E.M.Forster age 13

The writer Edward Morgan Forster lived at Rooks Nest House from 1883 to 1893, from the ages of 4 to 14. In later life he returned there often, as the guest of composer Elizabeth Poston. 

His novel Howards End was inspired by his childhood home and its surrounding countryside. Forster’s writing is studied in schools, colleges and universities throughout the world.   His work is concerned with themes that are still current today, including:-  

  • human relationships,
  • conflicts of loyalty               
  • the need for connection between apparent opposites such as commerce and culture, poetry and prose,                      

He is constantly quoted in newspapers and has the distinction that one of his short stories is available in full on the Internet.


Elizabeth Poston
 A highly regarded composer and musicologist, Elizabeth Poston had a distinguished career in radio broadcasting. During World War II she worked for the BBC in London, Bedford and Bristol, ending as a 'secret agent', using gramophone records to send coded messages to allies in Europe. She never revealed the exact nature of this work and it remains secret to this day. After the war, she was one of the team who founded the Third Programme, which became Radio 3. She was an authority on carols and folk-music; her two Penguin books of Christmas carols, published in 1965 and 1970, were regarded as definitive. One of her best-known and loved carols is Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, which is a regular feature of the Christmas Eve service of Nine Lessons and Carols televised from King's College, Cambridge. How many people realise that the composer lived and worked in Stevenage. 


The original drafts and recordings of Elizabeth’s music, once performed or published, found their way into her attic at Rooks Nest House, together with programmes, newspaper cuttings, correspondence and photos.  This was because they were finished and also she was wary of dealing with publishers, having had occasion in the past to fight them hard in order to receive fair play.

Towards the end of her life she met Malcolm Williamson and his partner & publisher, Simon Campion, and decided that he should be her literary executor and copyright holder, expressing in her will the hope that he would give all manuscripts of her musical and literary works to a suitable trust for safe-keeping.

In 2013, some 100 box files of written material, mainly correspondence, were duly catalogued and deposited at The Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) at County Hall, Hertford and now, all the available music (nearly 300 items) has been checked and recently deposited at the Music Department of the British Library.  So Elizabeth’s dying wish for the safe-keeping of her archive has been largely fulfilled.

'I was brought up as a boy ....... in a district which I still think the loveliest in England'.These were E M Forster’s nostalgic sentiments in 1946, broadcast on radio when participating in the first campaign to save the countryside around his old childhood home from development.