House that inspired Anna Sewell to write Black Beauty for sale
PUBLISHED: 10:18 16 October 2015 | UPDATED: 12:36 16 October 2015
Property editor Caroline Culot visited a house with a fascinating literary history, Anna Sewell House in Old Catton.
It is with absolute fascination that you walk through this handsome Georgian house in the centre of Old Catton, knowing that once, the famous author Anna Sewell also stood there, looking out of the same windows over across to pretty much the very same view.
When Anna moved to the White House, it was 1867 and she was in her late forties and suffering from ill health which historians document as everything from bouts of fatigue to depression. Following an ankle accident when she was a teenager, she had never walked properly and by the time she moved in to Old Catton, she relied heavily on horses and would be seen travelling around in her pony and trap.
The adjoining coach house where Anna’s pony and trap would have come into is now accessed from the inside of the main house and you can still see its original brick floor and the guttering. It forms part of a mews style flat now.
It is believed Anna wrote the classic novel Black Beauty at her desk upstairs and certainly her bedroom is known to be one which boasts gorgeous views through large sash windows of the enclosed rear garden.
In fact, it is slightly smaller than it would have originally been, as it would have encompassed both the windows over the front as well and it would have been from there that Anna gazed out over towards the Sir Humphrey Repton designed deer park where horses grazed.
When I visited, rather auspiciously, there was indeed one black horse! It is not thought horses kept here in Anna’s day were the inspiration for Black Beauty but that it was a horse called Bess belonging to Anna’s brother and stabled over on land at St Clement’s Hill further in the city.
As is well documented, Anna wrote Black Beauty in 1877 and it was published by Jarrold for a paltry sum. It went on to be a huge success but Anna died the following year and so never lived to see its ensuing improvement in the treatment of horses let alone her own achievement in literature.
Now this village house, which has played an enormous role in literary history, is up for sale. Now called Anna Sewell House and bearing a newly restored plaque on the front, it does offer, completely in its own right, the opportunity to live with character features and privacy.
It fronts Spixworth Road with a tiny little garden behind wrought iron gates but at the rear is a really lovely enclosed garden with a terrace and a garden room.
Inside are some very attractive original features including the winding staircase leading to a split level landing as well as the sash, shuttered windows and several large fireplaces.
There is a large kitchen which needs updating but throughout, the house which has been rented for several years, is in really good order, all beautifully painted and it offers great flexibility in how it is used, with a total of five bedrooms.
I visited last Friday and the sun was streaming through the rooms; because of its Georgian design with windows front and back, it is a really light house and it comes with the additional accommodation provided by the original coach house.
What I suppose is so wonderful is that after all these years, very little has changed in the vicinity which really is very attractive with the fields and period houses lining Spixworth Road.
It is a house which Norfolk should be proud of.
• Anna Sewell House is for sale for £650,000 with Pymm & Co on 01603 305805