"No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."  Meditation XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, by John Donne

While The Lightbox is closed to the public and many of us are confined to our own homes, we've recruited the help of Rosemary and Richard, two of our beloved Heritage volunteers, to discuss topics relating to the home.

As lockdown continues, more and more of us are turning away from our screens and looking for new ways to keep ourselves entertained. According to Google data, popular hobbies include learning a new language, DIY, yoga, baking and gardening. But we think this is also a great time to start working through our reading lists!

Did you know that Woking has been the home of many famous authors?

Lady Margaret Beaufort

Our earliest Woking author is the formidable Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII and owner of Woking Palace. Apart from being involved in political scheming she was also a lady of devotion and culture. She translated the 'Mirror of Gold' into English, also sponsoring William Atkinson’s translation of 'The Imitation of Christ', in 1502 and 1506.

H.G. Wells

It is well known that Wells lived in Woking between 1895 and 1896, when he rented 141 Maybury Road. In these two years he wrote 'The Time Machine', 'Island of Dr Moreau', 'The Wheels of Chance', and notably 'The War of the Worlds'. 

'The War of the Worlds' encapsulates Wells’s distaste for Woking, as the town is the first target of the Martians after landing on Horsell Common. Several radio and film adaptations have appeared, of which only Jeff Wayne’s musical and the recent television version have mentioned Woking.

Wells is commemorated in Woking by a Martian sculpture in Crown Square, a mosaic in the subway under Victoria Way, and recently by Wesley Harland’s sculpture in Wells Plaza.

G.B. Shaw

Shaw also had a brief stay in Woking. In 1898 he married Charlotte Payne-Townsend and from 1901 to 1903, mostly in the summer, they lived at Maybury Knowle, off Maybury Hill. There Shaw completed 'Man and Superman' and followed his hobby of photography, taking pictures of himself and the locality. 

W.E. Henley

Henley lived at Lordswood (then Heather Brae), Maybury Hill), from 1901 until his death in 1903. He was a prolific poet and editor of literary magazines in which he published the early work of R.L. Stevenson, G.B. Shaw, W.B. Yeats and H.G. Wells.

Due to tuberculosis of the bone he had his left leg amputated below the knee. His fortitude inspired Stevenson to base his character Long John Silver in ‘Treasure Island’ on Henley. Similarly, his daughter Margaret may have been the model for Wendy in Barrie’s 'Peter Pan'.

Henley is now mostly remembered as the author of 'Invictus', which inspired Nelson Mandela during his imprisonment, as well as the name of the Invictus Games.  

Lady Emilia Francis Dilke

Emilia Francis Strong attended South Kensington Art School in London in her late teens, where she first met Charles Dilke, a fellow student.

Emilia married Mark Pattison in 1861, the Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford. He treated her condescendingly, which brought her near to a breakdown, and she rebelled by publishing stories reflecting her unhappiness. Shortly after his death in 1884, she married Charles Dilke, upon having met again in 1875.

Throughout her life, she wrote essays on art, French politics and on feminist topics, supernatural short stories and major works of art history. Lady Dilke was an early member of the Women's Protective and Provident League, later the Women's Trade Union League, serving as its President until her death.

Pyrford Rough, Woking is the only house in with two blue plaques, one for her and one for her husband.

Alfred Bestall

In lighter vein, Alfred Bestall, the author and illustrator of the 'Rupert' books, issued in the 'Daily Express' and in now highly collectable annuals, was the son of a Methodist minister and who lived in York Road with his parents after demobilisation in 1919. He is buried in Brookwood Cemetery.  

Dame Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel lived for ten years in the penthouse apartment at Florence Court, part of the former Brookwood Hospital. There, she enjoyed the peace and quiet of having her study in the former clock tower and being able enjoy the view towards Guildford Cathedral from her balcony.

While living there she notably wrote the first two parts of a trilogy based on the life of Thomas Cromwell, 'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring up the Bodies'. Both were awarded the Booker Prize.

In 2011 she moved to Devon, completing the trilogy in 2020. She has been described as one of England’s greatest living novelists.

According to the BBC, reading a book has an amazing range of hidden health benefits, including increased emotional intelligence, a boost in brain activity (which can help to delay the onset of dementia), an aid to better sleep and it can even improve our confidence and self-esteem, providing the grounding we need to pursue our goals and make life decisions. Reading is far from a passive activity.

What are you reading at the moment? Are there any books that you’re really looking forward to reading?

For more ways to boost your brain activity and stay creative while at home, visit our blog.