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A book lover's guide to Knoll House

Throughout the years, Knoll House has played host to many guests from the world of literature, including Roald Dahl, E.M. Forster, Michael Palin and Winston Churchill.

When you visit us, you might be surprised to spot a bust of one of the world’s most famous children’s authors, Enid Blyton. As you explore the hotel, you’ll also notice an impressive display of memorabilia connected with her books and imaginative worlds. There’s an interesting tale behind this, with Blyton forming a part of Knoll House’s fascinating history. 

In fact, if you know where to look, there’s even more for lovers of literature to discover, both here and in our local area. 

Enid Blyton at Knoll House

Enid Blyton is one of the 20th century’s most successful children’s authors, penning the Famous Five, Secret Seven, Magic Faraway Tree and Noddy series, as well as hundreds of other books. 

Much is known about her, but a lesser-known fact is that Blyton and her husband, Kenneth Darrell Waters, were regular and long-term guests at Knoll House during the 1950s and ’60s. At this time, Waters owned the Isle of Purbeck Golf Club, and the couple would stay here at the hotel – always in room 40, with its views across the bay – for several weeks each spring, summer and autumn. In the dining room, sitting at table three, Blyton faced south, with a view of Old Harry Rocks, while Waters instead faced Bournemouth. 

The Isle of Purbeck, which Blyton first visited in 1931, inspired the setting for many of her stories, and became a location that she returned to with each trip to the area. Blyton and Waters also owned a farm in Sturminster Newton, which they’d visit during their stays. It’s said that Studland’s policeman at the time, ex-guardsman PC Christopher Rone – tall and with generous girth – was immortalised as the original Mr Plod. Corfe Castle, around ten minutes away by car, is thought to have been the inspiration for Kirrin Island (introduced in Five on a Treasure Island); and wandering among its weatherworn ruins today, it’s easy to see what sparked Blyton’s imagination. 

There are many more local Enid Blyton connections, so for the full experience we recommend taking a look at Visit Dorset’s Enid Blyton trail.

Thomas Hardy

The 19th century author, known for works such as Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge, lived in Dorset for much of his live (even adopting it as his fictional ‘Wessex’).

Today, you can visit two of Hardy’s former homes, courtesy of the National Trust. Hardy’s Cottage, just outside Dorchester, is an idyllic thatched cottage set in woodland, while Max Gate, his more impressive later-years townhouse, offers the chance to peek inside his writing room: a must for any literature fan. If, after all that, you find yourself in the mood for a good book, Max Gate also has a second-hand bookshop with everything from Victorian novels to gardening, architecture and poetry. 

Chesil Beach

Made famous by author Ian McEwan in On Chesil Beach, these 18 miles of shingle form the backdrop for an ill-fated love affair between student Edward Mayhew and violinist Florence Ponting. 

Perhaps reflecting the mood of their courtship, Chesil Beach isn’t a typical golden-sand setting, but rather a rougher and altogether wilder location. It was described by John Fowles (author of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which was set in Lyme Regis) as, ‘above all an elemental place, made of sea, shingle and sky’. 

Mary Shelley 

Though one half of the Romantic era’s most famous power couple (her poet husband Percy needing no introduction), Mary Shelley was a highly successful author in her own right, most notably writing Frankenstein in 1818. 

Though she was born and died in London, Shelley was actually laid to rest at St Peter’s Church in Bournemouth (along with, rather romantically, her husband’s heart). It’s here that Shelley fans can make their pilgrimage; as you visit the churchyard, look out for the blue plaque that details her history, and the Shelley tomb that marks hers and her family’s final resting place. 

Find out more

If you’re interested in Dorset’s literary links, you can find out more on the Visit Dorset website.