A few unsuspecting people across Sheffield might not realise that the houses they live in have a connection to Enid Blyton, that infamous children’s author of over 400 titles, 600 million copies sold, and translated into 42 languages.
Our story begins in the 1870s when a Lincolnshire-born linen draper, Thomas Carey Blyton, and his wife, Mary Ann, moved from Kent to Sheffield. They brought with them four children – Bertha Sidney, Thomas Carey, and Sybil – and a fourth child, Alice May, was born here and died at Dore in 1962. The Blyton family lived at Asline Road, Aizlewood Road and finally moved to Machon Bank.
Their son, Thomas Carey Blyton Jr, married a Sheffield girl, Theresa May Harrison, from Monmouth Street, Broomhall, in London in 1896, moving on account of his job as a cutlery salesman. The newly-married couple lived in a small flat above a shop in East Dulwich where Enid Mary Blyton was born in 1897, followed by two boys, Henly and Carey.
They later separated with Enid’s mother telling people that her husband was “away on business.”
It appears that Thomas Carey wanted Enid to be a concert pianist but in 1916, aged 19, she moved to Ipswich and trained as a teacher. However, she had already started writing and her first book Child Whispers was published in 1922.
She went on to write hundreds of short stories, as well as introducing us to Noddy and Big Ears, the Famous Five, Secret Seven and the Malory Towers series.
Her work was loved by children, less-so by critics who regarded it as being “not great literature – but harmless.” However, some libraries and schools banned her works, and the BBC refused to broadcast it from the 1930s until the 1950s because they were perceived to lack literary merit.
The negativity about Enid Blyton continues today – not least tales of her being a ‘bad mother’, and in 2016 the Royal Mint blocked a proposal to honour her with a commemorative 50p coin on the grounds that she was ‘a racist, a sexist and a homophobe’. Millions of children would probably disagree.
Did Enid Blyton ever visit her Sheffield relations? Perhaps not, she became increasingly distant from her mother and with her less direct relatives, although a visit to Meadway Drive at Dore to see Auntie Alice May might not have been out of the question.
© 2020 David Poole. All Rights Reserved.