Visiting the homes of artists, writers, politicians and royalty is a rewarding way of gaining an insight into their private lives.

Southeast England, near London, boasts many historic houses that have been preserved as they were when their illustrious occupants were alive. All these houses, from large mansions such as Lord Mountbatten’s Broadlands to the more modest dwellings like Jane Austen’s house, contain exhibits relating to the life of the famous people who lived there.

Hat tip to our friends at DK Publishing for compiling this list of gorgeous houses below. For even more to see, check out "Top 10 London."

Still up for more sightseeing? Go royal watching at London's top royal spots, follow the trail of London's blue plaques, or knock back a pint in one ofLondon's best pubs.

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  • Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)

    The "Lady with the Lamp" was a nurse during the Crimean War. She stayed at Claydon with her sister, Lady Verney.

  • Nancy Astor (1879-1964)

    Astor was the first woman to sit in Parliament in 1919. She lived in Cliveden until her death and made it famous for political hospitality.

  • The Duke of Wellington (1769-1852)

    The Duke was given Stratfield Saye house by the nation in 1817, in gratitude for leading the British to victory at Waterloo.

  • Jane Austen (1775-1817)

    Austen wrote three of her novels, including "Emma," and revised the others at this house where she lived for eight years until shortly before her death.

  • Lord Mountbatten (1900-1979)

    Lord Mountbatten was a British naval commander and statesman, as well as the last Viceroy of India in 1947. He lived at Broadlands all his married life and remodeled the original house considerably.

  • Queen Victoria (1819-1901)

    The Queen and her husband, Prince Albert, built Osborne House in 1855 as a seaside retreat for their family because they never truly warmed to the Royal Pavillion in Brighton.

  • Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788)

    Gainsborough, one of Britian's greatest painters, was born in this house. He was best known for his portraits, such as the one of Mr. and Mrs. Andrews.

  • Charles Darwin (1812-1870)

    Darwin, who developed the theory that man and apes have a common ancestor, wrote his most famous book, "On the Origin of Species" at Down House, where he lived.

  • Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

    The prolific and popular Victorian novelist had many connections with Kent. He took holidays at Bleak House, later named after his famous novel.

  • Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

    The poet and novelist was born in India, but lived at Bateman's for 34 years until his death. His most famous works include "Kim," the two Jungle Books, and the "Just So Stories."

  • Winston Churchill (1974-1965)

    Britian's inspirational Prime Minister during World War II lived at Chartwell for 40 years until his death. He relaxed by rebuilding parts of his house.

  • Vanessa Bell (1879-1961)

    Bell, an artist and member of the Bloomsbury Group, lived at Charleston until her death in 1961. The 18th century farmhouse reflects her decorative ideas and is filled with murals, paintings and painted furniture.