When it comes to escaping a noisy family, many men may have sought solace in the wonders of a garden shed.
But the humble outhouse is not just for pottering, it appears, as it is revealed two of Britain’s best-loved authors had the same brainwave.
Roald Dahl’s widow, Felicity, has disclosed an unlikely link between the bestselling children’s author and poet Dylan Thomas, saying Dahl copied the dimensions and decorations of Thomas’ garden shed as he tried to escape his young family to write .
And while the two men produced vastly different works, Dahl’s treasured children’s books may never have been created if it weren’t for Thomas’ legacy.
Mrs Dahl has told how the author struggled to concentrate at home when his young children were around, needing to get away from the “general domesticity” in order to concentrate.
While seeking a solution, he remembered hearing how Thomas, whom he admired greatly, had built his own hut to lock himself away and write.
Mrs Dahl told the BBC: “He realised he had to have a space of his own in the garden away from the children and the noise and the general domesticity and he remembered that Dylan had felt the same.
“And so he went down to Wales to look at Dylan’s writing hut and, like everybody I think probably, fell in love with it.
Dylan’s Writing Shed
“He built it exactly to the same proportions as Dylan’s hut, the same roof, one skin of brick.
“Of course Dylan’s hut was a garage originally, whereas Roald had nothing, it was an empty space that he built on.”
The buildings are said to have had the same angled roofs, with Dahl’s erected by his builder friend Wally Saunders – himself the inspiration for the BFG.
The author, a father-of-five went on to write all of his best-loved children’s books in the hut in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, from Matilda to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Twits.
Roald Dahl in his Writing Hut, 1990
In his lifetime, Dahl described the 6ft x 7ft hut as a “little nest, my womb”, having a particular routine of beginning at 10 am each, sharpening six pencils and using a yellow legal writing pad imported from America.
Thomas, a father-of-three, is said to have written works including Under Milk Wood, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, Over Sir John’s Hill and Poem on His Birthday inside his writing hut.
Dahl is understood to have visited the Carmarthenshire workshop in the 1950s, peeking through the window to see exactly what to mimic.
Mrs Dahl, who has since visited Thomas’ hut, said: “It was so similar to Roald’s hut. Everything was very simple, and Roald was like that, he didn’t want rich yachts, he wanted a simple life, he was a countryman, again, like Dylan.”
The only difference, she added, was that Thomas preferred to write with the light from the window, while Dahl locked himself away and shut the curtains to be encased in artificial light.
Thomas’ writing shed, in Laugharne, has been open to the public for years and is a major tourist attraction, perched on the cliff overlooking the Taf estuary.
Dahl’s shed was preserved in tact after his death, complete with cigarette butts in the ashtray, and screwed up paper in the wastepaper basket.
It caused controversy in 2011 when his family launched a campaign to save it, announcing they hoped to raise £500,000. Critics wondered why the cost could not be met by the proceeds of the estate and book royalties.
The campaign was eventually successful, with writing hut was carefully dismantled and reassembled in the Roald Dahl Museum, where it can be visited by fans.
Paper written by –