Famous children’s author. Lived at Gipsy House, Great Missenden, Bucks from 1960-90.
Link with the Chilterns
Lived at Gipsy House, Great Missenden, Bucks from 1960-1990
13th September 1916
23rd November 1990
Roald Dahl was born in Llandaff, Wales. His parents were Norwegian, and he was the only son of a second marriage. His father, Harald, and elder sister Astri, died when Roald was just three, leaving his mother, Sofie, to raise two stepchildren and her own four children. Roald remembered her as “a real rock, always on your side”.
His years at public schools in Wales, and at Repton in Derbyshire, were very unhappy, and were to greatly influence his writing. His experiences at school are described in his autobiography Boy – Tales of Childhood.
At 18, Dahl joined an expedition to Newfoundland. Returning to England, he took a job with Shell, working in London and Tanzania. During World War II he served in the Royal Air Forces in Libya, Greece, and Syria. He was shot down in Libya, wounded in Syria, and then posted to Washington as an assistant air attaché to British Security. In 1943 he was a wing commander and worked until 1945 for British Security Co-ordination in North America. His adventures in the RAF inspired him to write, and encouraged by C.S.Forester, he produced his first children’s book The Gremlins in 1943
In 1953 Dahl married the actress Patricia Neal; they had one son and four daughters. The eldest daughter, Olivia, died of measles when she was 8. His wife
suffered a series of brain haemorrhages at the age of 38, and while pregnant with their fifth child she had a stroke. Dahl took control of her rehabilitation and eventually she learned to walk and talk. However, they had a very turbulent marriage and were divorced in 1983. He subsequently married Felicity (Liccy) Ann Crosland.
In 1960 Dahl settled at Gipsy House in Great Missenden and his career as a children’s author began in earnest. It was here in a small hut at the bottom of the garden that he wrote most of his unforgettable stories. James and the Giant Peach, although not published in Britain until 1967, was first published in the US in 1961, and was followed by the highly popular Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1964. An unbroken string of best selling titles followed, including The BFG, Danny the Champion of the World, The Twits, The Witches, and Matilda, sales of which broke all previous records for a work of children’s fiction. In 1983 he received the World Fantasy Convention Lifetime Achievement award.
Roald Dahl died in November 1990 at the age of 74 of a rare blood disease at his home in Great Missenden, and was buried in the cemetery at the parish church of Saints Peter and Paul.
Roald Dahl: A Biography by Jeremy Treglown, various publishers.
Official website: www.roalddahl.com
What you can visit
The Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre, 81-83 High Street, Great Missenden, Bucks HP16 0AL has biographical displays on Dahl and an interactive story centre for children.
The Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery at the Bucks County Museum, Church Street, Aylesbury HP20 2QP has lots of interactive exhibits.
There are occasional events at Gipsy House.
Roald Dahl used to walk from his house to Angling Spring Wood where he got inspiration for some of his stories.