The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett

The Family from One End Street cover

The Family from One End Street and Some of Their Adventures by Eve Garnett was first published in 1938 and it won the Carnegie Medal that year. That must have been particularly sweet for the author, who also illustrated the book, as it was rejected by at least eight publishers.

Those publishers were probably put off by the fact that the book is so unusual in that it is apparently the first book to feature an ordinary working class family. The Ruggles family is a large one – seven children with mum Rosie taking in washing and ironing and the dad Jo being a dustbin man. They live in a small town in Sussex – as did Eve Garnett.

With so many children around there’s always something going on but to begin with we’re told how all the children appear and how they get their names.

The neighbours pitied Jo and Rosie for having such a large family, and called it “Victorian”; but the Dustman and his wife were proud of their numerous girls and boys, all -growing-up-fine-and-strong-one-behind-the-other-like-steps-in-a-ladder-and-able-to-wear-each-others-clothes-right-down-to-the-baby, so that really it was just two sets, girl and boy, summer and winter, Mrs Ruggles had to buy, except Boots.

I found this to be an entertaining read and as until it was published children’s books always featured very middle class children with ponies, bikes and boats and no thought to the clothes that they wore, it must have been a bit of an eye-opener to some people to realise that there were others who couldn’t afford to buy a school uniform for a child who was bright enough to get into the grammar school, and who were constantly taking their shoes to the cobblers to have them mended.

The author herself had a very comfortable upbringing but when she was asked to illustrate a book called The London Child by Evelyn Sharp she was appalled by the conditions that she saw, presumably when she was doing research for her illustrations. It led to her writing this book about an ordinary family struggling to make ends meet, but they’re a happy bunch and I’ll be looking out for the other books detailing their further adventures.

4 thoughts on “The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one, Katrina. You’ve added more to my scanty knowledge of the book and the author too. I always assumed the book must be set in London – or some other large city. Fascinating to learn it is set in Sussex – one of my own ‘home’ counties. Definitely a reason for me to consider reading it, if only to try and place the town Eve may have based her stories in.

    • Sandra,
      The town is described as being on the Ouse and as Garnett lived in Lewes it’s thought she set it there. Jack had relatives who lived in Hailsham so we know that part of the world too and used to visit them often when we lived in Essex.

      • Thank you, Katrina! Lewes is quite an easy town to identify – assuming of course that she chose to use elements of the actual town itself.

        • Sandra,
          Sadly we never did get to Lewes because Uncle G said it was murder to park there so J didn’t want to go, nor did we get to Rye – and I’m now kicking myself as that branch of the family has died out so we’re never in Sussex nowadays.

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