British naturalist and author Henry Williamson penned one of the best-loved animal tales in English literature with his Tarka the Otter (1927). And following the recent news over the status of William Blake’s cottage, it’s interesting to note that the small hut in Devon that Williamson built with the proceeds of Tarka the Otter has just been given Grade II listed conservation status by English Heritage, making it one of the smallest buildings ever to receive this recognition.
Born a suburban Londoner, Williamson fought in World War 1, an experience which disgusted him, and after his return to civilian life, moved to North Devon, where he had spent one holiday just before the outbreak of war. He settled in the village of Georgeham close to the North Devon coast, and wrote Tarka the Otter in a cottage there. The book became an immediate success on its release, and won the Hawthornden Prize for 1928. Williamson continued to write prolifically for the rest of his life, as well as indulging in less savory pursuits like espousal of Fascism, but Tarka the Otter remains the work that he is remembered by.
Williamson built the hut in Georgeham between 1929 and 1930. According to coverage in The Daily Telegraph and elsewhere, the Henry Williamson Trust, run by his descendants, administered the hut after his death in 1977, but in May 2014 decided to sell it due to the burden of maintenance expenses, and secured a final price well over the £110,000 target. The Trust apparently secured agreement with the new owner that Williamson fans would still be able to visit it at least once per year, and the owner apparently plans to turn it into a writer’s refuge.