Books were spread around the house, crammed in every room and although young Joanne had little interest in the adventures of the Famous Five, she would later praise the work of Richard Scarry, whose anthropomorphic work inspired her earliest work of fiction: a story called "Rabbit" written at the age of six.
By this time she was a happy pupil at St Michael’s Church of England school, five minutes’ walk from the family home. In 1974 her parents purchased an old stone cottage in Tutshill, on the Welsh border, close to the Forest of Dean, which would become a blueprint for Harry Potter’s Forbidden Forest, just as it had inspired the work of another local author, the late Dennis Potter.
But things were about to change dramatically, casting a shadow over Rowling’s life and tearing apart her close-knit family.‘Home was a difficult place to be’ - JK Rowling on Desert Island Discs The spectre of her illness first appeared to Anne Rowling in 1978 when her hand began to tremble while she poured tea.
At first the symptoms were fleeting and she dismissed them with a shrug but over the next two years her loss of physical control intensified.
After 12 years bringing up her daughters, Anne Rowling secured the position of lab technician at Wyedean Comprehensive under the supervision of John Nettleship, the school’s head of science.
Nettleship remembers Joanne, whom he taught, as a bright but quiet girl and considers himself an early inspiration for Professor Snape.
"I think chemistry maybe made the most impact on her because I did teach her about the philosopher’s stone, the alchemist’s stone.
Possibly she knew about it already, but I did include it in my lessons and explained how it turned things to gold." He then chuckles before adding: "It seems to have worked for her, hasn’t it." Although bright, she was not the most enthusiastic student, as Nettleship, who is now retired, recalls: "Her attitude in the science lessons was more like Harry’s in the potions class rather than Hermione’s." Anne Rowling, meanwhile, was delighted to be around the beakers and chemicals and working once again after such a long absence.
The idyllic Church Cottage, which had a flagstone floor and a covered well, was just a goblin’s throw from the local graveyard, and was surrounded by countryside in which the Rowling sisters would enact their adventures.
But for the young JK Rowling, the first day at Tutshill Church of England school in September 1974 was not a success.
A year later the family moved to the larger house at Winterbourne, where Joanne first discovered the magical world of books, and created her own adventures in the front garden.