Richmal Crompton 1890-1969

Richmal Crompton Lamburn, author, was born on 15 November 1890 on the outskirts of Bury, Lancashire, the second child of a clergyman, the Revd Edward John Sewell Lamburn, and his wife Clara (née Crompton).

Richmal was educated at St Elphin’s, a boarding school for daughters of the clergy in Warrington, Lancashire. A former convent, the school had a resident ghost. After the building was condemned, the school moved to Darley Dale in Derbyshire in 1904. ‘It was larger and healthier and we loved the moors, but we missed our ghost,’ wrote Richmal. After taking her degree at the Royal Holloway College in Surrey, Richmal returned to St Elphin’s as the classics mistress in 1914, later moving to Bromley High School.

In years gone by, people sold home-made food and drink, and even local specialities, from their cottages.

Richmal Crompton, describes her first visit to Darley Dale in 1904; “We swarmed over the village in parties, bought up all the flowers, picture postcards and mineral waters that the inhabitants could supply and finally met together at the Whitworth Institute, where we consumed a large pre-war tea of boiled eggs, bread and butter and jam and every sort of cake.”

In 1923 Richmal was struck with polio. She lost the use of her right leg and remained lame for the rest of her life. Teaching proved a strain because of her condition and so she gave it up to concentrate on her writing.The William stories had been born in 1919. They were originally written for adults and published in Home Magazine and the Happy Mag. Twelve of the stories, collected in book form and published by George Newnes in 1922 as ‘Just William’, were aimed at the juvenile market, and the rest is history.

Two maple trees in the grounds of St Elphin’s School in Darley Dale have links with Richmal Crompton, creator of “Just William”. Richmal planted the first tree herself in 1905 when she was a pupil at the school. She later wrote about the maple in a story set in the future, when she returns to to her old school as a “long, thin spectre” to look for her tree. When St Elphin’s celebrated the centenary of Richmal’s birth in 1990, her niece planted a second maple.