Image: the Home of Charles Darwin, Down House

20 Questions Quiz: Literary Links

Test your knowledge of our properties' literary links with our quiz. Click on each question to reveal the answer.

  • 2. Whitby Abbey was also the home of the first named English poet. What was he called?

    Answer: Cædmon

    Cædmon lived at Whitby Abbey shortly after its foundation in the seventh century, when it was ruled by the great Abbess Hild. Of the Anglian monastery where Cædmon lived, very little is visible today, although recent excavation has revealed that the site was much more extensive than previously thought: a large number of timber buildings stood on the headland (at least 500 metres of which has eroded into the sea since Anglo-Saxon times) along with an extensive cemetery, now buried beneath the visitors’ car park.

  • 4. Who wrote the 1937 poem ‘Roman Wall Blues’, about life on Hadrian’s Wall?

    Answer: WH Auden

    In the poem, Auden's Roman soldier complains, 'Over the heather the wet wind blows, I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose. The rain comes pattering out of the sky, I'm a Wall soldier, and I don't know why.' Auden was also a playwright and critic, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for 'The Age of Anxiety', a long poem written mostly in alliterative verse.


  • 5. Answer

    Answer: Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire

    Kenilworth tells the story of Robert Dudley's first wife, Amy Rosbart, who was found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs in 1560. Dudley was the favourite of Elizabeth I, and some suspected foul play. Dudley, so the rumour goes, wanted to marry Elizabeth – and Amy was in the way. Scott's version of the scandal is set in 1575, against the backdrop of Elizabeth's second visit to Kenilworth Castle, when the castle reached the peak of its prestige.

  • 6. One of the most well-known books in history was written in Down House in Kent. What was it?

    Answer: On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

    The full title of the book, which was published in 1859, is On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. In it, Darwin set out his theory of evolution, changing the way we think about the world forever. He wrote it in his study at Down House, where visitors today can still see Darwin's original furniture, specimens and scientific instruments.


  • 10. Which former Poet Laureate wrote a poem about a merman imprisoned in Orford Castle?

    Answer: Andrew Motion

    In the late 12th century the fishermen of Orford, Suffolk, supposedly caught a merman in their nets. According to the 13th-century chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall, 'He was naked and was like a man in all his members, covered with hair and with a long shaggy beard.' He was taken to Orford Castle and imprisoned there but 'he would not talk, even when tortured and hung up by his feet'. He was allowed into the sea to swim, and eventually managed to escape. Andrew Motion, who grew up near Orford, wrote about the treatment of the merman in his 1997 poem 'Salt Water'.


  • 14. The romantic ruins of Netley Abbey reputedly inspired which renowned Georgian writer to pen a mock-Gothic novel?

    Answer: Jane Austen

    A visit to Netley Abbey near Southampton Water reportedly influenced the setting of Northanger Abbey, completed in 1803 but published only in 1817 after Austen’s death. Visitors to southern England’s most complete surviving Cistercian monastery will recognise the evocative description of ‘its long, damp passages, its narrow cells and ruined chapel… [The heroine, Catherine Morland] could not entirely subdue the hope of some traditional legends, some awful memorials of an injured and ill-fated nun’.