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)
Parent(s) Thomas Todd
Alice Maud Bentham

Barbara Euphan Todd (9 January 1890 – 2 February 1976) was an English writer most notable for her books for children 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 an Anglican vicar, Thomas Todd, and Alice Maud Mary (née Bentham).[1] She was brought up in the village of Soberton in Hampshire[2] and was educated at St Catherine's School, Bramley, near Guildford in Surrey.[1] She worked as a VAD during the First World War, then, after her father's retirement, lived with her parents in Surrey and began writing.


Much of her early work was published in magazines such as Punch and The Spectator,[3] but she also wrote 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 novels for children, some of them in collaboration with her husband, Commander John Graham Bower (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", and Todd, as "Barbara Euphan", South Country Secrets (1935). Together they wrote The Touchstone, in which observation of the countryside is combined with interest in its history, in much the same manner as Rudyard Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill.[4] Commander Bower died in 1940.

Todd's only novel for adults was Miss Ranskill Comes Home (1946), which is about a woman who returns to England after being stranded on a desert island during the Second World War.

Todd continued to write novels into her old age and the last appeared in 1972. Among her other works were adaptations of folk stories for radio, and plays and stories written in collaboration with other writers,[1][2] but it is mainly her books about Worzel Gummidge that are still sought after.[5]

Worzel Gummidge[edit]

Todd's ten novels about Worzel Gummidge, a scarecrow who comes to life, are:

  • Worzel Gummidge, or The Scarecrow of Scatterbrook (1936)
  • 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 and the Railway Scarecrows (1955)
  • Worzel Gummidge at the Circus (1956)
  • Worzel Gummidge's Treasure Ship (1958)
  • Detective Worzel Gummidge (1963).


The novels have been illustrated by various artists, including Diana Stanley, Elisabeth Alldridge, Will Nickless and Jill Crockford.[7]

In the 1950s Todd collaborated with Denis and Mabel Constanduros 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.

A second television series, adapted by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, was broadcast 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 hallmark 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. ^ Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  7. ^ "Worzel Gummidge Series" in The Cambridge Guide ... Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  8. ^ IMDb. Retrieved 18 June 2012.

External links[edit]