Monica Edwards in 1966.
Back cover of Badgers of Punchbowl Farm
|Born||Monica le Doux Newton
8 November 1912
Belper, Derbyshire, United Kingdom
|Died||18 January 1998
|Resting place||Ashes scattered in Vanhurst Copse, Thursley, Surrey, United Kingdom|
|Occupation||Author, naturalist and farmer|
|Education||Wakefield Girls High School (September 1920 - July 1921)
St Brandon's School, Bristol (January 1928 - April 1928)
Natural history non-fiction
|Notable work(s)||Wish for a Pony (1947)
Storm Ahead (1953)
No Going Back (1960)
The Badgers of Punchbowl Farm (1966)
|Spouse(s)||William ("Bill") Ferdinand Edwards|
Monica Edwards (née Monica le Doux Newton; 8 November 1912 – 18 January 1998) was an English children's writer of the mid-twentieth century best known for her Romney Marsh and Punchbowl Farm series of children's novels.
She was the third of four children born to the Reverend Harry and Beryl Newton. She was born in Belper, Derbyshire on 8 November 1912 but the family moved to Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1919. As well as being a vicar, Harry Newton was a diocesan exorcist and often took his children with him when performing exorcisms. In 1927 the family moved to Rye Harbour in Romney Marsh, Sussex where Harry Newton remained as vicar until 1936. The young Monica Newton received a fragmentary formal education: she is known to have attended Wakefield Girls High School between September 1920 and July 1921 and when the family were living at Rye Harbour she was sent to St Brandon's School, Bristol where she remained for just three months in 1928 before returning to Sussex. She received no further formal education.
The Mary Stanford disaster
In November 1928 Edwards witnessed the capsizing of the supposedly unsinkable Mary Stanford Lifeboat in Rye Bay with the loss of all aboard.
The unprecedented mass funeral, which was attended by representatives of King George V, the Government and the Armed Services, was conducted by her father, the Reverend Harry Newton.
Edwards knew all seventeen crew-members personally but was especially close to Charlie Southerden. In a letter to a school friend in January 1930 she described Charlie, who was six years older than she was, as her "boy friend" although the relationship was not public knowledge because of the difference in their age and social class. Much later she wrote a fictional account of the lifeboat disaster in Storm Ahead, published in 1953.
Monica Newton married William "Bill" Edwards in November 1933 (two days after her twenty-first birthday) in the face of opposition from both families. Bill was an athletic and charismatic man ten years older than her and a lorry-driver by profession. After living in a variety of places, including Udimore in Sussex; Croft in Leicestershire and Send, near Woking in Surrey, they eventually bought Pitlands Farm (in Thursley, Surrey) at auction in 1947 and renamed it Punch Bowl Farm.
The Punch Bowl Farm series
Between 1947 and 1968 Bill and Monica Edwards gradually built up the near-derelict farm into a thriving dairy concern stocked exclusively with pedigree Jersey cattle. During this time she wrote ten Punchbowl Farm novels with the farm and its surroundings as their setting. Although the real name of the farm was Punch Bowl Farm, the fictional name was contracted to Punchbowl (as was the herd name of the Jersey cattle at the real farm) and Thursley's name was changed to Highnoons for the books. The characters of this series of books were the Thornton family - principally the children Andrea, Dion, Lindsey and Peter. The first book in the series (No Mistaking Corker) was written before the purchase of the farm.
The complete list of Punchbowl Farm novels is:
- No Mistaking Corker (1947)
- Black Hunting Whip (1950)
- Punchbowl Midnight (1951)
- Spirit of Punchbowl Farm (1952)
- The Wanderer (1953)
- Punchbowl Harvest (1954)
- Frenchman's Secret (1956)
- The Cownappers (1958)
- The Outsider (1961)
- Fire in the Punchbowl (1965)
- The Wild One (1967)
The Edwards family's farm life was brought to a close in August 1968 when Bill had a near-fatal tractor accident. The couple eventually sold the farm and built a retirement bungalow for themselves in one of the farm's fields.
Romney Marsh series
Beginning with Wish for a Pony in 1947, Edwards altogether wrote fifteen titles in the Romney Marsh series of novels. These were set in the village of Rye Harbour which was renamed Westling. The Romney Marsh towns of Rye and Winchelsea were also renamed Dunsford and Winklesea respectively. The stories feature many real-life characters (with changed names) which the author remembered from her childhood there, such as the ferryman Jim Decks and the villainous Hookey Galley. The principal characters in the novels are Tamzin Grey, Rissa Birnie, Meryon Fairbrass and Roger Lambert. Tamzin's father, the Reverend Richard Grey, was based on Edwards' father, the Reverend Harry Newton.
The complete list of Romney Marsh novels is:
- Wish for a Pony (1947)
- The Summer of the Great Secret (1948)
- The Midnight Horse (1949)
- The White Riders (1950)
- Cargo of Horses (1951)
- Hidden in a Dream (1952)
- Storm Ahead (1953)
- No Entry (1954)
- The Nightbird (1955)
- Operation Seabird (1957)
- Strangers to the Marsh (1957)
- No Going Back (1960)
- The Hoodwinkers (1962)
- Dolphin Summer (1963)
- A Wind Is Blowing (1969)
When she wrote Wish for a Pony Edwards did not realise that finding an agent would be a necessary step to having the story published. Instead she simply sent it to Collins (now HarperCollins), who accepted it for publication. She quickly came to dislike the book:
Monica Edwards wanted to alter much of Wish for a Pony soon after it was published but Collins told her they would only publish her next story (No Mistaking Corker) if Wish for a Pony remained as it was.
All the books in the two series were published by Collins, but abridged versions of some of the titles in both series were published as Armada paperbacks. The non-series book Under The Rose was also published by Collins.
Edwards' chief illustrator was Geoffrey Whittam, although the first four books (Wish for a Pony, No Mistaking Corker, The Summer of the Great Secret and The Midnight Horse) had illustrations by Anne Bullen; Joan Wanklyn illustrated Spirit of Punchbowl Farm, The Wanderer and Punchbowl Harvest, and Charles Tunnicliffe illustrated Punchbowl Midnight.
In the 1980s John Goodchild published new versions of some of the earlier titles. These versions were updated by the author to make them less rooted in the 1950s. However, Goodchild died before Storm Ahead was published and the project was abandoned.
Edwards’ two children, Shelley and Sean, have recently agreed to the republishing of their mother's entire output, starting at the point where John Goodchild stopped in the 1980s, with Storm Ahead (published July 2005). The appointed publisher is a small concern specialising in the nostalgia republishing of (mainly girls') books, Girls Gone By Publishers. This distinguishes them from the reprints of the 1980s, which were still notionally aimed at children; the reprints are essentially aimed at nostalgic adults. So far Girls Gone By Publishers have republished all the Romney Marsh titles from Storm Ahead to A Wind Is Blowing and have now started publishing the Punchbowl titles.
Shelley and Sean have also approved the writing of their mother's biography by Brian Parks. It was published by Girls Gone By Publishers in February 2010. Brian Parks' Companion to the Romney Marsh series of books was published in July 2006.
- Killer Dog (1959 - novelisation of Monica Edwards' script for the Children's Film Foundation film The Dawn Killer made in 1958)
- Under The Rose (1968)
(Both titles published by Bodley Head)
- Joan Goes Farming (1954)
- Rennie Goes Riding (1956)
(All titles published by Michael Joseph)
- The Unsought Farm (1954)
- The Cats of Punchbowl Farm (1964)
- The Badgers of Punchbowl Farm (1966)
- The Valley and the Farm (1971)
- Badger Valley (1976)
- The Irresponsible Rescue (Collins - 1948)
- Serena Bathover's Horses (Collins - 1948)
- A Sort of Miracle (Collins - 1952)
- The Horse That Came From the Sea (Collins - 1953)
- Such a pony was Gipsy (Collins - 1953)
- Sure Magic (Max Parrish - 1955)
- The Champions (Chambers - 1955)
- The Telegram (Collins - 1955)
- Bird in the Hand (Collins - 1959)
- The Great Horse (Naldrett Press - 1960)
- Caesar's Fire (Collins - 1963)
Monica Edwards' last new title (Badger Valley) was published in 1976. She spent the next twenty years in travelling, reading and studying natural history. Bill Edwards died in October 1990 and Monica in January 1998.
- Parks, Brian. July 2006. The Monica Edwards Romney Marsh Companion Girls Gone By Publishers
- Parks, Brian. February 2010. Monica Edwards: the Authorised Biography Girls Gone By Publishers
- Parks, Brian. (March 2012). The Monica Edwards Punchbowl Companion Girls Gone By Publishers
- The Monica Edwards website, by John Allsup.
- The Monica Edwards Appreciation Society (M*E*A*S) publishes a regular magazine (The Martello) and organises visits to areas associated with Monica Edwards.
- The Girls Gone By Publishers website. Clarissa Cridland and Anne Mackie-Hunter are currently undertaking the task of republishing all of Monica Edwards' written output.
- Information about the author
- An article about the author's books.
- The Rye Harbour Picture Gallery - contains many images of Rye Harbour as it was when the author lived there in the 1920s and 1930s.
- Parks, Brian. 2010. Monica Edwards - the Authorised Biography Girls Gone By Publishers pp. 21-22
- Parks, Brian. 2010. Monica Edwards - the Authorised Biography Girls Gone By Publishers p. 21
- Parks, Brian. 2010. Monica Edwards - the Authorised Biography Girls Gone By Publishers p. 30
- Parks, Brian. 2006. The Monica Edwards Romney Marsh Companion Girls Gone By Publishers. p. 11
- Parks, Brian. 2010. Monica Edwards - the Authorised Biography Girls Gone By Publishers p. 33
- Parks, Brian. 2010. Monica Edwards - the Authorised Biography Girls Gone By Publishers p. 45
- Parks, Brian. 2006. The Monica Edwards Romney Marsh Companion Girls Gone By Publishers. pp. 84-91
- Edwards, Monica. 2005. Storm Ahead Girls Gone By Publishers 2005. p. 9 (Preface to re-published edition by Shelley Edwards)
- Parks, Brian. 2010. Monica Edwards - the Authorised Biography Girls Gone By Publishers p. 69
- Parks, Brian. 2010. Monica Edwards - the Authorised Biography Girls Gone By Publishers p. 71
- Parks, Brian. 2006. The Monica Edwards Romney Marsh Companion
- Dawn Killer at IMDB
- Dawn Killer at Children's Film and Television Foundation (Fifth entry on this page)