The home where Woolf lived out her Night and Day
Night and Day, Jacob’s Dalloway The Common Reader Mrs ous house, too. In 1917, Virginia and Leonard bought a hand printing press for £19 5s 5d. They kept it in their drawing room and used it to publish “at low prices short works of merit” that would not appeal to a large public. They called it Hogarth Press, after their house. Within five years, Hogarth Press had published works by TS Eliot, EM Forster and Sigmund Freud. What started as a hobby, to give Virginia distraction from writing and her depression, soon grew into a large commercial publisher, releasing 527 titles in 29 years. Today, Hogarth Press is part of publishing giant Penguin Random House, and the property where it all began – complete with blue plaque – is now on the market. It has been divided into two townhouses, for sale through Savills at £3.75million each, following an extensive refurbishment by Berwick Hill Properties. The developer bought the Grade II listed building in 2012 but it took two years before planning permission was granted. The idea to split it into two was a financial one: “the market wasn’t there” for a single larger house, says Jonathan Carey of Donald Insall Associates, the conservation architecture practice that worked on the project. But the local conservation officer was not convinced. “She said, you can’t do that, you’re ruining a Victorian property,” Carey recalls. But over the following months of research, he had a stroke of luck. After noticing something “not quite right” with the stair joinery, he came to “the most extraordinary conclusion: that the building we were looking at then had in fact already been converted into two houses.”
The property, built in 1750, had been divided in 1870 when the house fell into disrepair following the area’s decline in social stand- ing. Virginia and Leonard Woolf initially moved into the left townhouse, buying the other one in the early Twenties. It was turned into business premises in 1934, and the two halves were reunited in the Seventies.
The 18-month project took twice as long as expected, says Hannah Durden, development manager at Berwick Hill. Some 15 layers of paint had to be stripped off the hand-carved wooden panelling, and decades worth of dirt (not to mention pornographic magazines from the Sixties) had to be cleaned from under the floorboards. Now, both five-bedroom houses have restored period features, plush modern interiors and courtyard gardens. The left house is called “Leonard”, and the right, “Virginia”, bears the blue plaque.
“We knew from day one that this was a very important building,” says Jeremy Richardson, director of Berwick Hill. “There aren’t many opportunities in life to own a house that has played such an important role in English literary history.” And, Durden adds, of all the blue plaques in London, only one in 10 relates to women. “That makes this even more of a rare commodity.”
Both townhouses now boast restored period features and plush, modern interior decoration; Virginia Woolf, far left, lived at Hogarth House from 1915 to 1924 The 1750 villa is now for sale as two townhouses, ‘Leonard’ on the left and ‘Virginia’ on the right, with the blue plaque marking one of literature’s most influential figures