Billy Bunter was a central character in the Greyfriars School stories which appeared in the boys' story paper, The Magnet from 1907 to 1940 and Bessie's first appearance was in a 1919 Greyfriars story. She was a pupil of Cliff House School, a girls' school near Greyfriars.
In 1919, attempting to replicate the success of The Magnet, Amalgamated Press decided to bring out a new magazine for girls called The School Friend (later The Schoolgirl), which included stories by Hamilton about Cliff House using the pen-name Hilda Richards, supposedly the sister of Frank. The stories were soon taken over by other authors, also using the name Hilda Richards. The most prolific of these substitute writers was John W. Wheway, who wrote well over 500 Cliff House stories between 1931 and 1940.(Lofts & Adley 1975:65)
Hamilton wrote one more Cliff House story, in 1949, called "Bessie Bunter of Cliff House School", and published by Cassell.
The character also appeared in comic-strip format; in addition, she featured as an adult character in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier where she married the former Greyfriars schoolboy Harry Wharton.
Bessie Bunter was essentially a female counterpart to her brother Billy, sharing many characteristics with her brother, including her large size and large appetite. She was as unappealing as her brother Billy, being conceited, untruthful, gluttonous and obese, but she was rather more domineering than he was and would usually impose her will by nagging, or, in the case of her brothers, by administering hefty slaps to the head (Cadogan 1988:20).
- Cadogan, Mary (1988), Frank Richards – The Chap Behind The Chums, Middlesex: Viking
- Hamilton Wright, Una; McCall, Peter (2006), The Far Side of Billy Bunter: the Biography of Charles Hamilton, London: Friars Library
- Lofts, W. O. G.; Adley, D. J. (1975), The World of Frank Richards, London: Howard Baker
- Richards, Frank (1962), The Autobiography of Frank Richards, London: Skilton
- Richards, Jeffery (1991), Happiest Days: Public Schools in English Fiction, Manchester: Manchester University Press
- Cadogan, Mary; Craig, Patricia (1976), You're a Brick Angela, London: Gollancz
- Friardale Hamilton material
- Greyfriars Index Detailed listing of Hamilton material
- The Friars Club Enthusiasts’ Club
- Bunterzone Enthusiasts’ site
- Index of Boys Weeklies
- Bessie Bunter and Cliff House School[dead link]
- Cliff House School