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Barbara Euphan Todd
Born (1890-01-09)9 January 1890
Died 2 February 1976(1976-02-02) (aged 86)
Donnington, Berkshire
Occupation Writer
Known for Creator of Worzel Gummidge
Spouse(s) John Graham Bower
(1932–1940) (his death)
Children Ursula Betts (stepdaughter)
Parent(s) Thomas Todd
Alice Maud Bentham

Barbara Euphan Todd (9 January 1890 – 2 February 1976) was an English writer widely remembered for her ten books for children about a scarecrow called Worzel Gummidge. These were adapted for radio and television. The title story was chosen as the first in the new publisher's series Puffin Books.

Early life

Todd was born at Arksey, near Doncaster, then in the West Riding of Yorkshire, as the only child of an Anglican vicar, Thomas Todd, and his wife Alice Maud Mary (née Bentham). Barbara was brought up in the village of Soberton, Hampshire and educated at St Catherine's School, Bramley, near Guildford. Surrey. She worked as a VAD during the First World War, then after her father's retirement, she lived with her parents in Surrey and began writing.


Much of Todd's early work was published in magazines such as Punch and The Spectator, but she also wrote two volumes of poems about children, illustrated by Ernest Shepard: Hither and Thither (1927) and The Seventh Daughter (1935).

In the 1920s, Todd started writing novels for children, some of them in collaboration with her husband, Naval Commander John Graham Bower (1886–1940), whom she married in 1932. The couple moved to Blewbury near Oxford, where Bower wrote fiction and essays under the pseudonym "Klaxon", and Todd, as "Barbara Euphan", for South Country Secrets (1935). Together they wrote The Touchstone, in which observation of the countryside is joined by interest in its history, in a similar way to Rudyard Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill. Commander Bower died in 1940.

Todd's only novel for adults was Miss Ranskill Comes Home (1946), which tells of a woman who returns to England after being stranded on a desert island during the Second World War.

Todd continued to write novels into her old age: the last appeared in 1972. Among her other works were adaptations of folk stories for radio, and plays and stories written in collaboration with other writers, but it is mainly her books about Worzel Gummidge that still attract readers.

Worzel Gummidge

Todd's ten novels about Worzel Gummidge, a scarecrow who comes to life, are:

  • Worzel Gummidge, or The Scarecrow of Scatterbrook (1936)
  • Worzel Gummidge Again (1937)
  • More About Worzel Gummidge (1938)
  • Worzel Gummidge and Saucy Nancy (1947)
  • Worzel Gummidge Takes a Holiday (1949)
  • Earthy Mangold and Worzel Gummidge (1954)
  • Worzel Gummidge and the Railway Scarecrows (1955)
  • Worzel Gummidge at the Circus (1956)
  • Worzel Gummidge's Treasure Ship (1958)
  • Detective Worzel Gummidge (1963)

The novels have been illustrated by various artists, including Diana Stanley, Elisabeth Alldridge, Will Nickless and Jill Crockford.

In the 1950s Todd collaborated with Denis and Mabel Constanduros on a series of Worzel Gummidge radio plays for children. A television series, Worzel Gummidge Turns Detective, was made in 1953. In 1967 five Worzel Gummidge stories were narrated by Gordon Rollings in five episodes of the BBC children's serial Jackanory.

A second television series, adapted by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, was broadcast in 1978–1981.

A further television derivative was Worzel Gummidge Down Under (1987–89, Channel 4), in which the main character moves to New Zealand.

The series was rebooted as Worzel Gummage in 2019 and written, starred and directed by Mackenzie Crook.

Todd died in 1976 at a nursing home in Donnington, Berkshire. Her stepdaughter, the anthropologist Ursula Betts, remembered her as "warm and kind", but recalled mainly her "dry – and sometimes wry – sense of humour", the hallmark of her Worzel Gummidge books.

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