Hollywood producer Hopwood DePree had been told as a boy that an ancestor—who he was named after—had left his family’s English castle in the 1700s to journey to America.
One night, after some wine and a visit to Ancestry.com, Hopwood discovered a photograph of a magnificent English estate with a familiar name: Hopwood Hall.
His irresistibly charming memoir, DOWNTON SHABBY: One American’s Ultimate DIY Adventure Restoring His Family’s English Castle (William Morrow, May 2022), details his extraordinary journey and efforts to save Hopwood Hall.
Located in Middleton, England (9 kilometers north of Manchester), Hopwood Hall had been occupied continuously for five centuries until the last remaining male heirs died in World War I.
When Hopwood first visited in 2013, he discovered trees growing from the chimneys, holes in the roof, and water sluicing down the walls.
It would take many millions (pounds or dollars) to save the Hall; a fortune that Hopwood certainly didn’t have.
And yet, despite the fact he lived in Los Angeles and had no construction skills, DePree decided to move to the Hall bearing his name.
The rest is history.
He soon discovers that saving the Hall is a task far too big for any one person. He joins forces with an unforgettable cast of new neighbors he can call on for help and with local aristocrats who (sort of) come to accept Hopwood as one of their own.
Together, they navigate the trials and triumphs of the castle’s ongoing restoration and renovation.
Hopwood DePree was raised in suburban Michigan and graduated from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
As a performer, DePree appeared at many notable stand-up comedy venues, and served as a consultant on entertainment and media ventures for celebrity brands.
Today, DePree lives in Middleton, UK, and focuses his efforts and resources on the restoration of Hopwood Hall Estate, documenting the progress along the way on YouTube: Hopwood XIV.
TIMELINE OF HOPWOOD HALL:
- Spring 2013. Hopwood discovers Hopwood Hall while researching his ancestry online and decides to visit there.
- 2014-2017. Hopwood makes numerous visits from LA to UK.
- Mid-August 2017. Hopwood obtains a UK visa and moves full time to England.
- September 2017. On Heritage Open Day, Hopwood receives attention from national UK media and launches his YouTube channel detailing his restoration efforts for friends/family/supporters to follow his journey.
- Autumn 2017. Lady Hopwood’s ghost appears in a photo.
- 2017-2018. Major progress ensues: first grants are received, the Friends community group is established, and the clean-up begins. Hopwood and team establish electricity and water at the Hall.
- November 2018. Observing of Armistice Day. Hopwood participates in the laying of the wreath and leads a service in memory of the Hopwood sons and staff members from the Hall who died in service in WWI.
- Summer 2019. Hopwood does stand-up tour, including a performance at the Edinburgh Fringe. Further grants are secured.
- December 2019. First Hopwood Family Christmas in the Hall in 100 years.
- April 2020. When the Covid-19 Pandemic hits, Hopwood is called back to US until April 2021—but his UK friends and volunteers are incredible in continuing to support the project.
- May-October 2020. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Hopwood begins to write his memoir, DOWNTON SHABBY.
- November 2020. Flagstones from the Hopwood Hall Garden are stolen, and the story makes national UK news.
- April 2021. Announcement of establishing the Hopwood Foundation charity in the UK.
- October 2021. Hopwood is awarded his largest grant yet (and of any of the grants given at that time for projects in the UK) from Historic England. Joint statement with DCMS on October 22, 2021.
January 2022. Work continues to stabilize Hopwood Hall. Hopwood prepares for his book to launch in the UK and US.
- May 31, 2022. DOWNTON SHABBY publication in the US.
- June 10/11, 2022. The UK release of DOWNTON SHABBY. Celebration with sections of Hopwood Hall open to the PUBLIC!
- Spring 2022, ongoing: Sections of Hopwood Hall open to the public for tours & events while construction and improvements continue.