A very brief history of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre
Roald Dahl moved to Great Missenden from Manhattan in 1954 with his first wife, the Hollywood actress Patricia Neal. He lived in the village for 36 years until his death in 1990 and wrote all of his famous children’s books in a specially built Writing Hut in his garden, the inside of which you can now see in the Museum. Many of his stories are set in and around the village.
After Roald Dahl’s death, his widow, Felicity (Liccy, pronounced Lissy), was determined to find a home for his amazingly complete collection of manuscripts, photographs, ‘Ideas Books’ and letters (including all the letters he sent home to his mother from boarding school from the age of nine). Roald Dahl himself had wanted his archive to be kept together in the UK.
In 1996 a rather scruffy and slightly tumble-down group of buildings went up for sale in Great Missenden High Street. Liccy could see how they might eventually become the perfect place to store and display Roald Dahl’s archive and to create a Museum about his adventurous life and his swishwiffling stories. She wanted it to be a place that would ‘delight, amaze and inspire’ and help to get children really excited about reading and writing. This was something that Roald Dahl had been passionate about himself.
The next nine years were spent gathering support and fundraising to turn this vision into reality. The Museum finally opened to the public on 10 June 2005. From the shadowy figure of the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) visible on the High Street wall outside, to the crocodile cunningly disguised as a bench, the whole building takes Roald Dahl’s characters and stories as its theme. The architects, HawkinsBrown and gallery designers Bremner & Orr worked their magic and transformed the old coaching inn and yard into a series of galleries that tell Roald Dahl’s own story (the story behind the stories) and inspire visitors to get involved with word play and story making.
In 2012, the inside of Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut, complete with his self-customised chair and all the extraordinary and fascinating objects he kept at hand for contemplation and inspiration, was very carefully conserved and painstakingly moved from his garden into a new gallery designed by Outside Studios. The Writing Hut is now one of the highlights of the Museum.