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Wednesday, August 26, 1998 Published at 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK


The revolving world of George Bernard Shaw

Shaw's writing hut turns for the first time in a quarter of a century

One of the author George Bernard Shaw's most interesting creations is to be revived, following months of research and restoration to bring it back into circulation.

The revolving writing hut, in which Shaw wrote most of his best-known plays, has begun turning again in the grounds of his home, Shaw's Corner, in Ayot St Lawrence, near Welwyn in Hertfordshire.

[ image:  ]
During his writing years, the author had the wooden hut built at the bottom of the garden and mounted on a revolving mechanism so that as he worked, he could follow the sun throughout the day.

Ruth Gofton, National Trust Custodian at Shaw's Corner, said that putting the hut back in motion was important in preserving the author's memory because "it reveals a great deal about the fascinating character of the man who lived there".

"It is a very unusual idea," Ms Gofton said, "that really goes to show what an eccentric and unusual man Shaw was."

Healthy mind, healthy body

Shaw lived in the Edwardian villa for 44 years, until his death in 1950. He wrote most of his most celebrated works, including Pygmalion and Androcles and the Lion, in the revolving hut, which was built in the 1920s.

Located behind a screen of trees in a secluded part of the lush and peaceful gardens, Shaw spent days on end there, working at his typewriter.

There was also a small bed for those moments set aside for quiet relaxation and inspiration, and a telephone to make contact with the main house.

[ image: A working haven for Shaw]
A working haven for Shaw
But despite his love for the outdoors, Shaw hated the cold.

James Lees-Milne from the National Trust visited Shaw's Corner in 1944. He wrote in his book, Prophesying Peace: "He (Shaw) evidently feels the cold for there were electric fires in every room and the passage."

When shown the writing hut, Mr Lees-Milne wrote that Shaw remarked to him: "this will be an attraction to the birthplace, if it survives."

Working home

For nearly 30 years, the writing hut has remained on the ground. But last year, the Univeristy of Hertfordshire's Department of Engineering volunteered to return the structure to its mobile state.

[ image: The hut's cosy interior]
The hut's cosy interior
A team of engineers repositioned the hut and hoisted it back on to its axis and wheeled base, allowing it to be turned manually in the direction of the sun.

Ms Gofton hopes that this will now attract even more Shavian enthusiasts to visit.

"Nearly all our visitors have heard about the revolving writing hut, and some have been disappointed and unable to understand why it has not been in its functional state," Ms Gofton said.

"Now they can see where Shaw worked and see why the peaceful, atmospheric surroundings were a welcome escape for him, as he was often besieged by the press and fans."

The National Trust intends to continue its conservation programme at Shaw's Corner, with future plans to restore the exterior and interior of the hut.

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