BBC world affairs editor John Simpson and Rory Stewart, Secretary of State for International Development, have put forward a plan to save the childhood home of TE Lawrence.
Remembered as an army officer, archaeologist, and war hero, Lawrence’s life was immortalised in the Academy-award winning film Lawrence of Arabia.
Yet, aside from the blue plaque on the wall, 2 Polstead Road blends into the many red brick houses in north Oxford.
Falling into disrepair, the house was put on the market last year for £2.9 million but remains unsold.
Recently, the TE Lawrence Society appealed against the governmental decision not to give the house listed status, emphasising the urgent need for its protection.
Simpson and Stewart, who has made a two-part documentary for the BBC on Lawrence and his legacy, have suggested the creation of a centre for Lawrence studies.
A permanent memorial to Lawrence, they propose that the house should be bought and returned to its original condition. They believe the best buyer to be one of the three Oxford colleges Lawrence belonged to: Jesus, All Souls, and Magdalen.
Simpson and Stewart wrote: “We feel the house should be opened to the public and hope that some of the interesting and remarkable objects and documents held by a number of institutions could be put on display.”
“We think that a Lawrence Fellow should be appointed to act as custodian and organise lectures and exhibitions,” they added.
TE Lawrence, famed for his role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire, lived in the house from 1896.
First attending the City of Oxford High School in George Street, now the university’s history faculty, Lawrence went on to read history at Jesus College.
Before the war, Lawrence embarked on a three-month walking tour of crusader castles in Ottoman Syria, before learning Arabic in Byblos.
On his return from his archaeological adventures in 1914, the family agreed to convert the outhouse in the garden into a timber bungalow designed by Lawrence himself, that survives to this day.
Simpson and Stewart wrote: “This outhouse, like the main house, is still much as Lawrence left it, although the sheeting has long gone. The building bears his stamp; he was keen on the Arts and Crafts movement, and it shows.”
“We feel that the property as a whole is far too important to be left to fall apart, or to be taken over by a developer and lose its character for ever.”
“We invite anyone who is interested in TE Lawrence, and in the house that made him what he was, to join us in our big to turn it into a museum and study centre that will do justice to one of Britain’s most fascinating and influential heroes.”