Papers of Gwendoline Courtney

Scope and Content

The collection consists of manuscripts, typescripts and proofs of novels including Torley Grange, Peter, Collector, X=Who? (written under the pseudonym J.J. James), Denehurst Secret Service, Well done Denehurst, The Grenville Garrison, Sally's Family, A Coronet for Cathie and The Wild Lorings at School; revised typescripts of short stories and plays; artwork for The Wild Lorings - Detectives and Stepmother.

Administrative / Biographical History

Gwendoline Courtney was born near Southampton, where her father was an antique dealer, in 1911. The family moved to Wallasey in the Wirral when she was 15 months old and she was educated at Oldershaw High School. She intended to go to university to study history and Latin but was forced by ill-health to leave school without matriculating. While helping her father with his business she wrote her first book Torley Grange and this was eventually published in 1935 when she was 24. In 1941 she returned to the South of England to live near Salisbury with her mother and sister. During the war she worked in Lord Goodman's office at Southern Command HQ and was proud of the fact that she was the only civilian to work on Operation Overlord.

From 1935 until 1956 Gwendoline Courtney produced 13 books for teenagers. In an interview published in Wallasey News in 1952 she describes her working method. She typed out her manuscripts for the publishers herself because, she said, 'It is while doing this that the books receive much of their polishing. They are written first in pencil, corrected and typed, and then the typed copy is very carefully gone through again'. Examples of each of these stages can be found in this collection.

From the 1960s onwards Gwendoline Courtney's books fell out of favour, but she continued to write and lecture extensively. She was very active in various societies related to her interests such as the West Country Writers Association, the Cornish Cat Society and Salisbury Fencing Club. She was also much involved in amateur theatricals, writing, producing and acting in plays. Eventually she moved to Shaftesbury, where she died in 1996, soon after her sister with whom she had shared a home all her life.

Access Information

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

Given by Mrs Thelma Dawkins, literary executor, 1998


Description prepared by Gil Skidmore with reference to information provided by Mrs Dawkins and an article in Wallasey News, 1952.

Other Finding Aids

Label of contents on each box