Shropshire writers' retreat gets a £3.3 million makeover

A rural hideaway in Shrophshire that was once home to Oscar-winning screenwriter John Osborne has started a new life as a flagship writing centre after a £3.3 million makeover.

Nigel Pantling, chairman of trustees, Alan Davey of the Arts Council, and Ruth Borthwick of Arvon
Nigel Pantling, chairman of trustees, Alan Davey of the Arts Council, and Ruth Borthwick of Arvon

It is now hoped The Hurst, at Clunton, near Clun, will spawn some of the best future writers in the country.

The Hurst has been transformed from a near derelict property into a residential centre for national creative writing charity Arvon, with the help of a £1.65 million grant from Arts Council England.

Oscar-winning screenwriter John Osborne
Oscar-winning screenwriter John Osborne

Writers of all abilities, ages and backgrounds will come for week-long courses and be tutored by some of the best known writers working today.

The 200-year-old Georgian manor house sits in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Shropshire Hills and includes 26 acres of magnificent woodland.

Arvon’s chief executive, Ruth Borthwick, said: "We are sincerely grateful to Arts Council England and everyone who has helped us over the ten years it has taken to get this far.

"Arvon’s vision is that everyone can benefit from the transformative power of writing.

"We will be welcoming people of all backgrounds, ages and ambitions to step over this threshold and find their voices."

Mr Osborne, who once described the scene looking out from the house as "the best view in England", was Shropshire’s greatest playwright, responsible for Look Back In Anger, a play that transformed British theatre. He won an Oscar in 1963 for the screenplay of Tom Jones.

He died in 1994 in Clun and is buried there, along with his fifth wife, Helen Dawson. Their home was The Hurst and today it is managed by The Arvon Foundation.

Although Arvon has been successfully running writing courses at The Hurst since 2004, it only used a small amount of the site.

The manor house was partially disused and many of the outbuildings had fallen into disrepair. The rooms where John and Helen Osborne lived, including his study, had been empty for almost a decade.

The Manor House has been renovated and now The Hurst is expected to offer opportunities to nearly 1,000 young, aspiring and established writers every year.

Subscribe to our Newsletter