in nature, obviously expanded rapidly to accommodate the ever growing collection of books, bowing under the sheer weight too. The wall space not crammed with books is taken up with various objects collected in his travels, my eyes were particularly drawn to the various ship memorabilia here - I had no idea that he shared a major interest of mine, commercial shipping.
Kipling worked not at a conventional desk, but at a long drop-leaf table, which reportedly was often piled high with unfinished manuscripts. He shared a female secretary with his wife - his manuscripts were handwritten, she used the "Good Companion" Imperial typewriter now displayed today on the table. Kipling did not like, or approve of, the typewriter - accusing it of not being able to spell. Quite what he would have thought of the program on which I write this review is anyone's guess!
The largest room upstairs is in the centre of the house, and was once used as the main bedroom by the Kiplings. It was they who had the walls panelled in oak, their daughter Elsie who turned it into an exhibition room portraying the life and works of her father. Glass covered cabinets contain many family photographs and treasures, including the Nobel Prize awarded to him in 1907.
On the whole Kipling was a modest man, a man of great humour in the face of personal ill-health for much of his life. Whilst he accepted literary prizes and honours, he turned down others - including a Knighthood.
An anecdotal example of his humour draws us to the small West Bedroom at the top of the stairs. A very modest bedroom by any standards, yet some of the guests who were accommodated here were household names of the day - such as Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin who, one evening upon returning from a twenty mile hike in the Sussex countryside, found the following notice pinned to his bedroom wall:
RULES FOR GUESTS
1) No guest to walk more than 5 miles an hour
2) No guest to walk more than two hours at a time
3) Guests are strictly forbidden to coerce or cajole the natives to accompany them in said walks as the proprietors cannot be responsible for the consequences.
Signed Rudyard Kipling, Caroline Kipling, Elsie Kipling (natives)
THE JUNGLE BOOK
No review about Kipling, his life, or indeed specifically Bateman's, as here, could be complete without referring to what is widely regarded as his greatest work - Jungle Book.
Offset to one side of the Exhibition Room is a small square anti-room, designed into the original house as a powder closet. These were small rooms used by gentlemen for powdering their wigs - a fashionable accessory in the seventeenth century. Now this small space is a shrine to Jungle Book, hung here are a fascinating series of original coloured lithographs by the twin Detmold brothers. These were commissioned for the first edition of Kipling's Jungle Book in 1902. Set into a corner of this wood panelled room is a wonderful little diorama of wooden, hand carved, Jungle Book figures.
From the Exhibition room we pass through into the "Holy of Holies" the Kipling's bedroom. Again a modestly proportioned and furnished room, containing a nineteenth century four poster bed, we felt this room to be strangely "feminine" in character. Maybe not so strange, considering that Carrie was very much mistress at Bateman's.
There is a bathroom at the top of the stairs - almost en-suite to the bedroom, but regrettably it is locked and we do not get to view it. The smaller, stone, staircase leads from the landing next to the bedroom down to the dining room. Unfortunately the kitchen is not open to view, apparently one of the changes made by Kipling was the insertion of a serving hatch through to the dining room.
The dining room itself has a most unusual wall covering. Only previously seen in Preston Manor in Brighton, the walls are hung with calfskin panels, embellished with silver foil, painted with oils and then lacquered. These panels "discovered" on the Isle of Wight, possibly at Osborne House, which was at the time being re-furbished, following Victoria's death. The panels were rolled up for storage - Rudyard went to the Island in August 1902, returning with them rolled up in the back of his car.
Bateman's was a place that guests came to pay homage to its owner, not necessarily to enjoy conventional hospitality. Apart from having a reputation for being an uncomfortable house, the food served here was described as "boring". This was deliberately the case, as Carrie had to ensure that the plain food did nothing to upset Rudyard's delicate constitution - made all the worse in later life by un-diagnosed duodenal ulcers. Kipling himself had a taste for much spicier dishes - a throwback to his early childhood in India
Within the 33 acres here, there are several different types of garden.
An interesting fact is that Kipling spent his £7,700 Nobel Prize in 1907 on designing and creating the ornamental garden to the south of the house. The pond, rose garden and yew hedging were all laid out by Kipling. As with the house and interior, to this day, the garden looks very much the way Kipling intended it to.
Passing out of the ornamental garden the path takes you through the Wild Garden, one corner of which is devoted to a pet's cemetery - Kipling was a dog lover. Running through the Wild Garden is the River Dudwell, looking like a placid stream on the September afternoon that we were there, however the river rises quickly and regularly floods. On one occasion Rudyard was up in the middle of the night saving his floor coverings in the hall as the water threatened to flood the downstairs of the house.
What we particularly enjoyed about the garden is its informality. It is not particularly large or grand, but there are several different attractive aspects to admire and many benches placed strategically on which to sit and admire them from. Mrs R commented on what a joy it would be just to sit here with a good book on a summer's afternoon, a remark which I think would have pleased Mr Kipling no end.
Situated at the bottom end of the garden is the water powered (by the River Dudwell) Park Mill, dating from 1750. Originally used for grinding corn, within weeks of arriving here at Bateman's, Kipling had de-commissioned the traditional (wooden) grinding equipment to replace it with a state of the art water powered electricity generating set. This created enough energy to light ten 60 watt bulbs in the house, 250 yards away, via a buried deep sea cable.
Between 1968 and 1975 the, by then dilapidated, mill was restored to its original corn grinding condition. At the same time the Royal Engineers rebuilt the turbine generating equipment.
Regular guided tours are now given by the miller and flour is actually ground here and on sale when available. A large range of cookery books are also on sale on the ground floor of the Mill building.
WHAT ELSE TO DO AT BATEMAN'S?
As you may expect there is a National Trust shop here, a very good one at that. This is housed in the original oast houses which were converted to servant's quarters by Kipling.
Adjacent to the shop is the garage, presumably formally a stables block. Here you will find a large Rolls Royce limousine - for those interested in such things, a Phantom 1 40-50 horsepower. He had purchased it new in 1928 for £2833 18s 6d, the car now belongs to Sir Jack Hayward and is on permanent loan to the National Trust.
Kipling, although never having driven a motorcar, was a pioneer motorist, he travelled widely both here in England and particularly after the First World War in France, carrying out his duties as a War Grave Commissioner. He kept detailed diaries of his various "motor tours".
Behind the garage is an elongated building which has now been converted into a large tea room. We did not have time to sample the food here, but it looked reasonably priced and well presented.
Opening times vary according to the season, rather than attempting to list these here, I would refer you to the National Trust's information page on Bateman's:
Admission charges (2007) are £6.85 adult, £3.45 Child, family £17.10.
Bateman's is located half a mile south of Burwash on the A265.
Telephone: 01435 882302
Many of us when looking for a property in which to set up home choose them on "gut instinct" - they just feel right, despite any potential pitfalls. This is exactly how the Kipling's felt about Bateman's, visiting this property today it is not at all hard to see why. In our ever more busy and noisy century, it is increasingly difficult to find a home free of annoyance and disturbance from neighbours and passers-by. Even as mere visitors to Kipling's home today, we are all able to share in that tranquillity, if maybe not the privacy, so valued by Rudyard Kipling and his family.
As a post script I must credit the title of this review to the great man himself, in those very words he described Bateman's in his autobiography, written in the closing years of his life.
The 17th-century house was erected around 1634 and taken over in 1902 by Rudyard Kipling, well known author, until his death in 1936. His wife looked after the estate until her death in 1939. The estate was bequeathed to the National Trust and has been restored to reflect it's original time. There are many oriental rugs and artefacts, and his book-lined study are on display in their original state just as Kipling has left them. The delightful grounds run down to the small River Dudwell with its watermill, and contain roses, wild flowers, fruit and herbs. Also on display is Kipling's Rolls-Royce.