Early life and education
Youngest of the five children of Gordon Collingridge and his wife Irene (born Irene Keeping), Collingridge was born and brought up in Woking, Surrey in England. She read Geography at Hertford College, Oxford, where she earned a first class MA in 1990, despite contracting viral encephalitis in her second year which caused an almost fatal swelling of her brain. It was also at Oxford that she met her husband Alan Watt.
After graduating, Collingridge moved immediately to a career in television, first as a question checker on game shows Wheel of Fortune and Win, Lose or Draw, and then for 14 months as a weathergirl on BBC Scotland. In the early to mid-1990s she appeared from time to time on BBC television's Gardeners' World. She has since worked as a producer and presenter on all five British national terrestrial television channels, as well as BBC national radio.
In 2000 she quit her television presenter's job on Tonight with Trevor McDonald to author two biographies, one of 18th century explorer James Cook and one of Celtic warrior queen Boudica. During her research for the former, she discovered she shared ancestry with controversial Australian writer and illustrator George Collingridge, who asserted in 1895 that Australia was discovered by the Portuguese.
She has described her very early interest in feminism in the introduction to her book on Boudica in 2005: "what started as a strong-willed desire for independence became a fully-fledged, bra-burning (if only I had been old enough to wear one) mentality... Certainly, I cannot remember a time when I wasn't acutely aware of the inherently political nature of woman's position in society and — much to my father's disgust and my now extreme embarrassment — by the grand old age of twelve, I would proudly read Cosmopolitan magazine and proclaim myself a feminist!"
She returned to television in 2007 as writer and narrator of the four-part miniseries Captain Cook: Obsession and Discovery.
Collingridge has lived in Scotland since 1989, and resides in a converted farmhouse on the shore of Castle Semple Loch near Lochwinnoch with her husband Alan Watt, and sons Archie, Angus and Finn. As of 2009 she is studying to complete her PhD in historical cartography at the University of Glasgow, while working as a broadcaster for BBC Radio Scotland's Buried Treasure and BBC Radio 4's Making History.
- Cook: Obsession and Betrayal in the New World (2002), Ebury Press, ISBN 0-09-187913-2
- Boudica (2005), Ebury Press, ISBN 0-09-189819-6
- Biography at Take 3 Management
- "You can't pigeonhole me ... because of my magpie brain", interview with Stephen Phelan, Sunday Herald
- "Fancy meeting you here ...", The Scotsman, 4 March 2002
- Video clip of Collingridge describing her biography of James Cook (RealPlayer video)
- "The captain and the deflater", Sara Wheeler, The Spectator, 9 March 2002
- p.6, Boudica (2005), Ebury Press, ISBN 0-09-189819-6
- Captain Cook: Obsession and Discovery. Film Australia, 2007
- "Weather girl and now author Vanessa Collingridge at home in Lochwinnoch", Stephenpics.co.uk, 2002
- "PhD candidates", Department of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow
- Daily Mail, 19 November 2008, I poisoned my baby by breastfeeding... but doctors said I was being neurotic, by Vanessa Collingridge