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1001 The Wombles
Added on 06th August 2020

Author Elisabeth Beresford
First published 1968
Publisher Ernest Benn, London

Meet the Wombles, shy, retiring creatures who live on Wimbledon Common and tidy away the rubbish people leave behind.

Story

Wombles are quiet creatures living on Wimbledon Common who clear away rubbish to create their own upcycled items. Led by the stern but kindly Great Uncle Bulgaria, they live in an underground burrow and go out every day to bring back the rubbish they find to Tobermory's workshop. Each Womble has its own distinctive character (lazy Orinoco, sporty Tomsk, eager Bungo, clever Wellington) and Beresford's stories chart their adventures evading people and dogs and finding unexpected abandoned items.

Why we chose it

The Wombles' work tidying up the rubbish from Wimbledon Common provided a strong environmental message for children that in many ways was ahead of its time, with its focus on upcyling items and 'making good use of the things that we find'. Their appearance on television alongside the books and the popularity of the Wombles music earned them widespread recognition and affection.

Where it came from

Wimbledon Common in South West London provided the setting for the stories. The naming of the Wombles apparently comes from Beresford's daughter Kate who thought it was called Wombledon Common. The Wombles are all based on members of Beresford's family and their names come from places that are significant for the family.

Where it went next

Beresford wrote five more books about the Wombles whose popularity was secured when the first book was broadcast on TV as part of the Jackanory series in 1968. The first four books were illustrated by Margaret Gordon but in 1973, the BBC commissioned a stop motion animated series from puppeteer Ivor Wood, whose distinctive puppets then defined what the Wombles looked like. Thirty-five of the five minute animations were made in total, narrated by Bernard Cribbins. The popular theme tune for the series by Mike Batt led to two albums of Wombles songs, including ‘Remember You're a Womble’ which got to number 3 in the UK singles charts in 1974. A range of Wombles merchandise was also produced including figurines, stationary, games and stickers.

The stories were given a further boost in the late 1990s when a further series of 10-minute animations were made, introducing two new Wombles - Stepney and Alderney.

Associated stories

The five further Wombles books are The Wandering Wombles (1970), The Wombles at Work (1973), The Invisible Womble and Other Stories (1973), The Wombles to the Rescue (1974) and The Wombles Go Round the World (1976).

Added on 06th August 2020

Author Elisabeth Beresford
First published 1968
Publisher Ernest Benn, London