Mary Norton [née Pearson] (1903
- 1992), children's author
Mary was born on the 10th December 1903 at 48 Mildmay
Park, Highbury, London. She was the child of the surgeon Reginald
Spencer Pearson and Minnie Savile (née Hughes). The couple
also had four sons. Whilst still a child, Mary with the family
moved to Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. Initially
they lived at "The Manor House" in Lake Street,
later moving to Cedars
This house was later to become the basis for the setting of her
most famous work, The Borrowers.
Mary was educated at St Margaret's Convent, East Grinstead,
and attended an art school for a short course before joining, in the
1925-6 season, the Old Vic Shakespeare Company.
On 4th September 1926, Mary married Robert Charles
Norton at St Mary's, Lambeth, London. Robert was an engineer whose
family were shipowners with trading connections with Portugal. After
their marriage the couple moved to a country estate near Lisbon,
Portugal. The outbreak of WWII saw Robert joining the Royal Navy. Mary
along with her two sons and two daughters moved first to England and
then to New York, where she worked for the British Purchasing Commission.
It was during her stay in America that she wrote her
first book, The Magic Bedknob. This was published first
in America in 1943 and later in England in 1945. In 1943 the family
returned to England where Mary briefly resumed her stage career.
In 1947 a sequel was published called Bonfires and Broomsticks.
Later, in 1957 these two books were combined into the one volume
called Bed-Knob and Broomstick, and in 1971 Disney released
Bed Knobs and Broomsticks.
In 1952 Mary published her most famous work The
This was immediately recognised as a children's classic and she won
the Carnegie medal that year. The story is about the adventures of
tiny people who live under the floorboards etc of houses, and particularly
about the Clock family. The location for the story, Firbank Hall,
was based on the Cedars
House in Leighton Buzzard where
she had lived as a child.
Several sequels were written:
The Borrowers Afield (1955)
The Borrowers Afloat (1959)
The Borrowers Aloft (1961)
Poor Stainless (1971)
The Borrowers Avenged (1982)
Mary's first marriage was dissolved, and on 24th April
1970 she married the writer Lionel Boncey. Initially they lived in
Essex, but in 1972 they moved to the rectory in Kilcoe, Aughadown,
Ballydehob, County Cork, Ireland. Here she wrote Are All the Giants
The books on the Borrowers have in more recent years
been turned into television series and also films.
Mary Norton died on the 29th August 1992 at 102 West
Street, Hartland, Bideford, Devon.