R. F. Delderfield

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R. F. Delderfield
BornRonald Frederick Delderfield
(1912-02-12)12 February 1912
Bermondsey, London, England, United Kingdom
Died24 June 1972(1972-06-24) (aged 60)
Sidmouth, England, United Kingdom
OccupationNovelist, dramatist
GenreFiction, theatre
Years active1947-1989

Ronald Frederick Delderfield (12 February 1912 – 24 June 1972) was an English novelist and dramatist, some of whose works have been adapted for television and film.



Childhood in London and Surrey

He was born in Bermondsey, London, in 1912 to Alice and William James Delderfield (c. 1873–1956). His father worked for a meat wholesaler in Smithfield Market, and was the first Liberal to be elected to Bermondsey Council. William supported women's suffrage and the Boer cause in the Boer War. He was a firm supporter of the temperance movement and, until he allied himself with the Conservatives, David Lloyd George. From 1918 to 1923, the family lived at 22 Ashburton Avenue, Addiscombe, near Croydon, Surrey. The Avenue novels were based on Ronald's life in Addiscombe and Shirley Park, and many of his works were adapted for television.

Bermondsey district in south London, England

Bermondsey is a neighbourhood in the London Borough of Southwark, England, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) southeast of Charing Cross. To the west of Bermondsey lies Southwark, to the east Rotherhithe and Deptford, to the south Walworth and Peckham, and to the north the City of London and Whitechapel.

Womens suffrage the legal right of women to vote

Women's suffrage is the right of women to vote in elections. Beginning in the late 1800s, women worked for broad-based economic and political equality and for social reforms, and sought to change voting laws in order to allow them to vote. National and international organizations formed to coordinate efforts to gain voting rights, especially the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, and also worked for equal civil rights for women.

Temperance movement 19th- and 20th-century global social movement

The temperance movement is a social movement against the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Participants in the movement typically criticize alcohol intoxication or promote complete abstinence (teetotalism), with leaders emphasizing alcohol's negative effects on health, personality, and family life. Typically the movement promotes alcohol education as well as demands new laws against the selling of alcohols, or those regulating the availability of alcohol, or those completely prohibiting it. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the temperance movement became prominent in many countries, particularly English-speaking and Scandinavian ones, and it led to Prohibition in the United States from 1920 to 1933.

Delderfield attended an infant school in Bermondsey, then a "seedy and pretentious" small private school — "seventy boys and four underpaid ushers, presided over by a jovial gentleman who wore blue serge". [1] :18 He then went to a council school, which he hated, but which provided him with the prototype for Mr. Short in The Avenue. This experience was followed by a grammar school whose dedicated teachers inspired several of his characters. Once the family moved to Devon, Delderfield first attended a co-educational grammar school and, finally, West Buckland School. In his autobiography For My Own Amusement, Delderfield joked that West Buckland could be likened to schools in The Spring Madness of Mr Sermon, The Avenue and A Horseman Riding By, and that it had earned its fees three times over. [1] :22 Again, in For My Own Amusement, Delderfield divided the nation into city and suburb dwellers, rural dwellers, and those who lived in coastal towns.

An Infant school is a term used primarily in England and Wales. This for the education of children between the ages of four and seven years. It is usually a small school serving a particular area.

Grammar school type of school in the United Kingdom and some other countries

A grammar school is one of several different types of school in the history of education in the United Kingdom and other English-speaking countries, originally a school teaching Latin, but more recently an academically-oriented secondary school, differentiated in recent years from less academic secondary modern schools.

Devon County of England

Devon, also known as Devonshire, which was formerly its common and official name, is a county of England, reaching from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. It is part of South West England, bounded by Cornwall to the west, Somerset to the north east, and Dorset to the east. The city of Exeter is the county town. The county includes the districts of East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, and West Devon. Plymouth and Torbay are each geographically part of Devon, but are administered as unitary authorities. Combined as a ceremonial county, Devon's area is 6,707 km2 and its population is about 1.1 million.

On a family holiday in Swanage when he was young, Delderfield caught scarlet fever and had to spend three months in an isolation hospital.

Swanage coastal town and civil parish in the south east of Dorset, England

Swanage is a coastal town and civil parish in the south east of Dorset, England. It is at the eastern end of the Isle of Purbeck and one of its two towns, approximately 6 14 miles (10 km) south of Poole and 25 miles (40 km) east of Dorchester. In the 2011 census the civil parish had a population of 9,601. Nearby are Ballard Down and Old Harry Rocks, with Studland Bay and Poole Harbour to the north. Within the parish are Durlston Bay and Durlston Country Park to the south of the town. The parish also includes the areas of Herston, just to the west of the town, and Durlston, just to the south.

Scarlet fever infectious disease

Scarlet fever is a disease which can occur as a result of a group A streptococcus infection, also known as Streptococcus pyogenes. The signs and symptoms include a sore throat, fever, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, and a characteristic rash. The rash is red and feels like sandpaper and the tongue may be red and bumpy. It most commonly affects children between five and 15 years of age.

Residence in East Devon

In 1923, Delderfield's father and a neighbour in Bermondsey bought the Exmouth Chronicle, a local newspaper in Exmouth, and William became the editor. In 1929, Delderfield joined the staff of the paper and later succeeded his father as editor. In For My Own Amusement, he describes his work—attending Magistrates' Courts and Council meetings, covering amateur dramatics and other events, visiting the bereaved to write local obituaries, even cycling after the fire engine to see if there was a story, as well as relying on a large number of local correspondents. His experiences during this period were clearly mirrored in the romantic novel Diana. In 1962 he had a house built on Peak Hill in Sidmouth. The house still exists and is called the 'Gazebo'.

Delderfield's first published play was produced at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1936; the Birmingham Post wrote "more please, Mr Delderfield".[ This quote needs a citation ] One of his plays, Worm's Eye View, had a run at the Whitehall Theatre in London. Following service in the RAF during World War II, he resumed his literary career, while also running an antiques business near Budleigh Salterton, Devon. Having begun with drama, Delderfield decided to switch to writing novels in the 1950s. His first novel, Seven Men of Gascony, was published in 1949.

Play (theatre) form of literature intended for theatrical performance

A play is form of literature written by a playwright, usually consisting of dialogue or singing between characters, intended for theatrical performance rather than just reading. Plays are performed at a variety of levels, from Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theater, to Community theatre, as well as university or school productions. There are rare dramatists, notably George Bernard Shaw, who have had little preference as to whether their plays were performed or read. The term "play" can refer to both the written texts of playwrights and to their complete theatrical performance.

Birmingham Repertory Theatre Theatre in Birmingham, England

Birmingham Repertory Theatre, commonly called Birmingham Rep or just The Rep, is a producing theatre based on Centenary Square in Birmingham, England. It is the longest-established of Britain's building-based theatre companies and one of its most consistently innovative.

The Birmingham Post is a weekly printed newspaper based in Birmingham, England, with a circulation of 3,362 and distribution throughout the West Midlands. First published under the name the Birmingham Daily Post in 1857, it has had a succession of distinguished editors and has played an influential role in the life and politics of the city. It is currently owned by Reach plc. In June 2013, it launched a daily tablet edition called Birmingham Post Business Daily.


In For My Own Amusement (1972), Delderfield discusses the inspiration for the storylines and tells in anecdotes the origin of several of his characters. He believed that authors draw inspiration from the scenes of their youth, pointing out that Charles Dickens' characters nearly always used the stagecoach, when he was writing in the age of the train. Delderfield calls his sources "character farms", the main ones being his time in Addiscombe, schooldays, and his time at the Exmouth Chronicle. Of The Avenue and A Horseman Riding By he said, "I set out to tell a straightforward story of a group of undistinguished British people—the only kind of people I really know." Delderfield pointed out in this autobiography that he had been criticized for his very conventional views of women's social roles.

Charles Dickens English writer and social critic

Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the 20th century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories are still widely read today.

Stagecoach type of covered wagon

A stagecoach is a four-wheeled public coach used to carry paying passengers and light packages on journeys long enough to need a change of horses. It is strongly sprung and generally drawn by four horses.


Delderfield died at his home in Sidmouth, then called "Dove Cottage", of lung cancer. A brother, Eric (1909–95) survived him and wrote several books on the history of England's West Country. [2]

Early 20th century social history as a subject of his writing

Several of Delderfield's historical novels and series involve young men who return from war and lead lives in England that allow the author to portray the sweep of English history and delve deeply into social history from the Edwardian era to the early 1960s.


Other works

Delderfield also published non-fiction books on Napoleonic history, historical novels involving the Napoleonic Wars, and some isolated novels set in more contemporary periods. His prose style tends to be straightforward and readable, lacking in any influence from post-modernist fiction, and his social attitudes are fairly traditional, though his politics, as expressed via his characters, are a mixture of progressive and free market. In general, Delderfield's novels celebrate English history, humanity, and liberalism while demonstrating little patience with entrenched class differences and snobbery yet also sometimes advocating individualism, self-reliance, and other traditional Victorian values.

Delderfield wrote The Adventures of Ben Gunn (1956) which follows Ben Gunn from sexton's son to pirate and is narrated by Jim Hawkins in Gunn's words. It describes the life of Ben Gunn from the events which led him to leave Devon, and eventually to his presence on Treasure Island and involvement in the story told by Stevenson, and follows up with a brief summary of Ben Gunn's life afterwards.

Select bibliography

Delderfield's works include:



British TV has made five series based on Delderfield's books. Nigel Havers played Paul Craddock in BBC TV's A Horseman Riding By (1978), adapted from the eponymous novel. [3] And John Duttine played David Powlett-Jones in BBC TV's To Serve Them All My Days (1980), adapted by Andrew Davies [4] from the eponymous novel [5] and as Archie Carver in London Weekend Television's People Like Us (1977), adapted from the Avenue novels. [6] Diana was adapted in 1984 into a BBC miniseries starring Jenny Seagrove in the title role and Patsy Kensit as her younger self. Unusually, neither of the BBC adaptations of A Horseman Riding By or Diana were ever repeated on BBC television. Come Home Charlie, and Face Them was adapted as a mini-series by London Weekend Television in 1990. [7]

The first Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant (1958), was based on Delderfield's play The Bull Boys. A 1961 film On the Fiddle starring Sean Connery was based on Delderfield's novel Stop at a Winner. [8]

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  1. 1 2 Delderfield, Ronald Frederick (1972). For My Own Amusement. Simon & Schuster.
  2. More on Fairlynch and the Delderfields
  3. A Horseman Riding By, British Film Institute, London, Undated.Accessed: 09-03-2008.
  4. R. F. Delderfield, BFI Screen Online, Undated.Accessed: 09-03-2008.
  5. R.F. Delderfield, TV.com, Undated, Undated [ permanent dead link ].Accessed: 09-03-2008.
  6. John Duttine Biography (1949–) Film Reference, Undated.Accessed: 09-03-2008.
  7. 'Come Home Charlie and Face Them', Internet Movie Database.Accessed:30-05-2013.
  8. http://www.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/4ce2b6b236426/