So wrote Rudyard Kipling in his 1911 poem The Glory of the Garden, with its ages old image of a kingdom, state or community as a garden, with all its accompanying connotations of natural growth and development, seasonal change, decay and rebirth.
Rudyard Kipling. Journalist, short-story writer, novelist, poet—one of the greats of English literature, the 1907 Nobel Laureate in Literature. He died in January 1936, a couple of weeks after his 70th birthday.
During our recent holiday in East Sussex and Kent, Steph and I enjoyed a visit to Bateman’s, the home that Kipling bought in 1902 and where he and his family resided until his death 34 years later.
So the story goes, his parents met at a picnic at Rudyard Lake (actually a reservoir to feed the Caldon Canal) in North Staffordshire, less than three miles northwest of my hometown of Leek. It had become popular destination for outings in the 19th century, and still was when I was growing up in the 1950s.
Kipling’s father was working in Burslem in the pottery industry as a designer. John and Alice married in 1865 and moved to India where John had been appointed professor of architectural sculpture in the Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Bombay. He later became its principal.
Inside Bateman’s there are two small paintings, in the Parlour on the ground floor and Kipling’s study upstairs, showing similar scenes of Rudyard Lake, which I am reliably told show an inlet near the dam.
Although raised in India, Kipling returned to England for his early education. He returned to India in 1882, and it was during his time there that he wrote many of the short-stories for which he perhaps became most well-known.
In the exhibition room at Bateman’s there are six first edition copies of stories he published in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh in 1888.
Back in England, Kipling married Caroline Starr Balestier from Vermont in 1895, but they spent the first years of their marriage in the USA, returning to England in 1896. Two of their children, Josephine and Elsie were born in Vermont, and John in Sussex. Josephine died of pneumonia in 1899 during a visit to New York. John was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Irish Guards aged 16 in 1914, and was killed a year later at the Battle of Loos in September 1915.
Bateman’s is an elegant Jacobean manor house, perhaps the most elegant of all the houses we visited during our week away.
Apparently Bateman’s had no running water or electricity in 1902, and Kipling installed both. He replaced the water wheel at the nearby mill with a turbine, in order to generate electricity. During our visit, the Mill Pond was empty and undergoing conservation work. The National Trust hopes to have the Mill operating again later this year, and milling flour powered by the water wheel.
Inside the house, four rooms on the ground floor are open to the public.
In the Dining Room, the walls are lined with painted leather panels, apparently very old.
At the foot of the stairs, there is an elegant bust of Kipling on a side table, and several paintings adorning the walls.
On the upper floor, the main rooms are Kipling’s study, and John’s bedroom. Another room is full of Kipling memorabilia, including his Nobel Prize citation.
Take a look at more photos of the house and gardens here.
Although I’m familiar with what Kipling wrote, the Just So Stories, The Jungle Book, and many others, I have to admit that I have never read any of his works. Having been inspired by Bateman’s, perhaps now is the time to load my Kindle and enjoy many of these stories a century or more after they were first published.