As Daphne Du Maurier’s childhood Hampstead home sells for £28million, letter from novelist revealed
PUBLISHED: 07:10 26 June 2015 | UPDATED: 07:23 26 June 2015
The moving letter from novelist Daphne Du Maurier recalling her childhood at historic Hampstead mansion Cannon Hall has been unveiled for the first time.
It was written by the author at the age of 73 to an 11-year-old girl whose family owned and lived in the Hampstead mansion during the 1980s.
Sarah Simpson, who is now 45 and lives in Dartmouth Park with a family of her own, has kept the treasured letters and dug them out when she saw that her childhood home had recently sold.
It has been snapped up by an unidentified British buyer who is said to be committed to retaining its original character.
Ms Simpson said: “I was such a great fan of Daphne Du Maurier. As I grew up, I felt that her history and life was all around me. It always felt very special to be living in her house.
“I read her autobiography and I wrote her a letter to tell her that I was living in Cannon Hall and inviting her to come to visit. I was over the moon to get a reply. I remember bursting into tears.”
The novelist, who lived in Cornwall at the time, writes in her reply dated June 1981: “I was so pleased to get your letter this morning, and I have been looking everywhere in old boxes here in the basement, because I know somewhere there are photos of my sisters and myself when we were children living at Cannon Hall. But can I find them? No its too maddening.
She then reminisces: “We used to play a lot of cricket on the lawn, and pretend to be boys..
“My sister Jeanne and myself had the room overlooking the courtyard, which had a bathroom leading out of it.”
She also sent a photograph of herself picking flowers in her garden in Cornwall.
Daphne Du Maurier died in April 1989 at the age of 81.
The grade-II listed Georgian home dating back to 1730 was once Hampstead’s magistrate court and prisoners were kept in the parish lock-up in its garden.
Du Maurier moved in at the age of nine in 1916 with her two sisters and parents actors Sir Gerald du Maurier and Muriel Beaumont
Sir Gerald lived there until his death in 1934, and is commemorated by a blue plaque.
Daphne would go on to write famous novels including Rebecca, Jamaica Inn and The Birds, which have been made into films.
In her autobiography, Growing Pains, Daphne tells of her time at Cannon Hall, racing her sister through the house and climbing out of their bathroom window onto a flat roof and playing in the old lock-up.
The English buyer, snapped up the six-bedroom home which is behind a gated courtyard and has five reception rooms and an indoor swimming pool after current owner Travelex boss Lloyd Dorfman knocked £4million off the original £32million asking price.