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Cradock, Mrs H.C. (1863-1941)

One of the most popular writers for young children between the wars was Mrs H.C. Cradock. Her Josephine stories concern a "family" of dolls, and are beautifully illustrated by Honor C. Appleton, an artist who lived in Brighton and Hove. Mrs Cradock wrote stories about other dolls and a teddy bear, but it is the Josephine books which are sought by collectors now, because of the beauty of the illustrations, and the quality of the printing and production of the books.

Mrs Cradock, the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, was born Augusta Whiteford in 1863 and spent her childhood in Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire. She became a teacher and probably taught younger children in Wakefield, Yorkshire. In 1893, when she was 30, she married Henry Cowper Cradock and took his initials as well as his surname, as was the practice at the time. Marriage was possible as he had just obtained the living of Ossett, near Wakefield.


Portrait of Aline (the original of Josephine)? From The Training of children from cradle to school.

Portrait of Aline (the original of Josephine)? From The Training of children from cradle to school. London: George Bell, 1909. Shelfmark: Frontispiece. © The British Library Board


Her daughter, Aline Mary, named after her mother-in-law Aline, was born in 1905, when her mother was nearly 42, and was an only child, as far as I can discover. Mrs Cradock's first book was The Care of babies: a reading book for girls, published by George Bell and Sons in 1908. The frontispiece shows a pretty girl in numerous petticoats, holding two animal toys, labelled "A healthy baby girl aged about two and a half years" which seems to be the right age to be a recent picture of Aline. The book is a very practical work of instruction, with which one could hardly disagree even today. There is even a story element at the end: "A day of my life" told by a happy baby, and another day told by an unhappy baby, who lives in a town and is fed unsuitable adult food. A sequel was published by George Bell in 1909, The Training of children from cradle to school: a guide for young mothers, teachers and nurses. The frontispiece shows a slightly older little girl, who, from her looks, could also be Aline. The preface states that "the writer has spent many years of her life in teaching young children between the ages of three and eight.[and] she has had a child of her own to bring up."

Mr Cradock became Vicar of Birstall (south-west of Leeds) in 1909. From 1915 to 1917 he was Vicar of Whitley Lower, a much poorer living, and in 1918 he took an even quieter post as chaplain to St Peter's Memorial Home, a home for "respectable sick women" on Maybury Hill in Woking, Surrey, with accommodation next door. One can speculate that he suffered a breakdown in health, either physical or mental. It seems significant that Mrs Cradock's first Josephine book appeared in 1915, (dated 1916) and might have been prompted by a desire to maintain the family income.

The heroine of Josephine and her dolls, published by Blackie, is eight, and an only child, like Aline, but her sixteen dolls keep her company, and she makes up story events for them. They include Sunny Jim who goes off to fight the war, two Korean girls and Quacky Jack, a yellow duck in a sailor suit. The games refer to the war, and at the end a peace scene between the King and the Kaiser is enacted. Josephine's happy family followed in 1916, and a succession of Josephine and other doll stories followed over the next twenty years, published by Blackie, S.P.C.K, Thomas Nelson or George Harrap. The Smith Family, another doll story, published by Thomas Nelson in 1931, was illustrated by S.G. Hulme Beaman (1887-1932). He draws the same type of wooden doll that he drew for his "Toytown" books. The House of fancy (London: Daniel O'Connor, 1922) is a luxurious production with tipped-in colour plates by Honor C. Appleton. It is a dream story in which the little girl meets fairies.

In 1927 Mr Cradock retired, and the Cradocks moved to 48, Sydney-Grove, Hendon, a modest semi-detached house, which still stands. Mr Cradock died on July 18 1933 and was given an obituary in The Times. He is described as a slight figure, gentle, kindly and a modest scholar, who preferred study and the company of his family. Without the help of Crockford's clerical directory it is not possible to trace Mrs Cradock's movements after her husband's death, but her last book was Teddy Bear's farm, the fourth of her books about Teddy Bear, published by George Harrap in 1941. In spite of the economy paper, the octavo book is well printed and laid-out, with a substantial text (95 pages) and line drawings by Joyce L. Brisley (1896-1978).

Mrs Cradock died of a stroke on the 15th October 1941, at 19 Deepdene Gardens, Dorking, aged 77 and her death was registered by A.M. Cradock, her daughter. Mrs Cradock foreshadows A.A. Milne in that both were doting parents of an only child, who took great interest in the nursery and its dolls and toys. They created toy characters to amuse their child, and, through publication, many other children. Mrs Cradock dedicates many of her books to her correspondents, and to girls other than her daughter; so she must have enjoyed the friends she made and the letters she received from children as a result of her books. The Josephine books were translated into French, and the Teddy Bear books into Dutch.

For a list of her works search Explore the British Library under the name Cradock Mrs Henry Cowper.

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