Mary Poppins author honoured with blue plaque in Chelsea

P.L. Travers lived in her Chelsea home for 17 years, including during her negotiations with Disney about the film rights to Mary Poppins. 

A photograph of P.L Travers taken in 1924.
A photograph of P.L Travers taken in 1924.

P.L. Travers, who's best remembered for creating the 'world's best known nanny' Mary Poppins, has been celebrated on London History Day with a blue plaque.

The home at 50 Smith Street, Chelsea, was the inspiration behind the Banks' family house in the Mary Poppins film. It was also here that Travers raised her adopted son, Camillus, and where she resided during her infamous film negotiations with Disney.

The character Mary Poppins starred in a series of eight books, but it was the Disney film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke that skyrocketed Mary Poppins, and an unwilling Travers, to international fame.

Mary Poppins visiting a Blue Plaque for P L Travers

Frances Travers, P.L Travers' daughter-in-law, said:

'Mimoo as we called her, lived in Smith Street before any of the Kings Road commercial frenzy had begun. She always wore a soft grey coat that swung from the shoulders, I think it was called a duster coat, and little dresses of many blue and grey checks just to mid-calf underneath.

'In her little green Ford she was able to be independent and that is how I like to remember her, with Crocus the tortoiseshell cat and Pompey the beloved dachshund.

'I'm so glad that a plaque has been put on this house as memories of those days are so dear to me. That's when I arrived in London aged about 16, spellbound by the knowledge of what wonderful people had lived in the streets all around. No wonder she loved to live there too.'

A Blue Plaque for P L Travers

Behind the magic

Born in Australia as Helen Lyndon Goff, Travers experienced a childhood marred by the loss of her father in 1907. However his he inspired his daughter with a love of myth and poetry.

Displaying a flair for acting and directing in her teenage years, Travers began publishing articles and poems and eventually overcame her family's objections to become an actress, taking the stage name Pamela Travers. When she fell in love with a New Zealand journalist, Travers gave up acting to write for a number of newspapers and used her income to sail to England in 1924.

Travers spent much of her life in England where she conceived her beloved character in 1934. The story centres on the magical Mary Poppins who's blown by the east wind into the Banks' family home to care for their children.

Mary Poppins was made into a film in 1964 and won five Oscars. However, Travers made many objections to Walt Disney's interpretation throughout the production process and was dissatisfied with the film. Despite reassurance from Julie Andrews, Travers had to actively request an invitation to the premiere.

Travers continued to write in her old age, dying at home in 1996.

The popularity of Travers' most beloved character is far from waning, evidenced by the release of Saving Mr Banks in 2013. This film, starring Emma Thompson as Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, tells the story of the film-making process and the fraught relationship between the pair.

Mary Poppins will again revisit cinemas with Disney's Mary Poppins Returns, which will be released later this year starring Emily Blunt.

Read more about P.L.Travers on our blue plaques page.

Download the free app now from the Apple App Store for iPhone or the Google Play Store for Android.

For more from English Heritage, follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Mary Poppins visiting a Blue Plaque for P L Travers

More recent news

'step into englands story