Caitlin Davies

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Caitlin Davies
Born (1964-03-06) 6 March 1964 (age 56)
OccupationWriter, teacher

Caitlin Davies (born 6 March 1964) is an English author, journalist and teacher. Her parents are Hunter Davies and Margaret Forster, both well-known writers.[1] Hunter Davies wrote regularly about Caitlin and her brother Jake and sister Flora in a weekly Punch magazine column which ran in the 1970s, giving a broad insight into their upbringing. In her youth she was also frequently referred to by Auberon Waugh in his Private Eye diary.

Although born in England, Davies has been associated with Botswana since 1990 when she met her husband, the former Botswana MP Ronald Ridge, while studying for a Master's in English at Clark University, USA. Relocating to Botswana and working as a teacher, and then a freelance journalist, she wrote for Botswana's first tabloid newspaper The Voice and then as editor of The Okavango Newspaper. She was twice arrested as a journalist, once for "causing fear and alarm", and acquitted. In 2000, she received an award from the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) 'in recognition for consistent and outstanding journalistic work.'

While living in Botswana she wrote the novel Jamestown Blues and the historical work The Return of El Negro. The victim of a brutal assault and rape, she was active in research concerning domestic violence in Botswana and a founder member of Women Against Rape (WAR) in Maun.

She returned to England with her daughter after divorcing her husband and published a memoir about her experiences, called Place of Reeds, described by Hilary Mantel as 'candid and unsentimental'. For several years she wrote education and careers features for The Independent.

Davies is the author of six novels; Jamestown Blues (1996), Black Mulberries (2008), Friends Like Us (2009), The Ghost of Lily Painter (2011) a fictionalised account of two Edwardian baby farmers who were hanged at Holloway Prison in 1903, Family Likeness (2013) which draws on the experiences of mixed race UK children born to African American GIs during World War Two, as well as the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, Britain's 'first black aristocrat'. Her latest novel is Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World, based on the life of Agnes Beckwith, published by Unbound in September 2018

She has also written an illustrated non-fiction book on the bathing ponds and lido on Hampstead Heath, Taking the Waters: a swim around Hampstead Heath (2012), with photographs by Ruth Corney, and a social history of Camden Lock (2013). As a journalist her work has appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Mail on Sunday, Town and Country and Tate Etc..

In 2015 her non-fiction book Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames was published.[2] It was described by The Independent as 'a fascinating cultural history'. It resulted in a three-week Thames swimming showcase at the Museum of London. Caitlin is the historical advisor for the hit independent film The Ponds, directed by Patrick McLennan and Samuel Smith, and an ambassador for the Thames Baths Project which will reintroduce swimming to the River Thames in central London.

Her latest non-fiction book, Bad Girls (John Murray), is a history of Holloway Prison in north London, once the largest women's prison in Western Europe. The prison closed in July 2016; the site is being redeveloped for housing. Davies was the only journalist granted access to the prison and its archives. Bad Girls is described as 'an absorbing study' by the Sunday Times and a 'ripping good read' by Jeremy Corbyn, MP. Bad Girls was longlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2019

Davies is currently working on a new book, Queens of the Underworld: a journey into the lives of female gangsters, to be published by The History Press in October 2021. She has received a grant from The Author's Foundation, administered by the Society of Authors, to research the book.

From 2014 to 2017 Davies worked as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Westminster, in the faculty of Media, Arts & Design, Harrow Campus. She has been an RLF Fellow at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Science Museum since February 2019.[3]


  • Jamestown Blues. London; New York: Penguin, 1996.
  • The Return of El Negro: the compelling story of Africa's unknown soldier. Penguin Books (South Africa), 2003. Thorold's Africana Books [distributor]
  • Summer Magic. London: Bloomsbury, 2003. (short story contributor)
  • Place of Reeds. London: Simon & Schuster, 2005.
  • Black Mulberries. London: Pocket, 2008.
  • Friends like us. London: Pocket, 2009.
  • Grandparents. London: Ebury, 2009. (short story contributor)
  • The Ghost of Lily Painter. London: Hutchinson, 2011. London : Windmill, 2012.
  • Taking the Waters: a Swim around Hampstead Heath. London: Frances Lincoln, 2012.
  • Camden Lock and the Market. London: Frances Lincoln, 2013
  • Family Likeness. London: Hutchinson, 2013. London: Windmill, 2014, inspired in part by the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle.
  • Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames. London: Aurum, 2015.
  • Bad Girls: a History of Rebels and Renegades. London: John Murray, March 2018.
  • Daisy Belle: Swimming Champion of the World. London: Unbound, September 2018.
  • Botswana Women Write. South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, January 2020.


  1. ^ BBC: Author Margaret Forster dies from cancer aged 77 (accessed 8 February 2016)
  2. ^ Caitlin Davies (2 April 2015). Downstream: A History and Celebration of Swimming the River Thames. Aurum Press. pp. 292–. ISBN 978-1-78131-488-3.
  3. ^ "Caitlin Davies". The Royal Literary Fund.

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