Daphne du Maurier Museum is now open
Jamaica Inn now has the only museum in the world dedicated to Daphne du Maurier, the famous author of Rebecca, The Birds, Frenchman's Creek etc – and of course, Jamaica Inn. The du Maurier Museum, which is next to the Inn’s Cornish Smuggling Museum, has 3 rooms of exhibits including many recently acquired and never seen in public before, such as original letters from the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles to Daphne and her husband.
There are also intriguing personal letters by Daphne to her best friend Maureen Baker-Munton that reveal secrets about her private life plus numerous old photos of her and her family. Other exhibits highlight her husband’s war-time experiences - Frederick ‘Boy’ Browning, was Commander of the 1st Airborne Division at the battle for Arnhem upon which the film ‘A Bridge Too Far’ was based.
There are numerous other Daphne-related exhibits and the modest entrance fee (£3.95) also includes admission to the adjacent Smuggling Museum.
Daphne du Maurier
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. In memory of her, a room was created here at Jamaica Inn which 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, which Daphne deplored. 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.