As a boy I loved Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven series of books. I looked forward to going to bed to lose myself in another mystery or adventure (I can still remember the sinister servant called Block in Five Go To Smuggler’s Top.) It was the first time I learnt that you can enter another world when your imagination takes over. I was sad to get the end of the books but glad to read she had created a literary empire and there were lots stories to consume. I couldn’t believe it when some spineless schools banned her books due to them being sexist, racist, elitist and xenophobic. Thankfully readers have ignored this and the books continue to be enormously popular even now (she died in 1968.)
Even as a lad I knew Enid was one of the world’s most successful writers. She’s sold over 600 million books from the 1930's and is the sixth most popular writer in the world. She was a machine and sometimes she’d bash out fifty books in one year, sitting at her typewriter with no plans and wrote a story as it unfolded in her mind. Rumours emerged that she employed a team of writers yet no evidence emerged. She was simply a workaholic (as well as being driven and a bright businesswoman.) Ultimately there were 5000 short stories and 150 full-length novels.
Here I am outside the building where life came to an end. It was a nursing home in 1968 but it’s now apartments. I was stopping in the Britannia Hotel in Hampstead and which is on the corner of Primrose Hill and Fellows Road - the latter being where the building is. I unpacked my case and went out immediately to buy milk.
Enid was born in East Dulwich, about ten miles from here and only came here to die. She’d lived in a large house called Green Hedges in Buckinghamshire for thirty years (now demolished to make way for yet another God-forsaken new development.) In her fifties she had bouts of breathlessness and had probably suffered an unknown heart attack. In her sixties she was suffering from dementia. The sharp mind and memory were blunted and she often had desires to return to her childhood home in Beckenham with both her parents. Her husband’s death left her lonely and her staff at Green Hedges looked after her (her daughters Gillian and Imogen were no longer at home then but helped out.)
Aged 71 Enid was admitted to this building when I’m stood, a nursing home then. After three months she died peacefully in her sleep on Thursday 28th November 1968. She was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium where her ashes still remain.
Over the five days I was in London I passed this building twice and both times someone enquired why I was taking photographs (see man in one of them.) I was stood next to a man getting something out of his car as I took a photo and he said he lived there. When I said Enid Blyton died there his face remained expressionless (he looked Arabic – probably never heard of her.) The man in the photo knew who she was though. Even though Enid continues to entertain, educate and inspire children around the globe the building bears no plaque.
The view from the apartments up Steeles Road…
Green Hedges in Buckinghamshire where Enid had lived for thirty years before coming to the nursing home to die…