Daphne du Maurier was born in London in 1907, the second daughter of Muriel and Gerald du Maurier. Born into a talented, theatrical and artistic family, she was blessed from an early age with a vivid imagination and a desire to write.
This desire was nurtured further by her immediate love for Cornwall, after her parents purchased a holiday home at Bodinnick near Fowey on the coast.
It was whilst staying there, at the house re-named Ferryside, she wrote her first novel The Loving Spirit (published in 1931). A story set in the fictitious town of Plyn, it was woven around the lives of local Cornish boat builders and their history.
In 1932 Daphne du Maurier married Major Frederick Browning and in 1943 while he was at war, she moved to Cornwall with their three children. Browning was Commander of the 1st Airborne Division in Operation Market Garden in September 1944, portrayed controversially in film by Dirk Bogarde. He is credited with the famous phrase, in the planning of the operation, 'We may be going a bridge too far'. He was knighted in 1946 and ended his military career with the rank of Lieutenant-General.
Daphne went on to become one of the most successful authors of her time. Her most famous works include Rebecca, Frenchman's Creek, My Cousin Rachel, The Birds and of course, her first big commercial success, Jamaica Inn. She was created a Dame in 1969, making her Lady Browning; Dame Daphne du Maurier DBE, but she never used the title.
Daphne du Maurier's passing in 1989 was a great loss, both to literature and to Cornwall and we have created a memorial room to her at Jamaica Inn.
The room is full of memorabilia, including her Sheraton writing desk on top of which is a packet of the du Maurier cigarettes named after her father. There's also a dish of Glacier Mints - Dame Daphne's favourite sweets.
Some of her books were turned into very successful films including Rebecca, starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine as well as The Birds, starring Tippi Hendren and Rod Taylor. The 1939 film of Jamaica Inn starring Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara featured a new ending, apparently demanded by Laughton. All three films were directed by Alfred Hitchcock. During her career Daphne du Maurier wrote a total of thirty-eight books, but it is the Cornish-based novels that remain the most popular with her readers.