Shaw's Corner

photo essay

Visiting Shaw’s Corner

In the spring of 1944, Vivien Leigh accompanied Hungarian director Gabriel Pascal to playwright George Bernard Shaw’s home in Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire. Producer J. Arthur Rank had secured her on a loan from David O. Selznick to star in the film adaptation of Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra – her first film since returning to England at the end of 1940. As the screenwriter, Shaw was given a heavy hand in the production process. He had never seen Vivien in person – despite her long run in The Doctor’s Dilemma at the the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London the previous year – and wanted to make sure she was suitable enough to play his kittenish queen. Studio photographer Wilfrid Newton accompanied Vivien and Pascal, documenting their visit for publicity purposes. They were photographed in Shaw’s study and in his famous revolvable writing hut at the bottom of the garden.

Shaw and his wife Charlotte moved into the house in 1906 and promptly nicknamed it “Shaw’s Corner.”  It was her that he wrote some of his most famous works. When he and Charlotte both passed away, the house was bequeathed to the National Trust with the stipulation that all of Shaw’s belongings stay exactly as he had left them. This is what my friend Andy and I found so unique about the house when we went to visit last week. It’s literally a time capsule of early 20th century country life; like one of those abandoned houses you see in urban exploration photography, minus the dust and decay.

I’ll let the photos below serve as a tour.

Shaw’s Corner can be reached by train from King’s Cross. It’s quite a trek from Welwyn Garden City, so we took a cab, and had drinks and a meal at the 13th century pub down the road afterward.

All photos © Kendra Bean


 Vivien with Shaw and Hungarian director Gabriel Pascal in the garden at Shaw’s Corner, 1944

Vivien Leigh and George Bernard Shaw

Vivien chats with Shaw in his revolving writing hut








Shaw’s Academy Award for Pygmalion (above) and 1925 Novel prize for literature (below)








Ayot St. Lawrence Old Church

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Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait

Kendra has been the weblady at since 2007. She lives in Yorkshire and is the author of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait, and co-author of Ava Gardner: A Life in Movies (Running Press). Follow her on Twitter @kendrajbean, Instagram at @vivandlarrygram, or at her official website.

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Comments (15)

  1. Thanks for posting this info, Kendra. As always, I am enjoying my “armchair traveling” around England with you following Vivien and Laurence! How intriguing, albeit egocentric, (no surprise there, right?) that Shaw wanted everything to remain just as it was! I am so glad he did! Keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks, Connie! I’m so glad he requested it remain as-is, too. It’s fascinating. Even his clothes still hanging in the wardrobe! It made it feel a bit more personal. In a lot of these historic sites and stately homes, you get a good sense of the opulence, but not a lot of the people who actually lived there

  2. Nice visit ! Thanks for sharing.
    The “revolving hut” is the small cabin in front of which you are pictured ?

    1. Yes, that’s the revolving hut! According to the docent we spoke to, it no longer revolves, nor can people go inside, although all of his things such as his typewriter and cot can be seen through the windows. I tried to get a photo but have no plarizing filter for my camera 🙁

  3. Dear Kendra:

    I really enjoy all your efforts. I’m a newcomer. But can’t get enough of it. So

  4. Kendra,
    Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos. You’re a lucky girl to get to visit all of these beautiful estates.

    Shaw was such a imposing figure, and quite huggable. For some reason he’s always reminded me of Walt Whitman who I’m quite fond of as well.

    Thanks for getting photos of Shaw’s Oscar and the family photos on the mantle. Love his hats proudly displayed on the hat stand. I can just picture him putting one on as he walks out the door for a stroll in one of his gardens.

    Can’t wait to see where you take us next.

  5. I learned that Shaw befriended Birmingham Rep founder Sir Barry Jackson, as well as Sir Cedric Hardwicke, when I wrote Sir Cedric’s biography in 2006.

    Shaw , with the above two, saw many of his plays performed at B’ham Rep with Sir Cedric involved in many of them. They also became linked when the Malvern Festival became well known over time and many of Shaw’s plays were performed there also.

    Film star and the quintessential Dr Watson [alongside Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes] Edward Hardwicke told me that he gave his first performance at Malvern aged 11 years with his father watching on.

    I wonder if Sir Cedric, Sir Barry and Edward ever met Vivien ? Then again when Sir Cedric was involved in Olivier’s 1955 film RICHARD III with Olivier, Sir Ralph Richardson, Sir John Gielgud, et al [a Shakesperian knights fest], and not forgetting Claire Bloom, Vivien must have met Sir Cedric [he played King Edward IV]. What do you think Kendra ?

    I would love to visit Shaw’s house in Britain, but I do also see him as a native of Eire really and his home being there in many ways, call me old fashioned.

  6. Who are the people in the pictures on his mantle…is that Stalin and Lenin? Why would he have those particular frames portraits?

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