Hopwood DePree to pen memoir about rescuing ancestral Hopwood Hall Estate

Date published: 14 September 2020

Hopwood DePree is to write a memoir, ‘Finding Hopwood’ about his humorous and heart-warming adventures of moving from Hollywood to the borough of Rochdale to rescue his dilapidated 600-year-old ancestral home, Hopwood Hall Estate.

‘Finding Hopwood’ was developed from Hopwood’s acclaimed one-hour live stand-up comedy show that toured in 2019 and culminated at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Hopwood also regularly releases comedic videos of his adventures on his YouTube channel.

He said: “This is a huge step forward in saving Hopwood Hall. I am still in shock about how tracing my ancestry has taken me on this journey of a lifetime. I am hopeful that telling my story will inspire others to seek out their own ancestry to see where it leads. 

“I also dearly hope to bring as much awareness as possible to the rescue of the Hopwood Hall Estate enabling it to be there for future generations to enjoy.” 

Hopwood Hall was lost from the Hopwood family in the early 20th century when the last two male heirs in England were tragically killed in action in World War One.

Over the years, the Hall fell into disrepair, inching ever closer to ruin. The English Hopwoods were long gone and, generations later, the American branch of the family had lost track that the Hall still existed, other than DePree’s grandfather who told ‘stories’ to him as a young boy about a Hopwood ‘Castle’ in England long ago.

Years later, Hopwood as an adult with a growing interest in genealogy, stumbled across the Hall while surfing the web in LA and realised this could be the ‘mythical’ Hopwood Castle. Young Hopwood had always assumed his grandfather made up the castle story to entertain him, but Hopwood Hall was very real, and he discovered, in a frighteningly fragile state in danger of being lost forever.

The American actor and comedian, with no carpentry experience or real ties to England beyond the Hall itself, stepped in and Hopwood now has an exclusive legal agreement with the council to enable him to have up to five years to rescue the 12th century manor.

He will then assume full possession of his ancestral home, which has lain vacant for 30 years and is now on Historic England’s 'At Risk' register.

As he puts it: “I couldn’t be the Hopwood, after all the centuries of Hopwoods, to let the Hall disappear on my watch.” 

Rights to publishing the book were acquired in a multi-house auction Rachel Kahan of William Morrow, a division of HarperCollins USA, with a six-figure advance. 

Ms Kahan, of William Morrow, the editor of many bestsellers – including the number one New York Times bestseller, Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly, which received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Nonfiction in 2017 and was adapted into an Oscar-nominated, number one  at the US box office film by the same name – will edit the book. 

DePree added: “It is a real honour to be working with William Morrow/HarperCollins and Rachel Kahan whose track records speak for themselves.

“As an admirer of their extensive catalogue, it is a dream come true to now be working with them as an author.”

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