Campaign launched to save Lawrence of Arabia’s childhood home in Oxford
"The city of Oxford will certainly benefit from the renovated house of one of its celebrated sons.”
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL
The British conservative politician Rory Stewart along with the BBC reporter John Simpson launched in early August a public campaign to preserve the nine bedroom childhood home in Oxford of the famed WW1 insurgency fighter Thomas Edward Lawrence.Jacob Rosen, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and Israel’s top Lawrence expert, told The Jerusalem Post that “I believe it is the right thing to do. Thomas Edward Lawrence is not an obscure person. His fame is alive among us, more than 80 years after his death, as can be judged from the continuous stream of books and documentaries published and produced about him.”Rosen, who has the world’s largest collection of different foreign language versions of Lawrence’s biography Seven Pillars of Wisdom and has written and lectured on the scholar and combatant, said Lawrence “was also a talented archeologist, writer, translator and political officer. The city of Oxford will certainly benefit from the renovated house of one of its celebrated sons.”According to a blue plaque on the Victorian house in the British University town of Oxford, Lawrence lived in the home from 1896-1921. Lawrence, who gained worldwide fame from the 1962 British epic film “Lawrence of Arabia,” was born in 1888 and passed away in a motorcycle accident in England in 1935.Stewart told the UK paper The Times that Lawrence’s home is “beginning to deteriorate,” adding that “An elderly man lived in it for years, and not much has been done in that time to keep it in good shape. Another winter will do real damage to the structure, and the danger is that the owners will offer it at public auction at a knock-down price.”Stewart said that “We believe the house should be bought and returned to its condition of a century ago, when Lawrence lived there.”The dilapidated condition of the Lawrence property could cause a “developer to make a case for knocking part of it down,” said the Tory MP.AdvertisementAccording to a Friday article in the Oxford Mail, Stewart and Simpson want to convert the home into a permanent memorial and study center devoted to Lawrence. The paper wrote that City councillor Liz Wade is a supporter of the proposed Lawrence center, stating: “People would come from all over the world.” The Oxford Mail wrote that "Of particular interest to historians is the timber bungalow, comprising a bedroom and study, built in the garden for Lawrence." Stewart produced a documentary for the BBC on Lawrence.Lawrence attended the City of Oxford High School for Boys and later the University of Oxford. His former childhood house’s appraised value is £2.7 million.Winston Churchill biographer Sir Martin Gilbert chronicled what he termed Lawrence’s “little known romance with Zionism,” including Lawrence’s comment prior to WWI on Jews in then-Palestine: “The sooner the Jews farm it the better: their colonies are bright spots in a desert.”Lawrence graduated from Jesus College of the University of Oxford and “was also the product of an austere Oxford upbringing.” according to the website of Jesus College. The College noted that “His first-class degree in history followed tuition by the medievalist R.L. Poole and a thousand-mile trek through Syria and Lebanon to compare Crusader-built castles with their French equivalents. A self-taught archaeologist from boyhood, he began his graduate career as an assistant to Sir Leonard Woolley, leader of the British Museum expedition to Carchemish.”After Lawrence’s archeology phase 1910-1914 in northern Syria, he would go on to help lead a Bedouin irregular army force in the campaign against the Ottoman Turks during WW1.