Lived in Beaconsfield
29th May 1874
14th June 1936
Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in Kensington and educated at St. Paul ’s School and the Slade School of Art where it was found that his primary talents were in writing. His earliest work was done in the family home and later at the publishers’ offices of Redway and T Fisher Unwin, and in the hurly burly of Fleet Street. It was his marriage to Frances Blogg in 1901 which turned his thoughts to a permanent home where he could continue his writing and find some quiet from the busy life as a journalist.
The early years of marriage were spent in Kensington and Overstrand Mansions at Battersea, and it was from the latter that one day they took a second honeymoon journey to Slough. From Slough they walked through the beech woods to Beaconsfield, staying at the White Hart Hotel and decided ‘This is the sort of place where someday we will make our home’. This proved possible in 1909 when they rented Overroads, which had just been built in Grove Road .
It soon became clear that a house larger than Overroads was needed and the opportunity came in 1912 to purchase the field across the road. It was called Top Meadow and on it was built a studio with a small study at one end. In 1922 they were able to build the living accommodation at Top Meadow and at last to live in their own home.
By the time Chesterton arrived in Beaconsfield his name was already well-known as a writer. He had been writing reviews on literary and artistic subjects for ten years. He had published The Wild Knight and other Poems, Robert Browning, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, Heretics, Charles Dickens and Orthodoxy. He also wrote essays in magazines and Our Notebook column in the Illustrated London News, as well as the Saturday morning column of the Daily News.
To Top Meadow came many friends and acquaintances from the world of journalism, literature and the arts: George Bernard Shaw, Walter de Ia Mare, Hilaire Belloc and Father John O’Connor, the basis of Chesterton’s fictional detective Father Brown.
In 1915 he suffered a severe illness, after which his brother Cecil went off to the War, leaving Gilbert to edit ‘The New Witness’, a social and political weekly founded in 1911, to propagate the views of the Distributist League, that the ownership of businesses should be spread as widely as possible among the general populace, rather than being centralised under the control of a few state bureaucrats (socialism) or wealthy private individuals (capitalism). For the remainder of Gilbert’s life this, and its successor GK’s Weekly, took up the major part of his time.
The year 1922 marked Gilbert’s reception into the Roman Catholic Church in a building which adjoined the Earl of Beaconsfield public house. The Christian influences in his life go back to boyhood, but his marriage to Frances Blogg, a devoted Anglo-Catholic, brought him into contact with the Christian Social Union, and Henry Scott-Holland, and from that time it is quite clear that Christianity formed the main-spring of Chesterton’s life and thought.
On 14th June 1936, ten days after returning from a short holiday in France, Gilbert Chesterton died at Top Meadow. He was buried in the cemetery in Shepherds Lane, Beaconsfield, the grave being marked by a headstone carved by Eric Gill.
Website with information on G K Chesterton, images and links to his works on the web
The Autobiography of G K Chesterton by G K Chesterton, published by Ignatius Press 2006
The Catholic cemetery in Shepherds Lane, Beaconsfield, contains G K Chesterton’s grave.