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© copyright Kevin Quick

Mary Norton [née Pearson] (1903 - 1992), children's author

Mary was born on the 10th December 1903 at 48 Mildmay Park, Highbury, London. She was the child of the surgeon Reginald Spencer Pearson and Minnie Savile (née Hughes). The couple also had four sons. Whilst still a child, Mary with the family moved to Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire. Initially they lived at "The Manor House" in Lake Street, later moving to Cedars House. This house was later to become the basis for the setting of her most famous work, The Borrowers.

Mary was educated at St Margaret's Convent, East Grinstead, and attended an art school for a short course before joining, in the 1925-6 season, the Old Vic Shakespeare Company.

On 4th September 1926, Mary married Robert Charles Norton at St Mary's, Lambeth, London. Robert was an engineer whose family were shipowners with trading connections with Portugal. After their marriage the couple moved to a country estate near Lisbon, Portugal. The outbreak of WWII saw Robert joining the Royal Navy. Mary along with her two sons and two daughters moved first to England and then to New York, where she worked for the British Purchasing Commission.

It was during her stay in America that she wrote her first book, The Magic Bedknob. This was published first in America in 1943 and later in England in 1945. In 1943 the family returned to England where Mary briefly resumed her stage career. In 1947 a sequel was published called Bonfires and Broomsticks. Later, in 1957 these two books were combined into the one volume called Bed-Knob and Broomstick, and in 1971 Disney released the film Bed Knobs and Broomsticks.

In 1952 Mary published her most famous work The Borrowers. This was immediately recognised as a children's classic and she won the Carnegie medal that year. The story is about the adventures of tiny people who live under the floorboards etc of houses, and particularly about the Clock family. The location for the story, Firbank Hall, was based on the Cedars House in Leighton Buzzard where she had lived as a child.

Several sequels were written:

The Borrowers Afield (1955)
The Borrowers Afloat (1959)
The Borrowers Aloft (1961)
Poor Stainless (1971)
The Borrowers Avenged (1982)

Mary's first marriage was dissolved, and on 24th April 1970 she married the writer Lionel Boncey. Initially they lived in Essex, but in 1972 they moved to the rectory in Kilcoe, Aughadown, Ballydehob, County Cork, Ireland. Here she wrote Are All the Giants Dead? (1975).

The books on the Borrowers have in more recent years been turned into television series and also films.

Mary Norton died on the 29th August 1992 at 102 West Street, Hartland, Bideford, Devon.