House where Anna learnt to dance for the King


There's a very special house on the market in Bristol...

Hollywood film star Deborah Kerr learned the dance moves that propelled her to fame in the blockbuster movie “The King and I” at her Auntie’s dance academy in Bristol.

Now the house overlooking Durdham Downs in Redland, where Kerr first took her tentative dance steps before moving on to train at Sadler’s Wells, is for sale for £1,850,000.

In the 1930s the house was used by Phyllis Smale as the base for the Hicks-Smale Drama School and when her sister Kathleen sent her niece, Deborah down from Scotland to Bristol to learn stage-craft it provided her with a pupil who went on to a glittering Hollywood career.

Deborah Kerr starred opposite Yul Bryner in “The King and I” with the movie highlight her performance in the musical number Shall We Dance catapulting her to world stardom.

Deborah Kerr, who was born in Glasgow, was educated at the Northumberland House School in Henleaze, Bristol, but it was her extra-curricular learning at her Auntie’s Drama School in Durdham Lodge that sparked her career.

Durdham Lodge has had a fascinating history and has rarely come on to the open market. It stands in its own landscaped grounds and offers six bedrooms a country style kitchen with Aga, and both formal and ‘snug’ sitting rooms. In total the house has some 4,400 sq ft of accommodation with a separate garage and off road parking for several cars.

In the 1820s it was a simple gardener’s cottage in the middle of an orchard but by the 1850s there were two dwellings on the site known as Swiss Villa and Swiss Cottage. These were amalgamated into a single residence in 1881 with the work supervised by the architect Sir Frank Wills, son of tobacco magnate H.O Wills.

Sir Frank went on to design many well-known Bristol landmarks, such as the tobacco factory buildings in Bedminster, Bristol and buildings at Red Maids and Bristol grammar School.

After Phyllis Smale, who herself starred in movies and television productions in the 1950s, closed her drama school the house was used as a chiropractic surgery. It reverted to residential use in the 1990s.

Details of the house can be found at  or by calling 0117 946 6690.

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