TV presenter Fern Britton has revealed her grandmother had a “secret child” she kept hidden from the family for decades.
The former This Morning host said the “guilty secret” has had such a profound impact on her it is the inspiration for her new novel.
She revealed she had an uncle who her grandmother, Beryl, gave birth to out of wedlock - with Britton only finding out about him when he contacted her after she first achieved fame.
The 62-year-old said: "I was 23 when I found out my family's secret.
"I had started in TV, working in Plymouth, when I received a letter from a man who had seen me on screen, asking if I was Ruth Britton's daughter.
"When I wrote back to say that I was, he replied saying 'I know this sounds extraordinary, but I think I am your mother's half-brother'.
"The stranger was telling me that my late grandmother, Beryl, had given birth to him out of wedlock before the First World War, and he had spent years searching for his mother.
"In secret, Beryl had arranged a private fostering for him and continued to see him, love him, and send whatever money she could spare for his keep.
"It must have been very difficult, because by then she had married my grandfather, Gerald, and went on to have three children."
Britton said she struggled to pick the right moment to tell her mum, but when she did break the 'bombshell', her mum said 'I'm not surprised'.
Speaking to Good Housekeeping magazine, Britton said: "She told me that when my grandmother was dying, she had told her 'I've been a very wicked woman, I have done wicked things'.
"It seemed awful to find out that she had carried this guilty secret around with her for years."
Britton's new novel out later month, Daughters of Cornwall, is about a woman who has a secret child and is inspired by what happened.
Posting a photo of her new book on twitter this week she said proudly:
“It’s rather a personal book and took a lot to get it done. But here she is!”
On her website she is asked if she ever puts anything of herself into characters and said: “I think every writer does. We are all very similar in that we want to have peaceful loving lives.
"Very often we go through difficult times, but it’s the way we handle problems that bonds us together. I write stories that I think are relevant to all of us.”
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