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The Creator of the Wombles (Hardback)

The First Biography of Elisabeth Beresford

Colour Books Hobbies & Lifestyle > Biography P&S History > By Century > 20th Century P&S History > Social History Women of History

By Kate Robertson
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 32 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781526794666
Published: 6th March 2023
Last Released: 23rd May 2024

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This is the extraordinary story of Elisabeth Beresford, creator of The Wombles, the furry, fun-loving recyclers of rubbish which became a children’s publishing and television sensation in the 1970s. What drove this imaginative and prolific writer of children’s books to invent The Wombles? From her birth in Paris in 1926 to her death in the Channel Islands in 2010, Beresford’s working life was led to the full, driven by the fear of debt. Married to the TV and radio sports commentator, Max Robertson, and with two children, Elisabeth’s life was never dull but always uncertain. In addition to writing over 140 children’s books, she wrote romantic fiction for women’s magazines, became a regular contributor to the Today programme, Woman’s Hour (BBC) and Woman’s World (Central Office of Information). As a journalist she interviewed a fascinating range of people from politicians and film stars to children in the remote Australian Outback. With the publication of The Wombles, and subsequently the enchanting BBC films, Elisabeth found fame and for a very brief moment, fortune.

This is the first biography of ‘Mrs Womble’ as Elisabeth was known by millions of fans. Written by her daughter with insider knowledge and access to private family archives - diaries, letters, photographs and family memories - this book relates the remarkable and often hilarious life of one of the 20th century’s most successful children’s authors.

As featured in Townswoman magazine.

Townswoman, Issue 02 2023

Author interview on Bargain Hunt.

Watch the episode here!

Bargain Hunt, 11th August 2023

Article: 'Wombling Free'

Sussex Living

Loved the Wombles as a child. I think Orinoco was my favourite as he was fat and lazy (bit like me) so I was delighted to be given this book to read. Fascinating insight into Elisabeth Beresford's life.

Loved it.

NetGalley, Susan Moffatt

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I’ve heard about the Wombles before but never gave them much thought. This was such a fun read and I would love to read more biographies from Robertson as it felt fresh and engaging.

NetGalley, Morgan Schaer

As featured in

This England

Elisabeth Beresford created The Wombles in the 1970s, with no idea that they would go on to become a children’s publishing and television sensation. This book from her daughter, on whom the character of Bungo was based, is the first biography of Elisabeth, covering not only The Wombles, but also her work writing romantic fiction, and her journalistic career.

This England, Summer 2023

Article: My Mother created the Wombles - then used them to take revenge on my cheating, blackmailing Father

Daily Mail

As featured in 'My mother created the Wombles - then used them to take revenge on my cheating, blackmailing father'.

Read the full article here.

Daily Mail

I love the wombles and was an avid watcher so it was fascinating to hear all the goings on at the time. A really lovely piece of writing.

NetGalley, Nadine Rizvi

The Tale of the Wombles of Wimbledon

Time and Leisure (Clapham, Battersea and Fulham)

As featured in 'Interview with Kate Robertson about her biography of Elisabeth Beresford'.

Read the article here!

Tidy Bag

As featured in 'Elisabeth Beresford and The Wombles'.

Read the article here!

Time & Leisure

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

WoW Wishes do come true Thank you. The Creator of the Wombles
by Kate Robertson is the First Biography of Elisabeth Beresford who was the creator of these wonderful cute furry, pointy-nosed creatures which were fun-loving recyclers of rubbish called The Wombles, they became a children’s publishing and television sensation in the 1970s. I remember these so well and own several cuddly toys of The Wombles. I loved them.
This series was aired on BBC1 between 1973 and 1975, and spread over two seasons, the 60 episodes were each less than five minutes long. The narration and the dubbing of the characters were done by actor Bernard Cribbins (Bless him)
These became a favourite of children who were born in the 70's and will never be forgotten

Elisabeth’s life was never dull but always uncertain. In addition to writing over 140 children’s books, she wrote romantic fiction for women's magazines, became a regular contributor to the Today program, Woman’s Hour (BBC) and Woman’s World (Central Office of Information). As a journalist she interviewed a fascinating range of people from politicians and film stars to children in the remote Australian Outback. With the publication of The Wombles, and subsequently the enchanting BBC films, Elisabeth found fame and for a very brief moment, fortune.

But, to me Elisabeth will always be remembered for these wonderful cute furry, pointy-nosed creatures which were fun-loving recyclers of rubbish called The Wombles,

Big Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for my copy of this wonderful book that Just made me smile so much, so many lovely memories came back of me and my 2 sisters watching the Wombles with my mum. Thank you xx

NetGalley, Nessa Thompson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As a child of the eighties, I was mostly raised by two phenomenal entities; my grandma, and television. Slightly weird UK television shows, such as Rainbow, Button Moon, The Family Ness, and of course, The Wombles, all hold an incredibly special place in my heart. This biography of Elisabeth Beresford, creator of The Wombles, lovingly written by her daughter Kate Robertson, gives a lively and entertaining account of her life, taken for letters, interviews, and Robertson’s own treasured memories.

This biography was an absolute joy to read. Beresford’s family history is fascinating, especially the sections which recount the hazardous yet playful “experiments” of Beresford’s older brothers, of which Beresford was the unlucky subject. Beresford’s huge efforts during World War II are also fascinating; how she endured many literal bombings is unfathomable.

But it is when she truly discovers her love for writing, and receives much needed encouragement, that Beresford’s story truly blossoms. Through Robertson’s writing, Beresford comes across as tenacious, a necessary trait of a woman pursuing a career path traditionally taken by men. But her talent and her prolific output cannot be denied.

As seems to be an all-too-common thread in the lives of early-to-mid twentieth century female writers, Beresford’s husband, Max Robertson, comes across as dismissive and somewhat jealous of his wife’s talents, despite Robertson’s own moderate success as a broadcaster. I imagine how truly, truly great Beresford could have been if she were not held back by unfair societal expectations of women.

I cannot begin to tell you how much joy this book brought me, and how much I wept when the book came to the inevitable conclusion. Beresford comes across as a magical, magnetic woman, who above all, wanted to make children laugh. And she did, and still does. She was a true wonder and everyone should read this lovely book and bask in her greatness.

All together now, “Underground, overground…”

NetGalley, Tracey Thompson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As a child, I had seen the Wombles television show, and loved it. So when I discovered the books by Elisabeth Beresford some years later at the local public library, I was really excited. And the stories did not disappoint!

Hence, when I came across the first biography of the writer by her daughter, Kate Robertson, I had no hesitation in requesting a copy from Netgalley. To my delight, my request was granted and I immediately flung myself into the adventures of the young Liza Beresford and her very unusual family.

This biography is, in the words of its writer, a "warts and all" portrait of Beresford in her many roles, including wife and mother. Nevertheless, it is thoroughly engaging, and on the whole, Liza comes out looking very good indeed.

While the entire book is entertaining (I read it in a single sitting), and Kate Robertson has clearly inherited some of her mother's writing talent, the section of the biography that tells the story of Liza growing up was probably my favourite part. Anyone familiar with Gerald Durrell's hilarious stories about his family will love this book, particularly the scrapes that Liza and her three brilliant older brothers managed to get into - both individually, and in some instances, jointly. To the horror of the adults around them!

For example, on one occasion (when they were living in France), Liza's 2 immediately older brothers organised a genuine science experiment that caused a short circuit which switched off power in part the Riviera! Indeed, as a willing guinea pig in some of her brother's other experiments with electricity it's a miracle that Liza ever made it to adulthood.

And it will surprise no one that one of Beresford's greatest creations, Toberymory the Womble - notable inventor and fixer of all manner of Womble-related problems - was inspired by her brothers! Likewise, Liza's mother Trissie's legendary prowess as a cook had inevitably to play a part in the creation of the Wombles' queen of the kitchen, Madame Cholet.

Beresford's childhood was not, however, by any means entirely hilarious and enjoyable. As a youngster, she lived through the Second World War, and did not come through the experience unscathed - even if it left her with plenty of stories to tell.

As the youngest child by far, and the only one still living at home, Liza also had to survive the bitter breakdown of her parents' marriage. After which she was forbidden by her mother to ever see her father again, on the grounds that he had abandoned them in favour of another woman. Liza obeyed her mother, but at great personal cost.

Throughout her life, Beresford was a prolific writer, but her productivity was undoubtedly driven by factors other than her creativity. Often it was the need to support her family, consisting of her mother, as well as her husband, two children and their support staff, that kept her chained to her typewriter, churning out her writing. Her readers of course benefited hugely from that Calvinist work ethic!

Overall, I found this book absolutely delightful. For anyone interested in the Wombles, it is a must-read. But it holds an almost equally strong appeal for those who are interested in finding out more about the nature of a writer's life, and the creative challenges of producing good work alongside achieving critical acclaim AND paying the bills. And it will provide enormous enjoyment to those who like reading about the shenanigans of eccentric families! So if any or all of these aspects of the book appeal to you, please do make sure that you pick it up.

NetGalley, Farah Ghuznavi

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was perfect timing that I read this rook as The Wombles were celebrating the 50 anniversary of the launch of their TV show & this did not disappoint!

NetGalley, Sophie Crane

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Much more than the author's modest claim 'a fond memoir of a mother who also happened to be the creator of the Wombles'.

It's a great rattle through life with rough edges and inconvenient truths. The emotional rollercoaster of WW2 is perfect, not sanitised, no heroes just people. Like the Persephone Publisher Catalogue, this book puts women, their mental load and their journey, despite society's often louder voice, front & central.

Elisabeth's work ethic and marriage hint at a similar pattern to Enid Blyton but with better support for her children.

Name dropping is sufficient to intrigue rather than revolt, love the brief connection to the Mitford Bolter. You should certainly Google image the various addresses that become fleshed out characters in their own right.

A fast paced read, time well spent.

NetGalley, Claire Barratt

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was a great read. I was a big womble fine. And when I got a chance to review this I could not say no. Well written. Ace photos at the end. What a life Elisabeth Beresford had. Her mother was amazing . It was just nice to read about the person behind so many good books. Loved it.

NetGalley, Rosamond Carling

As featured in

The People's Friend (Special) Jan 23

About Kate Robertson

Kate Robertson is the daughter of Elisabeth Beresford, on whom the character of Bungo Womble was based. She has had 12 children’s books published (Dilbert the Jumbo Jet series), has worked in non-fiction publishing and is a freelance writer and editor. She was a script advisor on the 1990s Womble films and a consultant on the reissue of the Womble novels by Bloomsbury. She lives in West Sussex.

Anniversary of The Wombles TV series

5th February 1973

The first BBC TV episode of The Wombles was broadcast at 5.40pm on Monday 5 February 1973, on BBC1, just before the news. The animated series continued every weekday except Thursdays.


View all events View all anniversaries

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