Sunday, 10 March 2013

Alison Uttley

Alison Uttley was born at Castle Top Farm, Derbyshire, England on the 17th December 1884. She was the daughter of Henry and Hannah Taylor christened Alice Jane Taylor only adopting the name Alison on publication of her first book. Stories and books were important to her all through her childhood. In the evenings, the family would sit around the fire and read aloud from Robinson Crusoe, A Midsummer Night's dream and Alison's favourite, Arabian Nights. 

Alison was taught at home by her mother until the age of seven. Life was happy and secure and allowed her the freedom to develop her love of the countryside, books and poetry. Later, she was educated at Lea School in Holloway and the Lady Manners School in Bakewell where she discovered an interest in science, which led to a scholarship to Manchester University to read physics. In the autumn of 1907, after obtaining her degree and deciding on a career in teaching Alison started a course at the Lady's training college at Cambridge. Her teaching career progressed and in 1908, she took up the post of physics teacher at the Fulham Secondary School for girls.

She met and married James Arthur Uttley in 1911, and together they had a son, John Corin Taylor (1915-1978). After the First World War, the family settled at Downs House in Bowden, Cheshire. It was here that Alison began work on her first autobiographical book The Country Child.

Her manuscript for The Squirrels, the Hare and a Little Grey Rabbit was accepted by Heinemann in 1929. The illustrator Margaret Tempest was called upon to create the drawings, and this was the start of a long collaboration. In 1930 after the tragic death of her husband, Alison turned to writing with renewed zeal as a means of supporting herself and her young son. During the next few years she produced an amazing number of books, mainly for children which again revealed her great love of the countryside. 

The Country Child was published in 1932, and this was followed in 1937 by Ambush of Young Days two autobiographical books greatly enhanced by the superb illustrations of C. F. Tunnicliffe. 1937 also saw the start of a new series about Tim Rabbit illustrated by Alec Buckels and later by A. E. Kennedy and Shirley Hughes. 1939 saw the start of the Sam Pig books illustrated by Alec Buckels, Francis Gower, A. E. Kennedy and Cecil Leslie. In 1950, she started work on the Little Brown Mouse books illustrated by Katherine Wigglesworth followed in 1954 with the first title in the Little Red Fox series again illustrated by Katherine Wigglesworth..

She later began writing for older children and adults, focusing particularly on rural topics. One of her most popular books A Traveller in Time mixed historical fact and dreams in a story about a twentieth-century girl who was transported back to the 16th century and became involved in a plot to free Mary Queen of Scots. Alison wrote over one hundred books and continued to write until the time of her death in 1976. She worked with many of the great illustrators, and today her books are as much loved as ever.


Please follow the links to read further posts about Alison Uttley on this blog

Take Ten ... Little Grey Rabbit Books here

Take Ten More ... Little Grey Rabbit Books here

The final eleven Little Grey Rabbit Books here

Little Grey Rabbit and friends here

Country Things by Alison Uttley here

Recipes from an old farm house by Alison Uttley here

Some moonshine tales from Alison Uttley here


Alison Uttley Little Grey Rabbit books 1 to 31, together with the year and (if known) month of first publication. Each published by Collins. The first twenty six books illustrated by Margaret Tempest, books number 27 to 31 illustrated by Katherine Wigglesworth. You will note the date of the 1st edition does not always correspond with the numbering system used by Collins in their later editions. For instance Little Grey Rabbit’s washing-day was first published in September 1938 but it has been given the Number 9 even though it was published before numbers 6, 7 and 8.

No. 1 Squirrel goes skating 1934, September 
No. 2 Wise Owl’s story 1935, September 
No. 3 Little Grey Rabbit’s party 1936, August 
No. 4 The knot squirrel tied 1937, September 
No. 5 Fuzzypeg goes to school 1938 
No. 6 Little Grey Rabbit’s Christmas 1940, May 
No. 7 Moldy warp the mole 1940, August 
No. 8 Hare joins the home guard 1941 
No. 9 Little Grey Rabbit’s washing-day 1938 
No.10 Water-rat’s picnic 1943, October 
No.11 Little Grey Rabbit’s birthday 1944, December 
No.12 The speckledy hen 1945, December 
No.13 Little Grey Rabbit to the rescue a play 1945 
No.14 Little Grey Rabbit & the weasels 1947, September 
No.15 Little Grey Rabbit and the wandering hedgehog 1948, October 
No.16 Little Grey Rabbit makes 1950, October 
No.17 Hare and the Easter eggs 1952, September 
No.18 Little Grey Rabbit’s valentine 1953, September 
No.19 Little Grey Rabbit goes to the sea 1954, September 
No.20 Hare and Guy Fawkes 1956, September 
No.21 Little Grey Rabbit’s paint-box 1958 
No.22 Grey Rabbit finds a shoe 1960 
No.23 Grey Rabbit and the circus 1961  No.24 Grey Rabbit’s May Day 1963 
No.25 Hare goes shopping 1965 
No.26 Little Grey Rabbit’s Pancake day 1967 
No.27 Little Grey Rabbit goes to the North Pole 1970 
No.28 Fuzzypeg’s brother 1971 
No.29 Little Grey Rabbit’s spring-cleaning party 1972 
No.30 Little Grey Rabbit and the snow-baby 1973
No.31 Hare and the rainbow 1975 

Earlier books published by William Heinemann Ltd include; 
The story of Fuzzypeg the hedgehog 1929 The Alison Uttley Society date this as published in 1932, but the copy I have in my hand states First Published October, 1929 
The squirrel the hare and the little Grey Rabbit 1929 
How little Grey Rabbit got back her tail 1930 The great adventure of hare 1931 

In May 2009 the edited Private Diaries of Alison Uttley were published.

Further information can be found at the Alison Uttley Society website

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