On my walk ‘Strolling hand in hand with romance‘ I visited the church in which Daphne Du Maurier married Major Tommy “Boy” Browning in July, 1932. I’d visited the Daphne Du Maurier Centre in Fowey and seen one of her former homes nearby in my only previous visit to Cornwall in 2008.
The Literary Centre in Fowey in 2008
Daphne Du Maurier’s former home (1942-1943) at Readymoney Bay
But I hadn’t realised that I would come across so many other Du Maurier connections in my small corner of Cornwall and during such a short visit.
For a start when I drove into the village where I was staying I noticed that it features The House on the Strand in its sign. And when I asked my hostess about this she declared “This IS the house on the strand!”.
I decided to find out more and came across this walk and the following :
“Tywardreath means “House on the Strand”, as the village was once surrounded by tidal waters on all sides bar the east, and the ground beneath the church was a creek.
A Benedictine Priory was founded here soon after the Norman Conquest, and the possessions included the church, St Sampson’s Chapel at Golant and huge nearby estates. The monks were a corrupt, drunken and dissolute bunch as described in du Maurier’s [time travel] novel; knowing it was true adds to the fascinating reading.”
Bumblebee Farm, alias The House on the Strand …
… is on Priory Lane, Tywardreath
In fact archaeologists were visiting the site that very Saturday to ascertain exactly where the Priory stood and what remains might be found on the farm’s land.
The House on the Strand from the Village Road
Then at the Festival I heard talk that Port Eliot House itself had been Daphne’s inspiration for Manderley the house featured in her most famous book : Rebecca.
Port Eliot House in Festival Spirit
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate. I called in my dream to the lodge-keeper, and had no answer, and peering closer through the rusted spokes of the gate I saw that the lodge was uninhabited. No smoke came from the chimney, and the little lattice windows gaped forlorn. Then, like all dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed like a spirit through the barrier before me.” [Opening lines to Rebecca]
Rear of Port Eliot House
Daphne Du Maurier was a prolific writer. She produced novels and volumes of short stories, five biographies and her own autobiography. The place Cornwall held in her heart and the inspiration it provided was captured in many of her books. Her special connection above all was this small estuarine area where by chance I happened to stay.
More lovely DDM connections. HOTS was one of my favourite DDM novels so it’s wonderful to know that you were stayingin the place where it was set.
To think it all ‘washed over’ me before I got there!
Well that’s the one! The time travel book where someone who is traveling in the past is still physically in the present and gets run down by a train. I have never read either DDM or Mary Stewart since that summer, and I don’t remember much about either, but that scene stuck in my mind.