Recommend to your Librarian

Charleston and Monk's House

The Intimate House Museums of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell

Nuala Hancock

Hardback i (Printed to Order)
eBook (PDF) i

The interwoven biographies of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell and the houses they lived in

What can we learn from a commemorative house? What biographical narratives emerge as we travel through the spaces of another's home? This new study unveils the revelatory potential of the house museum to inform and enrich our understanding of the lived past of its former inhabitants. It focuses on the emotionally textured interiors of Charleston and Monk's House, the literary/artistic house museums of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, seeking out traces of their shared biography.

Fresh perspectives unfold on Woolf's and Bell's' sisterhood and their continuous artistic exchange, as we shadow their daily lives through the richly painted rooms and atmospheric gardens of their former Sussex homes. Discover these celebrated artists in a different light - animated, moving, handling the tools of their related arts and brought vividly to life through the tangible fabric of their past living.

Key Features:
  • Reveals, through an emplaced investigation, the potential of Charleston and Monk's House to illuminate the shared histories of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell
  • Provides new insights into aspects of Woolf's and Bell's lives
  • Explores the poetic relationship between house and dweller, and points the way to a richer interpretative response to house museums
  • Demonstrates the central role of embodied and sensory responses, alongside intellectual analysis, as tools in a multi-dimensional interpretation of the material world

About the Author

Nuala Hancock is a writer and researcher whose work explores the interrelated fields of architecture and garden history, art and literature. Her recent work has centered on the correspondence between biography, space and place. She has published in the areas of Museum Studies, Garden History and Woolf Scholarship.Her writing on Virginia Woolf includes a chapter on 'Virginia Woolf and Gardens'in The Edinburgh Companion to Virginia Woolf and the Arts, edited by Maggie Humm (Edinburgh University Press 2010).


Hancock's deep affinity with both houses is evident in this compelling and very elegantly written book...(her) experience of these two museum houses, and her own skill as a writer, have resulted in a fascinating book that fuses a loving, lyrical, intimate and subjective response with rigorous, objective, academic analysis and theoretical research. It will appeal to the devotee of the biographies and works of Woolf and Vanessa Bell, the common reader or viewer, and to the scholar engaged in the burgeoning area of material and cultural Museum Studies.

- Marion Dell, Virginia Woolf Bulletin No 42

...the argument is seemed with brilliant insights, and, if you stay the course,your future visits to Charleston and Monk's House will be immeasurably enriched and your experience of them profoundly altered....and the chapter on the gardens of both houses is sheer heaven.

- Francis Spalding, Canvas
'A fascinating account of Bloomsbury and domestic space, traced through Bell's art, Woolf's prose and the tourist industry built on their lives.'
- Amber K. Regis, TLS

"This extraordinarily evocative book not only draws us into the lives of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell with empathy and sensitivity, but also provides a richly textured new viewpoint on house museums. Anyone interested in spaces, objects and interpretation in the museum would find their perspective invigorated by reading it."

Dr Sandra Dudley, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester


"Hancock sensually evokes the materiality of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell’s lives and houses. Like a detective writer, she unveils the vivid histories of Charleston and Monk’s House in fascinating detail."

Professor Maggie Humm, University of East London, Author of Modernist Women and Snapshots of Bloomsbury and Editor of The Edinburgh Companion to Virginia Woolf and the Arts

'A fascinating account of Bloomsbury and domestic space, traced through Bell's art, Woolf's prose and the tourist industry built on their lives.'
- Amber K. Regis, TLS