Ayot St Lawrence, just twenty-five miles north of London, owes its reputation to George Bernard Shaw. He lived here, on and off, for the last forty or so years of his life. And Shaw's Corner, built in 1902 as the New Rectory, is now a National Trust property - and on a day like today, a tolerably bright bank holiday, has about as many visitors as it can handle (the volunteers say they can't remember as many visitors, though to be honest even then it's hardly what you would call a throng).
Ayot St Lawrence, though, has many other surprises. On the serpentine road through the village, there's the ruins of the 'old church' (with the still splendid Old Rectory immediately opposite). Which begs the question - where the new church? And walking round the village, you can spy it across the fields, in a solitary location some way off.
And what a church! Clearly patronised by the Lord of the Manor (I didn't buy the guide book, so I don't know why the old church fell out of favour) - it's a Grade 1 listed Palladian-style building from the 1780s, and still in use, at first glance more stately home than place of worship.
Inside, there's a nice East India Company-related memorial - the father was surveyor-general of Bombay, and the son, as a teenager, was killed serving with the British army in Sindh in 1840. I hope the inscription, below, is legible. Another son was Sir Monier Monier-Williams, a professor of Sanskrit at Oxford.
And then to the main event - Shaw's Corner ... architecturally nothing special, an early C20 building, but in spectacular grounds. And it's well maintained, with wonderfully atmospheric rooms capturing the place as it was when Shaw died (as recently as 1950 - he was in his mid-nineties) with lots of Shaw memorabilia. Take a look at the photos over the fireplace - Stalin and Lenin stand out, but can you identify the others?
Here's the answer - courtesy of the National Trust. And yes that is Gandhi hiding behind a candlestick
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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