Reg Little talks to Anthony Sattin on his new book and why he is backing a preservation mission

An author has backed a campaign to preserve the childhood home of Lawrence of Arabia after his global research mission ended in frustration in Oxford.

Anthony Sattin climbed up to Crusader castles, perched on rocks in Syria and had extended stays in Cairo, Damascus, Beirut and Turkey to reveal the details of the early life of TE Lawrence, set out in his book Young Lawrence: A Portrait of the Legend as a Young Man (John Murray £25).

But there was to be one big disappointment, and that was in Oxford, where TE Lawrence was brought up and educated at Oxford High School, then on the corner of George Street and New Inn Hall Street, and later at Jesus College.

Mr Sattin had been desperate to visit 2 Polstead Road, the solid red brick Lawrence family home in North Oxford, where he had lived with his parents and four brothers.

The bungalow in the back garden where Lawrence lived is still there, but as the author sadly revealed to an audience at the Oxford Martin School, where he spoke during the Oxford Literary Festival, he did not get to see it.

“Much to my frustration, I couldn’t get into the house to look at the bungalow,” explained the well-travelled journalist, whose travel books include The Gates of Africa and A Winter on the Nile.

“The elderly gentleman who owned it felt he had shown it off to enough people.”

But he had learned the house was now up for sale, with a campaign under way to protect Lawrence of Arabia’s childhood home in North Oxford.

The TE Lawrence Society wants to register 2 Polstead Road, home to the Lawrence family from 1898 to 1921, as a listed building to give it added protection under planning laws.

The effort has been backed by Oxford City Council member for St Margaret’s Liz Wade.

She said: “Lawrence is not a person who should be forgotten. But my concern is that if we don’t protect it now, the site could be left open to future development.”

An application to English Heritage is being made and Mrs Wade said she dearly wishes that the building could be purchased.

She said: “We would need about £2 million to buy it and are looking into possibilities of how it could be run.”

More than 100 North Oxford residents have so far backed plans to protect Lawrence of Arabia’s childhood home. And, in Anthony Sattin, the campaign has an impressive new recruit.

He wasted no time in appealing to his festival audience for support. “Something needs to be done to protect this house. And I would urge everyone to get behind this campaign. And it needs to happen now before someone takes this house on. Ideally, if anyone here has a couple of million pounds it could be bought,” he said, before adding with a grin, “And I would promise to give a talk there every year.”