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Audrey Hepburn tour launched in Elham

By Sam Williams

Fans of Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn can follow in her childhood footsteps by touring the village of Elham.

This year marks 90 years since the actress, famous for roles in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady, was born in Belgium in 1929.

But in 1936, she moved to Elham, a village between Folkestone and Canterbury, with her mother the Dutch Baroness Ella Van Heemstra, who was separated from Audrey’s English father.

Audrey Hepburn.. (14672399)
Audrey Hepburn.. (14672399)

While there, Audrey - known as ‘Little Audrey’ to villagers - lived in Orchard Cottage, attended dance lessons in the old Fellowship Hall, studied at a small private school in The Square and gave her very first public performance in the Elham Brownie Pack’s performance of ‘Humpty Dumpty.’

Audrey and her mother then left Elham for Holland at the start of the Second World War.

She went on to become one of the world’s most famous actresses, landing her first leading role in Roman Holiday for which she won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA.

Audrey Hepburn, 10 years old, in Arnham, Holland
Audrey Hepburn, 10 years old, in Arnham, Holland

But the village remained close to her heart, and later in life confirmed that she “adored” her summers spent there.

To mark the 90th anniversary of her birth, Elham Historical Society is celebrating their connection to the star by offering self guided tours around the village. The walks will reveal more about Audrey’s time in Elham and discover places that would have been familiar to her.

A book detailing stories has also been put together and can be found in Abbots Fireside, in the High Street.

This photo shows Audrey Hepburn, then known as Ruston (2nd from the left) with other children from Elham. Picture: Sampson Family Collection
This photo shows Audrey Hepburn, then known as Ruston (2nd from the left) with other children from Elham. Picture: Sampson Family Collection

Andree Sladden, from the society said: “In later life Audrey Hepburn spoke fondly about Elham, adding it was ‘where I spent all my summers and adored it’.

“These childhood memories of the English countryside would have contrasted strongly with her teenage memories of wartime Holland a few years later when she carried messages for the Dutch Resistance and helped conceal British soldiers after the Battle of Arnhem.”

The self-guided tours will be available throughout August. Leaflets are available from Colebrook Sturrock offices or a printable PDF can be downloaded from www.elhamhistorical.org.

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