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    Shaw's Corner - a writer's retreat
    Shaws Corner
    The house at Shaw's Corner
    We've joined the national search on BBC Radio 4 to find the nation's most spiritual place. Katy Lewis tells how she is always inspired by visiting the former home of a favourite writer.
    WATCH & LISTEN
    SEE ALSO

    The Nation's Favourite Spiritual Place

    Bhaktivedanta Manor

    The Dappled Garden

    The Peace Pagoda at Willen

    Shaw's Corner, Ayot St Lawrence

    The Shrine of St Alban

    WEB LINKS

    Bhaktivedanta Manor

    Quiet Garden

    Peace Pagoda, Willen

    Shaw's Corner

    The Shrine of St Alban

    The Diocese of St Albans Web site


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    Shaw's Corner, Ayot St Lawrence - Katy Lewis
    I have been going to Shaw's Corner in Ayot St Lawrence, the former home of playwright George Bernard Shaw, since I was quite small. My grandmother was brought up in that area and it has always felt like I am somehow going back to my roots.

    The garden at Shaw's Corner
    The garden looks out over the Hertfordshire countryside

    I used to be fascinated by her tales of talking over the fence to the white haired old gentleman but it wasn't until secondary school that I realised exactly who she was talking about and how privileged she had been.

    Much later on when I was at university I used to head up there to escape the stress of revision but still feel like I was working. After all, if I was at the place where some of the work that I was studying was written, it would help me wouldn't it?! Well, it worked for me!

    I didn't study Shaw until I did Pygmalion for O'level but since then his work has had a profound effect on the way that I think. But his work hasn't neccessarily told me WHAT to think, but HOW to think.

    I may not always agree with his politics - after all, it's easy to be a socialist when you live in a nice house isn't it? But his work gives me the confidence to challenge things. And going to the place where he lived and being where he thought what he did gives me both inspiration and the courage of my convictions.

    Garden at Shaw's Corner
    Shaw's garden provided peace for writing and now does the same for thinking

    Reading Shaw has taught me to question what is considered to be accepted opinion and to strip away the layers of society to uncover and challenge hypocrisy everywhere.

    He has allowed me to be a true individual unafraid to speak up for what I believe is right and not to simply follow the crowd when I can see that it is the wrong path for me.

    Shaw's Corner is presented to the public just as it was when he lived there and the attention to detail is amazing. When you are in the house it feels like he is still there and has just popped out for a walk. It really is the living shrine that he wanted.

    For me this reinforces the fact that he existed and if he wasn't afraid to express himself then neither am I.

    Statue of St Joan
    The statue of St Joan watches over visitors

    The three and a half acre garden is beautiful and very quiet and being deep in the Hertfordshire countryside there are also good views of the surrounding area. Shaw's writing hut is still at the bottom and it is easy to see how this garden provided the perfect retreat for him to write inspirational works.

    He moved there in 1906 in order to be near to London but at the same time get some peace and quiet. And being so close to nature certainly helps to put things in perspective.

    It is the perfect place to be able to walk or sit and think or just get some peace. I don't think I will ever stop going there.

    your comments

    Lowell Denny, Oakland, CA - USA Sunday, 10-Aug-2003 18:06:06 BST
    What a wonderful tour you've let me in on! After reading a slew of Shaw writings and one biography, your story with its tour was a treasure to stumble on ... though I doubt Shaw's ghost is pleased you have shown us his old clothes and his toilet.

    Don Ariagno, Toronto, Canada Tuesday, 29-Jul-2003 03:43:35 BST
    Katy Lewis has written a fine article on the beauty and importance of Shaw's Corner. But I choose to differ as to her criticism of his socialism. I do not wish to deny her the right to insert her true opinion but an anti-socialist comment seems to be obligatory these days when talking of old socialist writers like Wells, the Webbs or even Chesterton. Shaw's ideas on socialism and true democracy, as distinct from what we call democracy, are timeless. Of course the Fabian Society, of which he was a leading member, did not have the benefit of what we have subsequently learned. But all in all they were more right than contemporary thought is today. In the interim big money interests have grown to dominate public opinion in everything from university campuses to community newspapers. People have been led to believe that socialism is bad but if hard pressed few would be able to ! justify their opinions. Money interests have thrown a blanket over true public debate by dictating in direct and indirect ways what can be said on the issue. I do not know what the future holds but Shaw will always be a god to many of us in the two spheres that he dominated in his lifetime - the theatre and fabian socialism. And the ideas in both will never die.

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