THERE’S not much to the cottage as it is – but Lawrence of Arabia’s reading chair takes pride of place in his home near Bovington.

Now the chair has been lent to a museum overseas so the National Trust, which looks after Clouds Hill, has had a replica one made especially for the house which people are allowed to sit in.

The charity agreed to loan the original to the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Köln, Germany, until the end of the year. It commissioned a replica which was made by a local furniture maker to carefully follow the pattern of the original, designed by TE Lawrence – Lawrence of Arabia – himself.

National Trust curator James Grasby said: “Normally we are reluctant to loan items during the open season, so as not to disappoint visitors by their absence.

“But by having a replica made we can let visitors not only see what it looks like, but to experience just how comfortable this chair was to sit in.”

Designed by Lawrence as a reading chair, its angular lean shape, leather upholstery, and sprung sheepskin cushions reveal the period of its making – the early 1930s. Tailored to him, it came with a stylish stainless steel book rest.

“Sitting there, he must have appeared like a pilot in the cockpit of a fighter plane, navigating his way through the virtual worlds laid out in his huge collection of books, at low level and with his breathtaking speed of mind,” said Mr Grasby.

The original arrived at the cottage in January 1934 – 18 months before Lawrence died in a motorbike accident.

Nobody is allowed to sit on the original. But with the replica now made, volunteers invite visitors to discover whether Lawrence’s design was comfortable.

The replica was commissioned from Dominic Parish of Wardour Workshops near Shaftesbury. The money raised through selling it will pay for its making, and any more will be put towards the conservation of the cottage and its contents.

Clouds Hill is open five days a week.

The links between the small, austere rooms and Lawrence’s complex personality and his life in the Middle East are brought to life by the team of Trust staff supported by volunteers.

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