The House

Read about the house and uncover the story behind the country home of George Bernard Shaw here.

Shaw’s Corner was the home of George Bernard Shaw and his wife, Charlotte, from 1906 to 1950. 

The house at Shaw's Corner was originally built as the New Rectory for Ayot St Lawrence by the Church of England in 1902. The house was designed very much in the Arts and Crafts style with stained glass windows and hearts cut into the banisters.

The house was not used as a rectory for long. It was offered for rent by the Church of England in 1906. The Shaws had just left a house in nearby Welwyn and were in 'the agonies of house hunting' as Shaw wrote to H.G.Wells, when they found the house that would become their most permanent home.

In 1920 Bernard and Charlotte decided to buy it outright. Around the same time the name of the house officially changed from The New Rectory to Shaw’s Corner, which the locals had begun calling the house shortly after they moved in. 

Welcome to Shaw's Corner
The green gates at the entrance to Shaw's corner
Welcome to Shaw's Corner

In addition to their country idyll, the Shaw’s owned a flat in London, where many of the treasures currently housed at Shaw’s Corner today were originally kept. One such item that made the journey from London to Ayot St. Lawrence was a bronze bust of Shaw created by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. The bronze bust was kept in Bernard’s study in London, whilst a plaster version was kept in the Drawing Room at Shaw’s Corner.

Shaw's writing desk, with the Rodin bust to it's right.
The writing desk at Shaw's Corner, with the Rodin bust in view.
Shaw's writing desk, with the Rodin bust to it's right.

The beautiful bronze bust has been included in the National Trust’s 125th anniversary book, 125 Treasures. You can find out more about the bronze on a visit to Shaw’s Corner as we invite you to peek through the windows to view some of Shaw’s treasures. Also on view through the windows are Shaw’s Oscar statuette and a marble carving of his hand. 

The main house may be closed, but it is being well looked after by our wonderful house team. It is a never-ending job of caring for the fabric of the building as well as the contents. The whole house has been cleaned from top to bottom, paying special attention to Shaw’s textiles. 

Shaw's wardrobe, showing his iconic Jaeger cape at the front
Shaw's wardrobe, showing his iconic Jaeger cape at the front
Shaw's wardrobe, showing his iconic Jaeger cape at the front

Shaw bequeathed to the National Trust some of his most iconic suits and outerwear, including his famous Jaeger tweed cape and his eclectic collection of hats. The hat collection at Shaw’s Corner include a Cornish tin miners helmet, a WWII ARP Warden’s helmet, traditional wide brimmed hats and soft peak caps. Most notably there is also one of the housekeeper’s hats on the hat stand next to the front door. Shaw had earlier appropriated the hat and pinned a net to it to use when tending his bee hives.

Bernard Shaw's famous hat collection
Shaw's collection of hats, displayed on a a hat stand
Bernard Shaw's famous hat collection

A timeline of Shaw's Corner

1902: The house is built by local church architects
1906 The Shaws start to rent the house, fully furnished, from the Church of England
1915 Shaw helps villagers clear the roads after a terrible storm
1920 The Shaws buy the house for £6,332
1923 The garden is extended, as Shaw buys an extra strip of land to the west and south
1944 Shaw hands the property over to the National Trust after Charlotte's death
1950 Shaw dies in the Dining Room on 2 November
1951 The house opens to the public on 17 March