JM Barrie was a family friend of the former owners of this delightful London flat – and the exploits of their children inspired him to write one of the most enduring classics in children's literature.
Back in 1897, the Llewelyn Davies family moved into to a new house in Notting Hill: it was No 31, Kensington Park Gardens. A few months later, two of the family’s children were out playing in the gardens themselves with their nanny and their baby brother when they bumped into a Scottish writer who was out walking his dog – a St Bernard named Porthos.
That writer? JM Barrie. He struck up a friendship with the boys which became a fully-fledged and lifelong family friendship. The boys’ names, incidentally? George and Jack were the elder two; the baby brother’s name, of course, was Peter.
Barrie entertained George and Jack with made-up stories about their baby brother – about how he could fly, and how there were bars on the windows of the nursery only to stop him flying away.
Eventually, Barrie started building the stories and characters into fiction – first appearing in a 1902 book The Little White Bird, and then two years later in the play Peter Pan.
It’s fascinating how the details of real life merge into the stories – the names of the boys, even the fusion of their nanny and Barrie’s dog into Nana, the unforgettable canine ‘governess’ of the play.
Such is the mind of the writer; even the Barrie’s next youngest child made it into the work of a man they called Uncle Jim: Michael was born in 1900. Though you have to feel sorry at poor George being re-imagined as Wendy; no doubt the Barrie’s oldest child caught hell for that at school.
The house at 31 exhibits a similar mix of real-life and fantasy, since it is without doubt the same one that Barrie described as the home of the Darling family. From the window of the nursery, Peter, Wendy, John and Michael made their flight to Neverland (‘second star to the right and straight on till morning’).
Today, the house is divided into flats and it is the top floor two-bedroom flat – which would have been the nursery – that is on the market.
The property is a beautifully refurbished two-bedroom flat in a handsome, stucco fronted building. Bright and stylishly-presented, the flat also benefits from views over (and of course access to) the beautiful communal gardens.
‘The leafy surrounds of Kensington Gardens retain their sense of history and power to inspire,’ says Olivia Higginson of Strutt & Parker, the agents handling the sale.
‘It’s a lovely piece of literary history. From this top floor flat you can put yourself in the shoes of the Llewelyn Davies children, in what would have once been their nursery, and imagine setting out on that first flight to Neverland.
‘For those more inclined to keep their feet on the ground,’ adds Higginson, ‘you can enjoy a bright and modern flat in a beautiful historic building.’
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