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Room by Room

The entrances to Shandy Hall have occupied the same spaces since the fifteenth century. If you were to walk in a straight line from the ‘back door’ you would emerge from the house through a second door directly opposite – the ‘front door’.

Architecturally the building has remained little changed since the time it was occupied (in the eighteenth century) by Laurence Sterne but the contents of the house are not as predictable or perhaps not as static as some other museums.

Shandy Hall is a lived-in house with books, prints, paintings and art works all relating and referring to Laurence Sterne, and because it is inhabited the house is constantly in a state of flux.

The Old Kitchen

Step down into the Old Kitchen and into the past. This was ‘The Buttery’ in medieval days, where the butts of ale and provisions were stored and prepared for use in the Hall. The old fireplace once stretched the width of the beam in the wide chimney. The corner cupboard and dresser date from the 18th century. On leaving the room, notice the dip in the stone step worn by 600 years of footsteps – including Sterne’s.

The Study

A tiny room, but one of great significance. Sterne wrote in this room, which now holds a book collection consisting of editions of his novels, letters and sermons, and works about them. There are first editions, books Sterne owned, and books that influenced him. See pictures of his family and friends, as well as very different-looking portraits of Sterne himself.

The Dining Room

This room was part of the main living space, ‘the Hall’ in the 15th century. Open to the rafters, it held the central hearth. Now the fireplace is a Georgian duck’s nest grate, installed by Sterne.

Meet Tristram’s Uncle Toby and Corporal Trim in scenes from Tristram Shandy on the walls (not forgetting the Widow Wadman — so beautiful that Laurence Sterne abandons attempts to describe her, leaving a blank page for you to paint her yourself). The vitrine holds translations of Sterne’s books from all over the world, artworks, and Sterneana.

The Parlour

Layers of history in the panelled parlour. Walk through the original west wall of the house, into the ‘modern’ Georgian extension. There is a secret behind the panelling, a remnant of the medieval fabric from 600 years ago. Step into A Sentimental Journey with Yorick – learn the story of ‘Poor Maria’ and dally with the glove seller Grisette…

The Garden Room

Sterne’s legacy is shown here in a collection of books by writers and artists influenced by Sterne’s wit or his non-linear writing form. This L-shaped room is partly original house, partly 18th century extension. On turning the corner, you will come face-to-face with the house’s most celebrated inhabitant. This bust was modelled from the life by Joseph Nollekens. The sculptor took precise measurements, so this is the most accurate portrait of Sterne we have.

As its name implies, the room leads out into the garden, where you can see more of the house’s history from the outside.