J.K. Rowling's childhood home
PUBLISHED: 13:52 08 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:49 20 February 2013
Did the young J.K. Rowling dream of a boy named Harry Potter as she lay in bed in her childhood home near Chepstow? Sharon Chilcott investigates...
Whenthe Mercer family moved into their Gothic Revival three-bedroom cottage on the outskirts of Chepstow, the Grade Two listed propertys claim to fame was its history and period features.
Its true that with its original arched front door, mullioned stone windows and intricate wrought iron rainwater goods, the former school house could have been taken straight from a film set. But back in 1995 the fact that a certain Joanne Rowling had grown up at Church Cottage was of little significance and certainly not a selling feature. Harry Potter, now a world-wide phenomenon, wouldnt appear on a book cover for another two years.
This summer Church Cottage, in the village of Tutshill, near Chepstow, was put on the market again, this time with a price ticket in the region of 399,950, and is now under offer. Jane Propert from estate agents Properts in Chepstow declined to reveal the sale price but theres no doubt the propertys association with the now world famous author has added to its appeal: If a house has history or location, that adds value, and if a property has been lived in by someone thats famous, that will add a premium because as a nation we like to follow famous people, says Jane.
J.K. Rowling lived at Church Cottage with her parents and sister, Di, from the age of nine, attending the local primary school and then going on to Wyedean Comprehensive in Chepstow. In her biography on her official website she recalls that the move coincided almost exactly with the death of her favourite grandparent, Kathleen, whose name she later took as the K of J.K. This bereavement, she says, may have influenced her dislike for her new school, where pupils sat all day at roll-top desks facing the blackboard and where she remembers enlarging, with a compass, a hole which had been gouged out by the boy who had sat there the year before.
She says it was at her secondary school, Wyedean, that she met Sean Harris, to whom her second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is dedicated. The first of her friends to learn to drive, it was his Ford Anglia which inspired Arthur Weasleys enchanted Flying Ford Anglia. She says in her biography that some of her happiest memories of that time involve zooming off into the darkness in Seans car, because for a teenager living in the country, a car meant freedom and no more having to ask her father for lifts!
She left the area in 1983 to study at Exeter University before finding fame as the author of the series of magical books which has inspired a generation. The first book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, was published in June 1997. The seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hit the bookshelves in 2007, was gobbled up by avid fans and quickly became the fastest selling book in the UK and USA. All the books have been made into films, with the finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 released in July.
Her childhood home, with its small inscription to a bedroom window frame reading Joanne Rowling slept here circa 1982 was put on the market around the same time. Jane Propert says: The house sale created an enormous amount of media interest, which in turn produced interest in the property, although we did receive quite a bit of local interest once the board was erected.
The problem with that amount of publicity is that local people have told us they would not view or consider the property for a while because they only wanted to pay market price and not an inflated price. She added: We verify all viewers but in the case of this property all viewings were very carefully selected to ensure the owners privacy. The current owners found it a bit of an issue when the first book came out because they ended up with lots of people knocking on the door, which was quite intrusive.
Julian Mercer says: We had not realised how significant our home was when we purchased it, as J.K. Rowling did not publish her first book until two years later. It was upon redecoration that we discovered the name on the windowsill. We have redecorated around the inscription ever since.
The cottage was built by the Gothic Revivalist architect, Henry Woodyer, around 1852 and includes features which may well have fired the young Joanne Rowlings imagination. Julian, a BBC Producer, says: You can see how J.K. Rowling could have been inspired by the Gothic architecture which is very Hogwarts-like. Its truly a lovely cottage, with hidden scary parts. Its just like living in a Harry Potter story with its dusty cupboard under the stairs and trapdoor. Harry Potter was forced to live in a dusty, dingy cupboard under the stairs. If you ever visit our cupboard under the stairs you can imagine being Harry.
The trapdoor leads from the dining room to the cellar with its distinctive brick-vaulted ceiling and flagstone floor. There are no steps down; its not used. But, says, Julian: It is quite scary, just like in the books.
A striking feature of the property is the reception porch with its superb vaulted ceiling, original beams and tiled floor. The hall has an exposed stone wall and there is a large living room with French doors to the rear cottage garden, as well as a dining room and a separate fitted kitchen.
Irrespective of its association with fame, Jane Propert says: Id buy the house for the garden.
The beautiful, sunny cottage garden has been planted with a selection of trees, including plum, holly and crab apple. There are rambling roses, a small lily pond, beds planted with a range of perennials, ornamental shrubs, grasses and ferns. The herb patch is described by the agents as like that seen in Professor Sprouts Herbology lessons.
Jane Propert says her company had been delighted to be responsible for the sale of such a property: We hope the new owners feel the magic every time they open the front door.