Celebrating Beaconsfield’ Past: Alison Uttley, ‘Spinner of Tales’, creator of Little Grey Rabbit.
It is sad to note that our town has few, if any, reminders of Alison Uttley, one of Beaconsfield’s many famous authors, who lived here from 1938 to 1976. This neglect is about to be remedied.
From 24 June to 1 July 2017, the Beaconsfield Society will be putting on an ‘Alison Uttley Week’ to raise awareness of and to celebrate her work.
Alison was born in 1884, at Castle Top Farm in Derbyshire. A bright scholar, in 1906 she became one of the first women to graduate from Manchester University with a degree in physics. She went into teaching but, widowed early and with a young son to support, she turned to writing. Her first book for children, ‘The Squirrel, the Hare and the Little Grey Rabbit’ was published in 1929. It was the first of what was to become a world-famous series of charming country tales.
Alison moved to Beaconsfield in 1938, the same year as Enid Blyton. (Unfortunately, she took a great dislike to her fellow author, whom she called a ‘vulgar, curled woman’.) Her house, which she named ‘Thackers’, still stands today in Ellwood Road. She lived there until her death in 1976, and is buried in Penn churchyard. Her headstone bears the simple but telling phrase: ‘Spinner of Tales’.
Alison wrote over 100 books, most of them for children. Her works for adults include the famous semi-autobiographical ‘The Country Child’, ‘Ambush of Young Days’ and ‘A Year in the Country’, all drawing on her deep love and knowledge of the countryside. In 1939, she also published a popular historical novel, ‘A Traveller in Time’.
The full programme for the Society’s ‘Alison Uttley Week’ includes many children’s events – special story times, art and colouring competitions, displays, treasure hunts and a Little Grey Rabbit Birthday party picnic at Beaconsfield Library. Also in partnership with the Beaconsfield Society, High March School is organising a special ‘Little Grey Rabbit and her friends’ art competition involving all the primary schools in Beaconsfield. Details are given in the poster below:
For adults, Professor Denis Judd, Alison’s biographer and editor of her diaries, will give a talk on her life and work at 2.30pm on Saturday 1 July, at the Fitzwilliams Centre.
Tickets available: members (£8 .00), guests and the general public (£10.00) and can be obtained from Beaconsfield Library: firstname.lastname@example.org or from the Beaconsfield Society: 01494 67592
This article first appeared in the June 2017 issue of the Beaconsfield Community Magazine and we are grateful to the Editor for permission to publish it here.
We are also grateful for the generous assistance, and permission to use the images of:
The Alison Uttley Society www.alisonuttley.co.uk
The Margaret Tempest Estate www.margarettempest.co.uk
Templar Publishing www.templarco.co.uk
Visit their websites to find out more about the author, illustrator, and modern editions of their most famous books.