Richmal Crompton Lamburn was the daughter of schoolteacher-curate Edward Lamburn and his wife Clara. She was born in 1890 in Bury, Lancashire. She went to St. Elphin’s Boarding School in Derbyshire boarding school and later attended the Royal Holloway College. She returned to St. Elphin’s as a classics teacher in 1914. ‘Ray’, as she was known to her family and friends, then moved to Kent to live near her married sister and was a much loved classics mistress at Bromley High School.
She published her first short story in 1918 (using her mother’s maiden name); In the summer of 1923 she was struck by a serious attack of Polio, which lost her the use of her right leg. This resulted in her giving up her teaching career, and pursuing full time writing.
William was born in a story called ‘Rice Mould’ published in Home Magazine in 1919. The superlative popularity of William convinced the publisher Newnes to print William in book form, and the first of the William books appeared in 1922. Crompton based William and his antics on her brother Jack, three years her junior. In Richmal Crompton’s lifetime thirty collections of William stories sold over eight million copies. William has conquered the print, audio, theatrical, television and internet media.
The William phenomenon lasted for 48 years, and for 45 of those Crompton was at work on two books simultaneously, one for children (generally a William book) and one for adults. Apart from William, Crompton also wrote the Jimmy books for younger children and Patricia aimed at girls, but none of them could outshine the Juggernaut that was William. Richmal Crompton’s adult novels were more numerous that William books, and while some were critically acclaimed, she will always be known as the ‘Creator of William Brown’.