Much of the money for renovating the cottage had come from sales of an abridged version of Seven Pillars, titled Revolt in the Desert, and a translation of Homer’s Odyssey for an American publisher. Lawrence wrote to Edward Garnett ‘In the distant future, if the distant future deigns to consider my insignificance, I shall be appraised rather as a man of letters than as a man of action.’
Nonetheless, the restless man of action was not entirely banished. He continued racing his beloved Brough Superior motorcycle through the country lanes to and from Bovington and visiting friends, for example the group of writers and artists at Chaldon Herring (East Chaldon) of Theo and Llewelyn Powys, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Valentine Ackland and others. Riding as fast as he could he would time himself, each visit trying to beat his previous record.
Above: The Bunk Room at Clouds Hill, lined in foil against the damp, light coming in from the port hole window at top left of the picture.
Just days after the last addition to the cottage – the port hole in the guest room upstairs – T E Lawrence was killed in an accident riding his Brough Superior between Clouds Hill and Bovington.
The accepted account of the accident is that Lawrence swerved to avoid two boys on their bikes, lost control and was thrown over the handlebars. The inquest into the accident heard that it had been raining heavily on the day of the accident on May 19, and that a dip in the road obscured the view on the two boys until it was too late.
Lawrence died six days later from head injuries, aged 46.
Speculation has persisted as to whether this was really an accident or whether something more sinister was going on - for example, that he was killed on orders of the British secret service. Most of those who have studied the evidence have rejected the conspiracy theory, but some remain convinced there are too many discrepancies in the evidence to rule out foul play.
Funeral of T E Lawrence
Lawrence's funeral drew major figures in the political and military establishment, including Winston Churchill, to the nearby village of Moreton.
When visiting Clouds Hill, try to make time to visit Moreton Church, just a short drive (or longish walk) away. There is also an excellent tea rooms in the village, where the bier that bore Lawrence’s coffin does service as the sweet trolley.
The church was hit by a (possibly jettisoned) bomb in 1940, demolishing all the stained glass. Following a fundraising effort new glazing was installed in the 1950s, featuring etched panels by Sir Laurence Whistler. It is astonishing. See, for example the butterflies detail below.
Lawrence lies in the graveyard close by.
Read about the history of Lawrence and Clouds Hill, and his work on the cottage, here
Read more about Lawrence in Arabia here
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