The House That Inspired Kenneth Grahame To Write The Wind In The Willows Is For Sale In Berkshire

Toby Keel September 16, 2023

The Mount in Cookham Dean was the childhood home of the author Kenneth Grahame for several key years as a boy, an experience that marked him for life and instilled the love of nature which inspired The Wind in the Willows.

Kenneth Grahame was just five years old when his mother died. In the aftermath of the bereavement, he and his three siblings left their home in Scotland and travelled 500 miles south, to the home of his maternal grandmother: The Mount, in Cookham Dean.

Then as now — and today it’s on the market via Savills, for the first time in 54 years — it’s a delightfully higgledy-piggledy old house, with leaded windows, half-timbering, towering chimney-stacks and its roof of clay tiles well weathered. Not far beyond the perimeter of the gardens is Quarry Wood, the dense, thickly-carpeted model for the Wild Wood in The Wind in the Willows, as well as a stretch of the Thames that flows over weirs and is overhung by willow trees.

‘Too young to understand the fullness of his grief for his mother, at The Mount, Grahame retreated from overwhelming sadness into an imaginary world inspired by Nature,’ wrote Grahame’s biographer Matthew Dennison in Country Life a couple of years ago.

Grahame and his family only spent two years at the house, with his uncle David Ingles — the curate at Cookham Dean church — guiding him through the surrounding nature. He would return to live here later in his life; and he lived in Cookham Dean when he published his most famout book.

As Dennison adds, Grahame, ‘retained the memory of this short interlude his whole life and returned to it repeatedly as a balm to heal his suffering. It was at The Mount that, like Rat in The Wind in the Willows, he became “a self-sufficing sort of animal, rooted to the land”.’

As for the house itself, The Mount is set on high ground overlooking the Thames between Marlow and Maidenhead. Originally a 16th century hunting lodge, as it stands today it is an imposing, mainly late-Victorian country house set in 3½ acres of gardens and grounds.

Now in need of modernisation, the house offers more than 7,400sq ft of accommodation on three floors, including four main reception rooms, 12 bedrooms and four bathrooms.

Grahame, incidentally, isn’t the only well-known former resident or visitor. The London diamond brokers Alexander and Arthur Levy, whose firm arranged the cutting of the famous Cullinan Diamond, also owned it. And from the late 1930s, the artist Sir Stanley Spencer visited the Mount, where he painted still lifes and landscapes, including one called The Mount, Cookham Dean.

In 1969 the Kellett family moved to the property, to find the greenhouse, cacti and watering-cans that Spencer once painted still in situ.

Recommended videos for you Today, John Kellett and his brother, Paul, the current vendors, recall ‘a wonderful childhood playing at The Mount, with days and days spent exploring the enchanted woods, gardens, fields and orchards surrounding it’. How wonderful to hear that the house is still inspiring young visitors, a century and a half on.

The Mount in Cookham Dean is for sale via Savills at £3.6m — see more details and pictures.

Additional writing by Penny Churchill