IN The War of the Worlds, the classic science fiction novel by H.G. Wells, bear-sized Martians devastate southern England, romping around around the countryside with their "Gorgon groups of tentacles" and salivary mouths.

It was perhaps a harsh way for the author to repay the part of the world where he had grown up and seen so much of the social and physical landscape that would inspire and inform many of his novels.

The author spent much of his youth in Uppark, the 17-the century house near Midhurst where his mother worked as a housekeeper.

It was there he found a telescope to gaze at craters on the moon; read Plato, Voltaire and Swift; observed the "upstairs-downstairs" distinctions he would go on to explore in his writing; and developed the ambition to get out.

"I think he was very fond of the countryside and the area and he had a lot of sentimental attachment to it," his biographer Michael Sherborne told The Argus.

"But on the other hand he sets it all on fire in war of the worlds – the whole area south of London was razed by the Martians.

"He had some nostalgia for it but as a young man in a hurry he also wanted to incinerate it because it held him back.

"He wanted to get on and make something of himself."

Herbert George Wells did not start life destined to be the great author, father of science fiction and four-time Nobel Prize for literature nominee that he became.

But he credits his time at Uppark, where he spent many holidays with his mother during her twelve years as housekeeper there, with changing his life.

It was a time, he recalled, when he read, wrote and thought abundantly.

In his Experiment in Autobiography, he added: "If this had not happened, I have no doubt I should have followed in the footsteps of Frank and Freddy and gone on living at home under my mother's care, while I went daily to some shop, some draper's shop, to which I was bound apprentice."

One winter while snowed in at the imposing house, he filled his time by producing his own daily newspaper, The Up Park Alarmist, and performing a shadow play for the servants.

And in the attic he unearthed engravings of Vatican paintings by Raphael and Michelangelo, and started reading voraciously from the library of Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh.

"It really challenged him to become more aspirational," said Mr Sherborne.

"He was destined to become a draper, but Uppark raised his game and gave him aspirations above his station.

"It influenced his politics because he could see some old lady running Uppark for no good reason apart from that she had inherited it, so it was an insight into the way the class system worked.

"In the library he would have found Plato's Republic and Gulliver's Travels, which had a big influence on him. There was a dystopia there."

Uppark features in or inspired many of his novels, including the classic The Time Machine (1895), in which the contrast between the surface-dwelling, beautiful Eloi and the underground, cannibalistic Morlocks, echoes the "upstairs-downstairs" social structure Wells saw at Uppark.

The underground shafts and tunnels in the book also directly recall those which open up into the drive at the real-life house.

It also features in Tono-Bungay (1909) as the fictional Bladesover, with Wells writing: "On the whole I am glad that I saw so much as I did of Bladesover – if for no other reason than because seeing it when I did, quite naively, believing in it thoroughly, and then coming to analyse it, has enabled me to understand much that would be absolutely incomprehensible in the structure of English society."

A turning point in Wells' life came in 1881, when his mother sent him to work for a chemist in Midhurst.

"I spent only about a month amid the neat gilt-inscribed drawers and bottles of Mr Cowap at Midhurst," Wells recalled, "rolled a few score antibillous and rhubarb pills, broke a dozen soda-water siphons during a friendly broom fight with the errand boy."

But it was a significant time because while working there he needed to learn Latin so he could deal with prescriptions, so he was sent to Midhurst Grammar School.

Lodged over a sweetshop next to the Angel Hotel in North Street, he recalled his sense of belonging in the town his grandparents had lived.

"It was a real place in my mind and not a morbid sprawl of population like Bromley," he wrote.

"Its shops and school and post office and church were grouped in rational comprehensible relations; it had a beginning, a middle and an end.”

Determined to do well at school, Wells placed a rigorous academic timetable on his wall, writing about this in the early Love and Mr Lewisham, featuring several Sussex locations.

He soon became a boarder, ended up doing very well academically, and eventually was given a job as an assistant teacher.

In May of 1884, after much self study, he scored highly in his exams and was offered a free place in a teacher-training course in London.

There he ended up studying under the famous biologist Thomas Huxley, who would have a huge influence on his life.

Of his time in Uppark and Midhurst, Wells wrote: "This broadening out, bucking up and confirmation of my mind by the flood of new experiences at Uppark and Midhurst were immensely important in my development.

"When I look back upon 1880 and early 1881 it seems to me as though these above all others were the years in which the immediate realities about me began to join on in a rational way to that varied world with which books had acquainted me."

The chemist in Midhurst also featured in Tono-Bungay (1909), with Wells telling the owner's son: “Your mother was a delightful person. One never puts real people into novels but I got the idea of my aunt Ponderevo from a nonsensical way she had of talking.

“I really like the the bright little shop with its drawers full of squills and senna pods, flowers of sulphur, charcoal and suchlike curious things…”

Wells, who died in 1946, also travelled considerably around Sussex, and there is speculation that the Martians' tripods in War of the Worlds are based on the tripod structure of the Volks' Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway, nicknamed Daddy Long Legs.

He later wrote: "I had come to Midhurst a happy but desperate fugitive from servitude; I left it in glory."