Enid Blyton, 20th century British children’s author, loved Dorset from her first visit in 1931, and it provided the inspiration for many of her books and characters.
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She visited Swanage in 1940 and took the steam train to Corfe castle, inspiring her first Famous Five book, ‘Five on a Treasure Island’. During the next 20 years she holidayed in Dorset three times a year, staying in Swanage with her husband Kenneth. The Famous Five series and Noddy (policeman Mr. Plod is based on a real Studland policeman, PC Christopher Rone) are well known internationally. She wrote more than 700 titles in 40 years.
Brownsea island (National Trust) stands in for ‘Whispering Island’ and ‘Keep Away Island’ in a couple of books. During Blyton’s time the island was owned by Mrs Bonham-Christie, who did not allow any visitors, and the island remained in its natural state. Stoborough heath on the island is called ‘Mystery Moor’. Corfe castle becomes Kirrin castle in the Famous Five books. Many of her books have World War II themes—spies, submarines, etc (The Adventurous Four, The Children of Kidillin). She wrote a magazine, ‘Sunny Stories’ in which she serialized some of her books.
Swanage places she frequented have not all survived as such. The Grosvenor hotel is now a sewage pumping station, and the bookshop where she autographed copies is a newsagent. The Grand hotel where she stayed still exists as does the Isle of Purbeck golf club, dating from 1892 (‘Five have a mystery to solve’), which was bought by her husband Kenneth. Many of her books can be purchased at the Ginger Pop shop in Corfe along with ginger beer, the Famous Five’s favourite drink.
Purbeck Information and Heritage Centre Wareham
Tel: 01929 552740
Swanage Information Centre
Tel: 0870 4420680