Knebworth House children’s writing contest

Knebworth House at dusk

Knebworth House at dusk - Credit: Archant

A new Hertfordshire Schools Story Writing Competition is inspiring pupils to pen a tale beginning with a famous mysterious opening

Edward Bulwer Lytton

Edward Bulwer Lytton - Credit: Archant

It was a dark and stormy night… This classic introduction to a thrilling tale was penned by Victorian Edward Bulwer Lytton – owner of Knebworth House – and forms the starting point for a new story writing competition open to all Herts school children aged seven to 11.

Knebworth House state drawing room

Knebworth House state drawing room - Credit: Archant

Bulwer Lytton was the great-great-great-grandfather of current Knebworth estate owner Henry Lytton Cobbold, and Henry wants children to draw inspiration from his ancestor’s famous opening to the 1830 novel Paul Clifford.

The banqueting hall

The banqueting hall - Credit: Archant

‘I think it’s a better beginning to a story than once upon a time, because, in just seven words, it creates mystery – and everyone wants to solve a mystery,’ Henry explains.

Teachers of pupils in Years 3 to 6 are invited to submit the best three stories in their class (of up to 500 words each) beginning ‘It was a dark and stormy night’. Entries will be judged by a panel including Henry and the editor of Hertfordshire Life. The judges are looking for originality, so writers are encouraged to be creative.

First prize in the competition is an afternoon at Knebworth Park Adventure Playground for the winner’s class in June or July, including transport by Chambers Coaches to and from the park. The winning author will also receive a family ticket for four to the house and gardens, playground, park and dinosaur trail, as well as seeing his or her story printed in Hertfordshire Life and its website, as well as the Knebworth House website.

Three runners-up will also each win a family ticket for four to the house and gardens, playground, park and dinosaur trail and will see their stories on the Hertfordshire Life and Knebworth House websites.

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For more information, rules and an entry form, go to

The closing date for entries is April 4.

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