The Lives of Houses

Oxford Centre for Life Writing logo

A one-day colloquium convened by Oliver Cox & Sandra Mayer, and hosted by the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW) in collaboration with The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

The event brings together academics, biographers and curators to explore the ways in which the life stories of well-known individuals are preserved and presented through the architecture and material culture of their homes. Talks on musicians’, architects’ and writers’ houses will focus on the intersections of life-writing and notions of fame and celebrity through physical spaces and objects. With a plenary lecture by Daisy Hay on “Writing Space in Mr and Mrs Disraeli and Dinner with Joseph Johnson” and papers by

• Gillian Darley (Sir John Soane)

• Lucy Walker (Benjamin Britten’s The Red House)

• James Grasby (Edward Elgar Birthplace)

• Alexandra Harris (William Cowper, John Clare and Virginia Woolf)

• Frankie Kubicki (Charles Dickens Museum)

• Nicola Watson (Shakespeare’s New Place)


The colloquium will conclude with a round table discussion among scholars and practitioners. Featuring Head of Specialist Advice for the National Trust, Nino Strachey, biographer and broadcaster Alexandra Harris, and art historian and curator Serena Dyer, the expert panel will cast a spotlight on the strategies available to those who open and present these houses to the public today. 

To book a place, click here.

Click here to view the programme.

Click here to view the poster.


For more information, contact Kate Kennedy (OCLW)


The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, OCLW

Contact name: Kate Kennedy
Contact email:
Audience: Open to all