Bateman's - a brief history
‘We have loved it ever since our first sight of it… We entered and felt her Spirit – her Feng Shui – to be good. We went through every room and found no shadows of ancient regrets, stifled miseries, nor any menace, though her new end was three hundred years old… A real house in which to settle down.’.
Kipling at Bateman’s
Rudyard and Caroline Kipling bought Bateman’s in 1902. Tradition has it that Bateman’s was built for a Wealden ironmaster. There were several forges in the area, so it is plausible. Bateman’s was built, extended and renovated over a long period of time, parts of the house are even older than the 1634 date above the door. Kipling continued this process. He commissioned his cousin Ambrose Poynter to undertake work, and installed a turbine at the mill, to generate electricity for the house.
The Kipling’s fell in love with the house at first sight. It is still easy to see why. The soft warm colour of the local sandstone, the oak beans and panelling, the terraced lawn and walled garden make for a beautiful house, nestled in the Sussex Weald. The romance and the sense of history appealed to Kipling, a vision of a seemingly unchanging England.
Bateman’s also offered privacy. Kipling was in his late 30s and a renowned author. Plain Tales from the Hills and the two Jungle Books had been internationally successful. He published Kim in 1901 to critical acclaim. The 33 acres around Bateman’s helped keep the curious at bay. Over the years Kipling gradually acquired more and more of the surrounding woods and fields.
Life at Bateman’s
Bateman’s was a sanctuary, but Kipling was never a recluse. The family spent winters in South Africa and later France. Kipling was a keen motorist and enjoyed exploring Sussex by car. He took visitors to Bodiam Castle, visited his friend Henry James at Lamb House, and kept in touch with the Hussey family at Scotney Castle.
The study was the heart of the house. Here Kipling wrote Puck of Pook’s Hill and Rewards and Fairies, directly inspired by the landscape. His daughter Elsie later recalled: ‘When writing verse, he usually paced up and down the study humming to himself’.
Elsie was Rudyard and Caroline’s only surviving child. Josephine, the eldest, had died aged only six in 1899. Their youngest, John, tragically lost his life in the First World War. Elsie married George Bambridge in 1924 and they eventually bought Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire.
Rudyard Kipling died in 1936. Caroline left Bateman’s to the National Trust on her death in 1939.