Moving the Writing Hut

Posted by
Stephanie Cornwell, Archive Assistant at the Roald Dahl Museum
Posted on
10:00am, 2nd June
Inside Roald Dahl's Writing Hut at the Roald Dahl Museum

Learn more about how Roald Dahl's Writing Hut was installed in the Museum.

Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut was central to his writing process and a space where he worked continuously for 35 years. After his death in 1990, the Writing Hut and its varied contents were kept as Dahl had left them. However, the hut was gradually falling into disrepair and was in danger of being lost forever, so it was moved from his garden at Gipsy House to the very heart of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.

One of the most important processes in moving Dahl’s Writing Hut involved making sure the hut could be precisely replicated in its new home. Before items were removed from the hut a layer of translucent plastic film, as shown below, was placed over the walls and floor of the hut to mark out the placement of the hut’s interior, from the photographs and letters on the walls, to the placement of the furniture, fixtures and fittings. Even the diamond pattern on the floor was traced for an exact pattern match.

Raold Dahl's Writing Hut with translucent plastic film covering the floor marking out where objects are Roald Dahl's Writing up with translucent film marking the position of objects on the walls

The above two images show areas of the hut covered in translucent film marking the position of items. Photos copyright Stephen Umpleby.

Each item was also given a unique reference number so that it could be tracked on its journey from the hut to the museum. After the items and furniture in the Writing Hut had been removed, work moved on to carefully detaching the ceiling, wall and floor linings. The floor was a particularly delicate process, taking over two weeks to complete.  

The hut had long been exposed to the elements and so a great deal of conservation and cleaning work was undertaken before the removed interior could be safely housed in the Museum's display and storage facilities. This took hundreds of hours with the varied materials kept in the hut requiring many different conservation techniques. Dahl’s winged armchair alone took approximately six hours to clean and remove corrosion. The armchair was also one of the 24 items placed in deep freeze at -30°c for 3 to 4 days, to kill any existing pests and help prevent future infestation.

Other treatments included repairs to damaged textiles, prints and artwork in the hut. However it was also important to maintain the authentic feel of Dahl’s Writing Hut so samples of dust and dirt were also taken and treated. For example, debris was taken from the Writing Hut floor which was baked to kill any pests, and then scattered in the replica hut.  After conservation treatments, the Writing Hut was installed piece by piece in January 2012. 

Roald Dahl's Writing Hut in the Museum before his objects are added Roald Dahl's Writing Hut once all of his objects were put back in place

The above two images show the process of installing the Writing Hut objects back in place in the Roald Dahl Museum. Top image copyright Stephen Umpleby, bottom image copyright the Roald Dahl Museum.

One of the main benefits to keeping the Writing Hut interior in the Museum is that we can monitor and regulate the environment in the hut to protect the items inside. The heat, humidity and light conditions in the hut caused many of the varied materials within it to deteriorate, tarnish and fade. We use environmental data loggers to regularly check that the humidity and temperature are at appropriate levels and keep light levels low to prevent any further damage. As dirt, dust and pests are also potential risks to the hut, we regularly monitor for insect activity, lightly clean and check items for signs of damage.

The Writing Hut is now an integral part of our collection, both providing a faithful display of Roald Dahl’s working environment for the public and preserving an iconic space filled with some of Dahl’s most precious memories and items.

You can see the Writing Hut in Solo Gallery at the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire.