Barbara Euphan Todd

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Barbara Euphan Todd
Born (1890-01-09)9 January 1890
Died 2 February 1976(1976-02-02) (aged 86)
Donnington, Berkshire
Occupation Writer
Known for Creator of Worzel Gummidge
Spouse(s) John Graham Bower
(1932–1940) (his death)
Children Ursula Betts (step)
Parents Thomas Todd
Alice Maud Bentham

Barbara Euphan Todd (9 January 1890 – 2 February 1976) was an English writer most notable for her children's books about a scarecrow called Worzel Gummidge.

Early life[edit]

Todd was born at Arksey, near Doncaster, then in the West Riding of Yorkshire, the only child of Anglican vicar Thomas Todd and Alice Maud Mary (née Bentham),[1] but was brought up in the rural village of Soberton in Hampshire.[2] She was educated at St Catherine's School, Bramley, Guildford in Surrey.[1] She worked as a VAD during World War I, and after her father's retirement lived with her parents in Surrey and began writing.


Her early work was published in magazines such as Punch and The Spectator.[3] They included two volumes of poems about children illustrated by Ernest Shepard: Hither and Thither (1927) and The Seventh Daughter (1935).[1] In the 1920s, she started writing books for children and collaborated with her husband Commander John Graham Bower, RN (1886–1940), whom she married in 1932. The couple moved to Blewbury near Oxford, where Bower, an officer in the Royal Navy, wrote fiction and essays under the pseudonym 'Klaxon'. As Barbara Euphan, in 1935 Todd wrote South Country Secrets and The Touchstone with her husband, in which observation of the countryside is combined with interest in its history, after the manner of Rudyard Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill.[4]

In 1946, after the death of her husband in World War II, she wrote her only adult novel, Miss Ranskill Comes Home (1946), about a woman who returns to England after being stranded on a desert island during the war. It was reissued in 2003 by Persephone Books. Among other works written by Todd were folk stories adapted for radio, plays and stories written in collaboration with other writers,[1][2] but it is mainly the two Worzel books that are still sought after.[5]

Worzel Gummidge[edit]

Worzel Gummidge or The Scarecrow of Scatterbrook, which would become her best known-work, appeared in 1936.[6] The title character is a scarecrow that comes to life. She would later write nine other books featuring the character. The series was illustrated initially by Elisabeth Alldridge and later by Will Nickless and Jill Crockford.[7]

In the 1950s Denis and Mabel Constanduros collaborated with Todd on a series of Worzel Gummidge radio plays for children. A television series, Worzel Gummidge Turns Detective, was made in 1953. In 1967 five Worzel Gummidge stories were narrated by Gordon Rollings in five episodes of the BBC children's serial Jackanory. Todd continued to write novels into the 1970s, her last appearing in 1972. A second television series, adapted by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, was aired in 1978–81.[1] A further television derivative was Worzel Gummidge Down Under (1987–89, Channel 4), in which the main character moves to New Zealand.[8]

Todd died in 1976 at a nursing home in Donnington, Berkshire. Her stepdaughter, the anthropologist Ursula Betts, remembered her as "warm and kind" but recalled mainly her "dry - and sometimes wry - sense of humour," the earmark of her Worzel Gummidge books.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e ODNB entry by Elizabeth J. Morse: Retrieved 18 June 2012. Pay-walled.
  2. ^ a b c Todd biography on
  3. ^ Barbara Euphan Todd Biography at Persephone Books
  4. ^ Entry on "Camping and tramping fiction" in: The Cambridge Guide to Children's Books in English (Cambridge, UK: CUP, 2001). Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  5. ^ Museum of Childhood. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  6. ^ Worzel Gummidge Again (1937); More About Worzel Gummidge (1938); Worzel Gummidge and Saucy Nancy (1947); "Worzel Gummidge Takes a Holiday (1949); Earthy Mangold and Worzel Gummidge (1954); Worzel Gummidge Railway Scarecrows (1955); Worzel Gummidge at the Circus (1956); Worzel Gummidge Treasure Ship (1958); Detective Worzel Gummidge (1963). Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  7. ^ Entry on "Worzel Gummidge series" in: The Cambridge Guide... Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  8. ^ IMDb. Retrieved 18 June 2012.

External links[edit]