Dahl's writing hut
“It's small and tight and dark and the curtains are always drawn and it's a kind of a womb.” There's no doubt that writers who spend hours in tiny garden huts are a little odd, but few can outdo Roald Dahl when it comes to eccentric creativity. The world-famous writer of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach spent hours every day in his Writing Hut in the garden of Gipsy House in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire (England). He was trying, he claimed, not only to recreate his childhood but to improve on it. Ironically, to keep his own children out, he told them it was occupied by wolves.
Dahl would spend two hours in his hut every morning and two every afternoon. He'd settle into his worn-out armchair (in which he had cut a hole to lessen the pain of a spinal injury incurred in a Second World War plane crash). Then he would prop up his green felt writing board with a roll of corrugated paper, sharpen his six specially-imported Dixon Ticonderoga pencils and start to write on yellow legal paper. It was here that Matilda, The BFG and The Twits were born.
He kept in the hut an assortment of photographs and mementoes, including his father's paperknife and stones from North Africa – but most bizarrely of all, his own hip bone, salvaged after a hip-replacement operation. (It's the cupcake-like object, pictured above.)
The Writing Hut remains exactly as it was the last time Dahl used it (complete with full ashtray and trash can). It's not open to the public, but visitors can explore an exact replica at The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. If you can't make it there, take a virtual tour of it on their website. It's quirky and creative, not unlike its former owner.
Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut and Roald Dahl in his Writing Hut c. 1990: both © Jan Baldwin, courtesy The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre
Objects inside Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut: both © RDNL, courtesy The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre