Green Knowe

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the real 12th century house that Green Knowe was based on

Green Knowe is a series of six children's novels written by Lucy M. Boston, illustrated by her son Peter Boston,[1] and published from 1954 to 1976.[2][3] It features a very old house, Green Knowe, based on Boston's home at the time, The Manor in Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire.[4] In the novels she brings to life the people who she imagines might have lived there.

For the fourth book in the series, A Stranger at Green Knowe (1961), Boston won the annual Carnegie Medal, recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject.[5] She was a commended runner up for both the first and second books.[6][a]

Some of the stories feature Toseland, a boy called Tolly for short, and his great-grandmother Mrs. Oldknow. Green Knowe is inhabited by the spirits of children who lived there in ages past and more than one of the spirits whom Tolly knows as children later grow into adults. Other supernatural entities in the series include the demonic tree-spirit, Green Noah (manifesting as a large tree on the grounds of the manor house), and an animated statue of St. Christopher.

The first five books were published by Faber and Faber, 1954 to 1964. Harcourt published them in the U.S., the first in 1955 and the others within the calendar year of British publication. The last book appeared after more than a decade, published by The Bodley Head and Atheneum Books in 1976.[2][3]

Lucy M. Boston also completed one Green Knowe short story in 1964: "Demon at Green Knowe", in Helen Hoke, ed., Spooks, Spooks, Spooks (Franklin Watts, 1966, 0-531-01797-4).

WorldCat reports that the six Green Knowe novels are Boston's works most widely held by participating libraries, by a wide margin.[1]


The Children of Green Knowe (1954)[edit]

The Children of Green Knowe is the first of the six books written by Boston about the fictional manor house of Green Knowe. It was a commended runner up for the 1954 Carnegie Medal.[6][a]

The novel concerns the visit of a young boy, Toseland, to the magical house of Green Knowe. The house is tremendously old, dating from the Norman Conquest, and has been continually inhabited by Toseland's ancestors, the d'Aulneaux, later Oldknowe or Oldknow, family. Toseland crosses floodwaters by night to reach the house and his great-grandmother, Linnet Oldknow, who addresses him as Tolly.

Over the course of the novel, Tolly explores the rich history of his family, which pervades the house like magic. He begins to encounter what appear to be the spirits of three of his forebears—an earlier Toseland (nicknamed Toby), Alexander, and an earlier Linnet—who lived in the reign of Charles II. These meetings are for the most part not frightening to Tolly; they continually reinforce the sense of belonging that the house embodies. In the evenings, Mrs. Oldknow entertains Tolly with stories about the house and the children who lived and live there. Surrounded by the rivers and the floodwater, sealed within its ancient walls, Green Knowe is a sanctuary of peace and stability in a world of unnerving change.

The book was adapted for television in 1986 in the BBC production The Children of Green Knowe, starring Alec Christie as Tolly, Daphne Oxenford as Mrs. Oldknow and Polly Maberly as Linnet Oldknow.

The Chimneys of Green Knowe (1958)[edit]

The Chimneys of Green Knowe was a commended runner up for the 1958 Carnegie Medal.[6][a] In the United States it was published within the calendar year by Harcourt, entitled The Treasure of Green Knowe.[2][3]

The Chimneys also features Tolly, who has returned to Green Knowe for the Easter holidays. As she mends a patchwork quilt, Mrs. Oldknow continues telling Tolly stories about the previous inhabitants of the house. This time, her stories concern Susan Oldknow, a blind girl who lived at Green Knowe during the English Regency, and the close bond of friendship that developed between her and a young black page, Jacob, brought back from the West Indies by Susan's father, Captain Oldknowe. The plot also concerns the whereabouts of the jewels of Maria Oldknowe, which may or may not have been stolen by the unscrupulous butler Caxton.

The Chimneys was adapted for film in 2009 as From Time to Time, with Maggie Smith as Mrs. Oldknow, Hugh Bonneville as Captain Oldknowe, and Alex Etel as Tolly.

The River at Green Knowe (1959)[edit]

Mrs. Oldknow and Tolly do not appear in The River at Green Knowe. It is summer, and the house has been rented by two old ladies: the archaeologist Doctor Biggin and her friend, Miss Bun. Doctor Biggin has invited her niece Ida and two "displaced" refugee children, Oskar and Ping, to stay with her at Green Knowe.

The children arrive and begin to explore the river and canals round Green Knowe by canoe. The magic of Green Knowe is much more fantasy-based in this novel: the children see flying horses, meet a giant, and witness a Bronze Age moon ceremony. The subtext, of homeless children being protected and healed by the house and its enchantments, is particularly strong.

A Stranger at Green Knowe (1961)[edit]

The Chinese boy, Ping, has returned to Green Knowe alone to stay with Mrs. Oldknow. During a visit to a zoo in London prior to his arrival at Green Knowe, he is fascinated by the giant gorilla Hanno; as a refugee, he feels a powerful bond. After Hanno escapes from the zoo and makes his way to Green Knowe, Ping befriends him. The early chapters of the book detail Hanno's life as a young gorilla in Africa and the trauma and cruelty of his capture with great compassion and finesse. A Stranger At Green Knowe was awarded the 1961 Carnegie Medal.[5]

An Enemy at Green Knowe (1964)[edit]

This novel takes a darker turn than previous novels in the series. Both Tolly and Ping are staying at Green Knowe. Mrs. Oldknow tells them the story of Doctor Vogel, a tutor and necromancer who came to a diabolical end at Green Knowe centuries before. The next day, Professor Melanie D. Powers appears, hunting for Vogel's occult papers. Professor Powers' interest is far from academic, however, and a mounting confrontation between the holy magic of Green Knowe and the forces of Evil, represented by Melanie Powers, commences.

The Stones of Green Knowe (1976)[edit]

This novel, the last in the sequence, tells the story of Roger d'Aulneaux, the son of the original Norman settler who built the manor house of Green Knowe. Whilst exploring the overgrown countryside, Roger discovers two throne-like stones that allow him to access, first the turbulent time of the Conquest, then the later periods of Linnet, Susan and Tolly, and they to visit him in turn.


In 1956 Anthony Boucher praised the first novel as "sheer literary magic: subtle, tenuous, enchanting and wholly convincing."[7]

In a study of "series fiction" at the turn of the century, Victor Watson opined that "A Stranger at Green Knowe is a masterpiece ... and in my opinion the greatest animal story in English children's literature". Generally he praised Boston for 'her ability "to find exactly the right words, to groom her prose to glossy perfection"'.[8]


The Children of Green Knowe was adapted into a BBC drama serial comprising 4 episodes in 1986. It was broadcast on BBC 1 between 26 November and 17 December 1986. The dramatisation was adapted from Boston's novel by John Stadelman.[9]

The Children of Green Knowe was dramatised by Brian Sibley as a radio play directed by Marilyn Imrie for BBC Radio 4, 18 December 1999.

A film based on The Chimneys of Green Knowe, From Time to Time, was produced in 2009.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Since 1995 there are usually eight books on the Carnegie shortlist. According to CCSU some runners up through 2002 were commended (from 1954) or highly commended (from 1966). There were about 160 commendations of both kinds in 49 years including six each for 1954 and 1958.


  1. ^ a b "Boston, L. M. (Lucy Maria) 1892-1990". WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  2. ^ a b c Green Knowe series listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  3. ^ a b c "Lucy M Boston Bibliography: UK – US First Edition Books". Bookseller World. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  4. ^ The Manor, Hemingford Grey.
  5. ^ a b (Carnegie Winner 1961). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2012-07-24.
  6. ^ a b c "Carnegie Medal Award". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Retrieved 2012-08-21.
  7. ^ "Recommended Reading". The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. June 1956. p. 102.
  8. ^ Watson, page 145, quoted by reviewer Rudd as an example of Watson's "laying himself on the line".
    "Reading Series Fiction: From Arthur Ransome to Gene Kemp. By Victor Watson. New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2000. Reviewed by David Rudd." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 26:3 (Fall 2001), pp. 154–155. Excerpt at Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  9. ^ "The Children of Green Knowe" at

External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Making of Man
A Stranger at Green Knowe
Carnegie Medal recipient

Succeeded by
The Twelve and the Genii