Lawrence of Arabia comes to Dorset to escape the limelight.

Lawrence of Arabia:what image does that conjure up for you?

The desert?
War against the Turks,
Peter O'Toole?

My interest in this man was raised during a trip to Jordan last year.Perhaps to get more tourists in the Jordanian Government keep his profile high and in some places images still exist.This one I found in Wadi Rum, an amazing area of mountains and desert in the South of the country.

lawrence carving wadi rum

But in 1923 the stress of all his wartime experiences and political campaigning were taking their toll and T.E wanted peace and quiet. He found it in rural Dorset.

After changing his name he rejoined the Army this time in the Tank Corps and arrived at Bovington Camp outside wareham on 12th March 1923.

He rented a cottage called Clouds Hill just up the road from the Camp.The cottage is now owned by The National Trust.

Parking is somewhat limited so go on Thursday or Friday rather than the weekend.You follow a short path at the end of which a NT volunteer will relieve you of £4.Unless of course you are a member in which case it is free.

clouds hill dorset

You will be directed to the garage at the rear of the house where Lawrence stored his motor bike the Brough Superior SS-100.This garage has now been turned into a museum which shows images of his time in the Middle East as well as an audio commentary of his life.

In the garage there is a bust of Lawrence set on a plinth.This is the height he was,only 5 feet 4 inches.You think of O'Toole and how tall he is but the real Lawarence was much shorter.

This becomes more apparent when you enter the house which has such low ceilings a tall man like me has to duck.

The book room is off to the left as I walk in the front door.Above this door it says "don't worry" in Greek.The room has a large leather covered mattress which he would use to read.Either that or a very small chair by the fire which again gives away his size.

On the other side of the entrance is the bathroom, and then I go up some very narrow stairs to the music and bunk rooms.The music room is the biggest in the house and has the most sunlight.Looking at the house from outside you notice how few windows there are.

He was a great lover of music and spent much of his time at Clouds Hill listening to Beethoven or Mozart.There is a large gramophone in one corner which I think was very high tech for the day.Lawrence was certainly a sound buff.

The bunk room on the other side of the staircase is lined with aluminum to provide a damp proof course.This Lawrence installed only a few days before his death, including a porthole recovered from HMS Tiger.

By today's standards the house is very claustrophobic but I suppose for one short person who wanted to escape the public gaze it served it's purpose.

Outside I climbed a short hill to a vantage point which looks down on the cottage and off in the distance the ocean can just be made out.

The Death of Lawrence

You will know from the film how T.E dies.There is a road down to the camp which Lawrence drove up and down every day.Today the road is much improved but in 1935 had a number of dips. Going at 60mph he swerved to avoid two cyclists hidden in a dip, caught one and was thrown from his bike.

He suffered severe head injuries and six days later died at the age of 46.There are two memorial stones that have been erected in his memory.These you can see by driving down the King George V Road towards the spectacularly ugly Bovington camp.There is a car park on the left after about 200m.

Park there;there is one memorial in the car park placed there by a Tom Beaumont who served with Lawrence, and one 50m up a footpath which runs parallel to the road.

t.e.lawrence stone one

t.e. lawrence memorial stone

As you can see both stones are in need of some attention,the lettering having become very hard to read.

After his death,a funeral was arranged which attracted alot of media interest though the public was asked to stay away.The cemetery at the nearby St Nicholas Church Moreton was full so his grave can be found down the road at a second cemetery, past a very fine tea house,which i recommend you visit.

The grave can be found at the back of the cemetery on the right.You will probably have to queue up to view it.At the request of his mother his first name Lawrence is shown on the grave stone as by then he had changed it to Shaw.

t.e. lawrence grave

You can also visit St Martin's Church in wareham where a crusader style effigy of the man is on display,recumbent in full Arab dress.This was made by the artist Eric Kennington using a base of Purbeck Marble and Portland Stone for the sculpture itself.

lawrence effergy

Kennington had gone ahead with making the effigy after learning no national memorial was planned.At first there was talk about housing the effigy in Salisbury Cathedral. But there was disagreement between the Dean and AW Lawrence ,brother of TE, as to the position of the sculpture ,so Wareham was chosen instead.

Detail on the sculpture includes an Agal & Kyffieh headdress,camel whips,two books:the Greek Anthology of Verse & the Oxford Book of English Verse,and a dagger given to him by Prince Feisal.

Please stay and admire the rest of the Church as it does get rather overlooked by people who only come to see the effigy.

stmartins church wareham

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