View Full Version : Cornish bay that inspired Virginia Woolf's novel sold for £80,000

07-14-2009, 09:12 PM

The majestic three-mile curve of sand and dunes that gave Virginia Woolf the landcape and memories at the heart of her most famous novel, To the Lighthouse, was bought at auction by a private buyer yesterday for £80,000.

The new owner has acquired 71 acres of the wildest part of the Cornish beach, which stretches from Hale, near St Ives, to the lighthouse on Godrevy Island, and five acres of dunes behind them.

It is a popular tourist spot and home to rare orchids, adders, glowworms and various species of moth as well as providing a magnet for surfers, who love its reliable waves. But the anonymous buyer also becomes the custodian of an important slice of literary history.

To the Lighthouse is one of the key novels of the 20th century, exploring the potential of a stream-of-consciousness prose style to examine the connections between the physical world and individual memories.

The novel is set on the Isle of Skye, in northwest Scotland, but was inspired by Woolf’s childhood holidays in Cornwall with her family. Before her mother’s death in 1895 she spent 12 summers in St Ives enjoying panoramic views of the lighthouse at Godrevy and the sweeping bay in front of it. The sound of the waves heard from her bedroom each morning were among her earliest memories. Later in life Woolf recalled her childhood summers in Cornwall as “the best beginning to life conceivable”.

Professor Christine Froula, a former president of the International Virginia Woolf Society, said that when Woolf wrote To the Lighthouse in 1927, she was able “at 44 to transform the landscape of her childhood into something that could not die, even as the visible world is always changing, which is one important theme of the novel”.

Cornwall today is rather gaudier than it was when Woolf visited, but the beach that she describes in the book can still be glimpsed: a “great plateful of blue water” with “the hoary lighthouse distant, austere, in the midst” and “the green sand dunes with the wild flowing grasses on them, which always seemed to be running away into some moon country, uninhabited of men”.

Upton Towans beach, the plot that sold yesterday, is in the middle of the bay, but the particulars for the sale made no mention of its literary heritage. It was previously owned by Dennis Arbon, a trustee of the Hall for Cornwall, a performing arts venue in Truro, who wanted to raise funds for the theatre. He said: “Everyone who comes here is inspired by the vision of this wonderful beach. The sea conditions are superb; the light is amazing. The whole atmosphere is magical.”

Tim Brinkman, the director of Hall for Cornwall, said: “It is wonderful that something that inspired literature is going to help provide funds to feed plays and theatrical productions of the future.”

Richard Argles, the director of Colliers CRE, which handled the auction, said that three telephone bidders and two in the saleroom had pushed the price above its £50,000 estimate. The eventual buyer is a man from Cornwall who is based in London. Planning rules mean that he will not be able to build on the land or excavate it for minerals.

Source (http://property.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/property/article6703392.ece)