24th December 2010
Wombles author Liza Beresford dies
Elizabeth Beresford, who was born in Paris in 1926 and educated in Brighton, will long be remembered as the creator of the Wombles. It was perhaps inevitable that she would grow up to be a writer, when her father himself was a novelist who counted HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw and DH Lawrence among his friends.
She worked for a while as a BBC journalist and wrote several childrens’ books aside from those about The Wombles. Her most famous creation came about after a Boxing Day stroll in Wimbledon Common, the recreation ground in south London where the Wombles collect and recycle rubbish. The name came about when her daughter mis-pronounced the common as Wombledon.
A prolific author
The first of six Wombles books, simply called The Wombles, was published in 1968. This was followed by five other volumes between 1970 and 1976 comprising around two dozen stories in total. Throughout her life she wrote more than 100 childrens books.
Many of the Wombles characters were based on her own family members and have specific or meaningful names. One name that wasn’t based on her family, though, was Alderney, the name of the assistant to Madame Cholet, the Wombles’ cook.
The stories were later televised by the BBC in a series of 35 stop-motion animation espisodes. Each was five minutes long and narrated by Bernard Cribbins. For many, they would have been their first introduction to the concept of recycling, which wasn’t widely practices when the books had been written.
Known as Liza, Beresford moved to St Anne, Alderney, in the 1970s. She died there in hospital there of heart failure in 2010. She was 84 and had been awarded an MBE in 1996 for services to children’s literature.