10 Wondrous Writing Hut Facts

Posted by
Rachel White and Stephanie Cornwell, Archive Manager and Archive Assistant at the Roald Dahl Museum
Posted on
11:30am, 17th May
Roald Dahl in his Writing Hut, copyright RDNL

Terrific trivia that will tell you everything you need to know about Roald Dahl's Writing Hut.

1. Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut was built by Wally Saunders, a local builder and friend, in the mid-1950s. Made from bricks with a polystyrene lining, the hut was relatively inexpensive costing about £80 at the time. It is also thought that Wally was the inspiration for the BFG because of his distinctive height and large ears. 

Wally Saunders

Above: Wally Saunders

2. Roald Dahl made many ingenious alterations to his Writing Hut to make himself more comfortable. These included cutting a hole out of the back of his chair to relieve pressure on his damaged spine, and dangling an electric heater from the ceiling to keep warm in the winter, which he could operate from his chair using the end of his walking stick.

3. The floor of the Hut was covered with the rubber shavings that he would brush off his writing board daily, as well as the fluff, "bits of grass and apple blossom" that would blow in from the garden. Occasionally even goat droppings would be left behind when Alma, the family’s pet goat, would break in.

4. The Writing Hut was central to Dahl’s writing process. He would go down to the hut in the morning with a thermos of coffee, sit down and pull out his custom made writing board; the board was covered in green baize felt because he found it easy on the eyes. He would then brush off the rubber shavings from the previous day’s work with a stiff clothes brush and sharpen his pencils before starting work. 

Roald Dahl's Writing Board and Chair, The Roald Dahl Museum

Above: Roald Dahl's Writing Board

5. Roald Dahl’s writing process was also shaped by superstitious behaviour. He thought uneven numbers were unlucky, and so always worked with precisely six pencils, five kept in a toby jug next to his chair and one to write with. He also liked to work in two hour blocks from about 10am to 12pm in the morning, stop for lunch, and then work for another two hours in the afternoon.

The Exterior of the Writing Hut

Above: the exterior of Roald Dahl's Writing Hut in Roald Dahl's garden. The interior is now in the Roald Dahl Museum.

6. Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut was inspired by his visit to the home of one of his favourite authors, Dylan Thomas, who worked in a writing shed in Laugharne in South Wales. Roald later used Thomas’ poem In Country Sleep in Matilda, quoted by Miss Honey.

7. The walls of the Hut were covered in photos of his family, postcards and letters, including a Christmas card from a postman in America called Willy Wonka.

8. Roald Dahl kept a collection of strange and wonderful mementoes on the low table in his Hut. These items included his own hip-bone, a metal ball made from silver chocolate wrappers, a model Hurricane plane and a huge opal sent to him from a child in Australia.

Objects on Writing Hut desk, The Roald Dahl Museum

Above: objects on Roald Dahl's desk

9. Roald didn’t want to be disturbed when he was writing, so the telephone in his Hut was only used in emergencies. He even told his children that there were wolves in the hut so they wouldn’t go in!

10. The interior of the Hut and its contents were moved in 2011 to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden so that visitors could see inside it. It was reconstructed exactly as Roald Dahl had left it, including the screwed-up paper in the wastepaper basket and the dust on the floor. All the items, including the dust, were carefully conserved before being put back into the Hut after it had been installed in Solo Gallery at the Museum.

Roald Dahl's Writing Hut at the Roald Dahl Museum

Above: the Writing Hut in situ at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, Great Missenden.