Popular and prolific novelist best known for The Shell Seekers and Coming Home whose work was particularly admired in Germany
Interview with Rosamunde Pilcher
In 1988 the 14th novel by a little-known 63-year-old British author was published in New York. The Shell Seekers, the 500-page story of a woman, Penelope Keeling, looking back on her life and loves during the second world war, took the US by storm.
The New York Times reviewer wrote: “Rosamunde Pilcher, where have you been all my life?” It sat in the bestseller list for 49 weeks in hardback and then tipped the No 1 spot in paperback. The Shell Seekers was translated into more than 40 languages, selling around 10m copies.
“Everything I love was in that book,” Pilcher said: “Bohemian people, painters, paintings, Cornwall, the way London used to be. I was terribly bereft when I finished it. I had walked round the fields talking to all my people for so long and suddenly it was all over. I had nobody to chat to any longer.”
Rosamunde was born in Lelant, between Hayle and St Ives in west Cornwall. Her father worked in Burma for the British Indian Civil Service and was abroad for most of her childhood. With her mother and sister she lived at The Elms – “a beautiful spot overlooking the estuary and the Atlantic” and now, known as The Firs. She wrote: “It was my surroundings and my solitude that fired my imagination. I’d be for ever making up stories.”
ZDF television network bought the rights to her shorter novels and her short stories which were filmed mainly in Cornwall and Devon. The Rosamunde Pilcher Hour was watched by more than 6 million viewers
Her books are especially popular in Germany because the national television station ZDF has produced more than a hundred of her stories as TV movies starting with The Day of the Storm in 1993. A complete list can be found on the German Wikipedia.
The Lizard Peninsula’s Bonython Estate has been used in several Pilcher adaptations, including The Prime of Life, Summer of Awakening and Never Kiss a Lawyer. If you visit, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the treehouse that was built for one of the films in the garden and retained as a permanent feature!
Beautifully recreating Pilcher stories for generations to enjoy, ZDF has inspired legions of viewers with stunning panoramic and aerial shots, showing off the county’s hopelessly beautiful landscapes. Among these, the Bedruthan Steps are regularly contenders, and we can understand why!
On the edge of the wild and rugged Bodmin Moor, the historic market town of Bodmin is another place often stars in Pilcher films. The railway station has been used countless times, while the town itself was most notably used a backdrop in the film The Cliffs of Love.
Once the haunt of the likes of Laura Knight and Alfred Munnings, Lamorna Cove has since gone onto regularly grace our screens. The location for many adaptions of Pilcher’s novels, Lamorna was used for the setting of The Empty House, Another View, Voices in Summer, and The Shell Seekers.
The towering cliffs of Land’s End draw streams of visitors every year and are also a key part of the Rosamund Pilcher trail. Park in the car park at Land’s End or enjoy a stomp along the South West Coast Path from Sennen and see where The Day of the Storm and Lights Games were filmed.
A Victorian country house maintained by the National Trust, Lanhydrock boasts beautifully sculpted gardens and a wooded estate. Often used as a backdrop, you may also recognise Lanhydrock House from ZDF’s Question of Love and The Cliffs of Love.
Pencarrow House near Bodmin is no stranger to the limelight, regular appearing in films, series and documentaries. In 2011, it enjoyed another winning role as a winery in the Pilcher film, English Wine. Grade-II listed, you can visit the impressive house and gardens in the summer.
The stunning Prideaux Place, a Grade-I listed Elizabethan manor house in Padstow, has appeared in not one, not two, but 16 Rosamund Pilcher films. With its deer park, rolling grounds and stately rooms, it has provided the perfect setting for numerous stories.
Wowing audiences with dramatic visual depictions of the Cornish coast, St Agnes Head can be seen in many Pilcher films. Home to iconic former engine houses, a stunning circular walk between St Agnes Head and Wheal Coates will take you past jaw-dropping vistas and provide the perfect place to lose yourself in adventure.
Famed for the quality of light and magnificently clear waters, St Ives is well-known for its deep-seated connection with the arts. Making use of the picturesque scenes, ZDF have chosen several of St Ives’ local landmarks as subjects for filming, including Tregenna Castle and St Nicholas Chapel.
A mystical island castle rising from the sea, you don’t really need an excuse to visit St Michael’s Mount. One of the most stunning attractions in the country, it naturally makes regular appearances on TV and was also depicted in the Pilcher episodes The Shell Seekers and Coming Home.
Trewithen House has been used twice as a location for Pilcher films; the first saw the house’s interior featured in 1999’s The Blossom of Life, whilst the second used the south face of the building in 2005’s Amazing Grace. If you would like to explore Trewithen’s beautiful gardens, they are open to the public in season.
Rosamunde Pilcher: born 22 September 1924; died 6 February 2019