George Beardmore

George Beardmore

George Cedric Beardmore was born in Stoke on Trent on May 18th 1908. His parents were Francis William Beardmore (Frank) and Frances Gertrude née Bennett. The 1911 census shows George living with his parents, brothers Alan and Roger, and sister Margaret at 11 The Villas, Stoke on Trent.

George’s upbringing was strict; as he was later to recall: “No cider in our house and certainly no Rosie!” School wasn’t much fun either: “Just a ropy old Council School where floggings took place publicly on Friday mornings.”

Arnold Bennett, the celebrated writer who was his mother’s brother, seems to have cast something of a shadow over George. Writing to his bother Alan in 1971 he says: “AB has been pictured as generous, magnanimous, droll, and a card, whereas in fact he was the same old Bennett known to us in childhood; scoffing, clever, forever trying to teach his nearest and dearest better, intolerant, heartless. When I was first introduced to his study I hoped and indeed believed that, world famous as he was, he must be different from the home product, but no… I stood there mute and filled with hate as he showed me the errors in ‘Dodd the Potter’.”

‘Dodd the Potter’ was George’s first novel published in 1931 under the name Cedric Beardmore. He still had a ‘day job’ at an insurance company in London and he hated it. In 1932 he was – as he described it to his nephew later – “bent over a desk in Lombard Street EC3, and when today I have a rotten time with health or whatnot I tell myself at least it’s better than an insurance company in the city. I once thought I’d never get out of it, but thank God the war came along.” George was a lifelong asthmatic and missed active service. His wartime experiences are chronicled in ‘Civilians at War‘; a unique record of life on the home front published by his daughters in 1984.

In 1931 George was living with his brother Roger at his parents’s home: ‘Knype’, 22 Holmdene Avenue, Hendon. Knype was the name Arnold Bennett had given to Stoke in his ‘Five Towns’ novels.

George married Jean Annie Edith Wolfenden (Jinny) on July 20th 1935. in Pinner. His mother refused to attend the wedding. George and Jean went to live at 18 Minster Road, Camden until sometime in 1937/38 when they moved to 45 Pinner Park Avenue in Harrow. There they had two daughters: Victoria Helen, born on 31 May 1939, and Anthea Frances (Tiffa), born on 28 July 1944.

George went on to become a successful writer with an eclectic range. Writing as George Wolfenden he published ‘The House in Spitalfields’ (1937), ‘The Undefeated’ (1940), ‘The Spy who Died in Bed’ (1941), and ‘The Little Doves of Destruction’ (1942). As Cedric Stokes he published ‘All Space my Playground’ (1943) and ‘The Staffordshire Assassins’ (1944). As George Beardmore he published ‘Madame Merlin’ (1946),’ A Tale of Two Thieves’ (1947), ‘Far Cry’ (1948), ‘Going into the Country’ (1948), ‘A Lion among Ladies’ (1949), ‘The Isle of Apes’ (1950), ‘North Wind’ (1952), ‘A Thousand Witnesses’  (1953).

‘Going into the Country’ is thinly disguised auto-biography. The book is dedicated to Ann and Richard (his brother Alan’s children), Robert-John (his wife’s nephew), Victoria (his eldest daughter – Mary in the book) and the Landlady’s Baby (his youngest daughter – Tiffa).

In the late fifties George and his family moved to 32 Chiltern Avenue, Bushey Heath. By now George was writing for two popular comics: ‘Eagle’ and ‘Girl’. ‘North Wind‘ was first published in 1951 as serial in Eagle. His main strip for Eagle was ‘Jack O’ Lantern‘ but he was also responsible for a ‘Dan Dare’ episode called ‘The Red Moon Mystery‘. His ‘Belle of the Ballet’ for Girl was very popular and was even syndicated in Europe. Belle was drawn by a succession of talented artists: John Worsley, Chris Garvey (actually the painter June Mendoza), Stanley Houghton, and Harry Lindfield.

George published three books during this period: ‘Belle of the Ballet’s Gala Performance‘ (1956), ‘Belle of the Ballet’s Country Holiday‘ (1957) and ‘Jack O’ Lantern and the Fighting Cock‘ (1958).

In about 1961 George and his family moved to Four Marks in Hampshire. He returned to writing novels with ‘Charlie Pocock and the Princess’ (1967) and ‘Waldo Rush 48%’ (1968). At the same time he embarked on a successful series of children’s books: ‘Leslie’s Great Adventure’ (1967), ‘Island of Strangers’ (1972), ‘Expedition to Fallen’ (1973), ‘The Maid of the Isles’ (1974), ‘Ladies of Spain’ (1979), and ‘The Treasures of Spanish Bay’ (1979).

Jean and George

Jean and George

In 1972 George and his wife Jean worked together to edit and publish a collection of letters between Arnold Bennett and his French wife Marguerite under the title ‘Arnold Bennett in Love‘. George clearly didn’t much enjoy this project; he called it “easily the most distasteful book I have ever had to deal with.”

Jinny died very suddenly at home from an aneurism on June 15th 1973. George stayed on at Burchfield in Four Marks. He was still writing and in December 1975 he reported to his nephew: “Tomorrow I take up to the publishers a new adult novel which is as rich as a walnut fruit-cake, all about a bank manager of 45 who is looking for a wife to replace the one he has lost.”  This novel was never published.

Tiring of Four Marks and unable to manage the big garden at Burchfield, George moved in May 1977 to Trim’s Cottage, West Stour, Somerset.  In 1979 he suffered a heart attack and was admitted to the Westminster Memorial Hospital in Shaftesbury. He was discharged but died soon after. He is buried at Four Marks.