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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sites associated with Lawrence of Arabia

Arab Revolt centenary: 30 places associated with Lawrence of Arabia

British adventurer, soldier and author, Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, circa 1916

On the centenery of the start of the Arab Revolt, we look at the sites associated with Lawrence of Arabia.

T.E. Lawrence was born in the Welsh village of Tremadog. The house in which he was born is now Snowdon Lodge, a hostel popular with climbers. See

The beach near Tremadog

He spent his early years moving around the country, living in Kirkudbright, Scotland; Dinard, France; St Helier, Jersey; and Totton, Hampshire.

In 1896, The Lawrence family settled in Oxford. A blue plaque can be found at 2 Polstead Road, his home from 1896 until 1921. He would go on to study history at Jesus College.

Jesus College, Oxford

Lawrence and his schoolfriend Cyril Beeson cycled around the villages of the Home Counties, studying parish churches. The pair would explore building sites in Oxford before presenting their finds to the city's Ashmolean Museum ( The museum still contains items contributed by Lawrence, including medieval pottery.

The Ashmolean Museum

The Bodleian Library (, also in Oxford, holds many of his papers.

As well as two years living at the Chalet du Vallon in Brittany, Lawrence spent the summer of 1906 on a cycling tour of the region's medieval castles.

Chalet du Vallon

For his thesis (The influence of the Crusades on European Military Architecture), Lawrence spent the summer of 1909 on walking tour of crusader castles in Ottoman Syria, travelling 1,000 miles on foot. On his itinerary would have been the Krak des Chevaliers (pictured).

The Krak des Chevaliers

In December 1910 he sailed for Beirut to study Arabic at Byblos, one of the world's oldest cities. The city's key tourist sites include ancient Phoenician temples, Byblos Castle and St John the Baptist Church - built by crusaders in the 12th century - and the old Medieval City Wall.

Byblos, one of the world's oldest cities

He then went to work (unpaid) on excavations led by the British Museum at Carchemish, near Jerablus in northern Syria. Over the next few years he would divide his time between Britain and the archaeological site.

Lawrence went on excavations led by the British Museum

In January 1914, Lawrence was asked by to provide a British military survey of the Negev Desert. The Negev was of strategic importance, as it would have to be crossed by any Ottoman army attacking Egypt in the event of war.

The Negev Desert

Lawrence also visited the ancient rock-hewn city of Petra for the first time in 1914. Originally, David Lean, the director of Lawrence of Arabia, had planned to shoot all over the Unesco World Heritage site. It was a wish denied by the film's cost-conscious producer, Sam Spiegel. (In the end it was Spielberg who would return to this extraordinary place, many years later, sending Indiana Jones into Al Khazneh – the so-called Treasury, which is actually a mausoleum.)

Petra in Jordan

Following the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, Lawrence did not immediately enlist. In December he was posted to the Intelligence department in Cairo, travelling overland through France and then by steamer from Marseilles to Port Said.

The Arab Revolt began in June 1916. Lawrence based his operations at Wadi Rum during the revolt. 

Wadi Rum

In 1917, Lawrence formulated a plan to take Aqaba, making secret reconnaissance missions, before taking part in battles at Fuweila and Aba el Lissan. On July 6, 1917, after a surprise overland attack, Aqaba fell to Lawrence. In David Lean's film, the attack was actually shot in Almeria, Spain.


Lawrence was involved in the build-up to the capture of Damascus in the final weeks of the war. Much to his disappointment, and contrary to instructions he had issued, he was not present at the city's formal surrender, arriving several hours after the city had fallen. Lawrence entered Damascus on October 1, 1918.


The Syrian city of Aleppo was known to have charmed Lawrence. He stayed at the Baron Hotel, an early 20th-century time warp in the European quarter, and left without paying his bill. Unfortunately for anyone hoping to visit these sites, Syria is currently off-limits to British travellers, for obvious reasons.

The Baron Hotel. Syria is currently off-limits for British travellers

He moved back to Britain after the war, living on Barton Street in London (a blue plaque marks the spot). He worked with Churchill at the Colonial Office as an adviser on Arab affairs, and spends much of his time negotiating with leaders in the Middle East. He left the Colonial Office in 1922, before secretly enlisting in the RAF.

T.E. Lawrence's former home on Barton Street

He moved to Clouds Hill, a cottage near Wareham, Dorset, in 1923, his final home. The tiny isolated brick and tile cottage of Clouds Hill is now a National Trust property. See

He spent much of 1927 and 1928 in India, before returning to Britain.

Clouds Hill

At the age of 46, Lawrence was fatally injured after an accident on his Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle close to his cottage in Dorset. The spot is marked by a small memorial at the side of the road.

A bust of Lawrence was placed in the crypt at St Paul's Cathedral, London, and a stone effigy by Eric Kennington remains in the Anglo-Saxon church of St Martin, Wareham in Dorset.

St Martin church in Wareham

To see his motorcycle and the rifle used during the Arab revolt, visit the Imperial War Museum in London. See

Lawrence's motorcycle at the Imperial War Museum

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