Once again, Rudyard Kipling is a palpable presence at his former home, Bateman’s of Burwash.
As part of a project to create a more personal feel to the presentation of National Trust properties, the Bateman’s team has made a number of subtle but significant changes. The first was inspired by the discovery of a dusty VHS video containing Pathé newsreel footage of Kipling at St Andrews University, possibly the only existing recording of him speaking.
This led to the acquisition of an original Edison Fireside Phonograph, complete with wax cylinders. In the parlour, visitors can now sit and listen to a number of Kipling’s ballads that were set to music in the 1970s, and which have been specially recorded directly onto the wax cylinders by Jon Boden, lead singer of the folk band Bellowhead.
Visitors may also be tempted to stay and relax a while in Elsie’s Sitting Room, which now features more soft, floral furniture and an old radio that can be tuned to hear extracts from Kipling’s writings being read by Ralph Fiennes.
Upstairs, there is a note on the door of the West Bedroom advising guests of the house rules, as set out by Kipling and most likely directed to his cousin, Stanley Baldwin, who was a frequent visitor. It appears as though a guest has just popped out, leaving their luggage and clothing lying around.
To help keep younger visitors entertained, the Children’s Bedroom has been equipped with a selection of toys and games. Dominoes, magnetic fish, a puppet theatre, a pram and dolls provide interesting diversions, while the small washroom in the corner of the bedroom has also been opened up for visitors to explore.
The newsreel footage that inspired these changes can be seen on 21st century technology with the aid of an iPad. Kipling, always interested in the latest gadgets, would have been delighted.