Former home of Martha Gellhorn, Kilgwrrwg

button-theme-womenLink to Welsh translationFormer home of Martha Gellhorn, Kilgwrrwg, near Chepstow

Yew Tree Cottage was home for 14 years to Martha Gellhorn, one of the 20th century’s greatest war reporters. It remains a private residence – please do not enter the grounds.

Portrait of Martha Gellhorn copyright Alexander Matthews
Martha Gellhorn © Alexander Matthews

The purple plaque on the gatepost was erected in 2021, with the help of Shirenewton Local History Society and the Purple Plaques campaign, as part of a project to mark the achievements of remarkable women in Wales.

Martha was born in St Louis, Missouri, in 1908 and died in London in 1998. Once married to novelist Ernest Hemmingway, she was best known as a fearless, independent-minded journalist. Her war reporting focused on the victims rather than the politics.

She covered the Spanish Civil War, Second World War and conflicts in Vietnam and the Middle East. She was the only female reporter at the Normandy landings in 1944 and one of very few who reported from the newly liberated Nazi concetration camps. Scenes from Dachau camp remained etched in her memory.

She settled in Britain after the Second World War. In 1980, while based in London, she made Catscradle – as she called Yew Tree House – her ”'country retreat”. Here she wrote every day and developed a passion for gardening and cooking. She had a small indoor swimming pool installed for her routine exercise.

In 1994 she reluctantly left the cottage, being too old to “haul dustbins up the drive”. She remarked: “I've loved my time in Wales; the people are the friendliest in the world but the weather is generally filthy. I want to spend more time where it is warmer.”

The BBC later invited her to report on any subject for a series of foreign writers' views of Britain. Aged 88, she chose to revisit Newbridge (north of Newport), the focal point of her last major piece of front-line reporting. To report on the 1984-85 miners’ strike for The Guardian, she had been driven around the Valleys in a beaten-up old van to talk to miners and their wives and watch charity workers preparing meagre food parcels for families.

Martha also wrote five novels, 14 novellas and two short story collections. The Martha Gellhorn prize for journalism is awarded annually.

With thanks to Nancy Cavill, and to Alexander Matthews for the photo

Postcode: NP16 6DA View Location Map