Dickens, Monica

About the author

Monica Enid Dickens (1915–92) was the great-grand daughter of Charles Dickens. After being expelled from St Paul’s School for Girls for throwing her school uniform over Hammersmith Bridge, she did not take the conventional route of her class: debbery followed by marriage. Instead, she became a cook-general, giving many of her employers the rather uncomfortable experience of employing someone who was further up the social scale than they were.

Out of this came the autobiographical One Pair of Hands, followed by One Pair of Feet and My Turn to Make the Tea: all taking an equally wry look at her experiences respectively as a nurse and journalist. In 1951 she married Roy Stratton, a former US Marines Officer, and moved to the United States, where she continued to write.

Many of her works were based on her own strong desire to right wrong: she worked with the NSPCC and the Samaritans (her novel The Listeners was based on her work with them) and in 1974 founded the first American branch of the Samaritans in Boston. She was also passionate about the work of the RSPCA, and drew on her experiences with them to write Cobbler’s Dream, in which a pony abused by its owner is rescued and taken to Follyfoot Farm, a home of rest for horses. 

Cobbler’s Dream was the basis for the Yorkshire Television 1970s series Follyfoot, on which the rest of the Follyfoot series was based. The series was required viewing for any horsey child of that era.

Her World’s End series also dealt with rescuing animals and to some extent children: although the premise of the series – a family of children whose parents are sailing round the world live in an old inn on their own save for an ever-increasing cast of animals, seems like the classic children’s adventure where parents are neatly removed, the series still managed to keep a foot in reality. The children’s life in World’s End Inn is precarious and they are frequently under threat from concerned adults and lack of money. You felt it could, it just could, have happened.

Monica Dickens returned to England after the death of her husband, and died in 1992, one of the best-selling novelists of her generation.

‘If a car passes me when I’m on a horse, I always think: if I were in that car and saw me, I would wish I was me. Wistful children’s faces, staring out of the back window, agree.’  

Monica Dickens, writing in Talking of Horses

Finding the books
Tthe World’s End series has become expensive now in hardback, and Follyfoot first editions can be tricky to find.  All her other books are easy to find, particularly in paperback. The Follyfoot series has been republished by Andersen, and the World’s End series is available in e-book format.

Links and sources
National Dictionary of Biography
Books and Writers and Wikipedia
Many thanks to Dawn Harrison, Cherie Goninon and Hannah Fleetwood for all their help with the pictures.
The Follyfoot Annuals
Follyfoot Fan Site


Cobbler’s Dream/New Arrival at Follyfoot
Dora at Follyfoot
The Horses of Follyfoot
Stranger at Follyfoot

World’s End
The House at World’s End
Summer at World’s End
World’s End in Winter
Spring at World’s End

The Messenger
The Messenger
Ballad of Favour
The Haunting of Bellamy 4
Cry of a Seagull

The Messenger series isn’t really a pony series: it’s more of a fantasy with a horse in it every now and then.


Cobbler’s Dream

Michael Joseph, 1963
Children’s Book Club
Penguin, 1967, pb
Peacock 1971, pb
Heinemann 1976, hb
Chivers large print 1978
as New Arrival at Follyfoot, Mammoth, 1993

Paul is groom to the dreadful Chrissy, and her lovely pony Cobbler’s Dream. After she blinds Cobby, Paul takes him and runs away, eventually finding sanctuary at Follyfoot Farm, a home of rest for horses. Because they are dealing with the nastier aspects of the horsy world, life at Follyfoot doesn’t tend to be peaceful, and it becomes horrific.

The House at World’s End

Heinemann 1970, illus Peter Charles
Doubleday, New York, 1971, 186 pp.
Pan, pb 1972
Reprinted in one vol with Summer at World’s End as World’s End by the Children’s Book Club, 1976
Mammoth, pb 1993

The Fielding children have to go and stay with their Uncle Rudolph and Aunt Valentina as their father is sailing round the world and their mother has been hurt in an accident. The children and their relatives clash endlessly, and at last Uncle Rudolph allows them to live in a tumbledown old inn he owns: World’s End.

Summer at World’s End

Heinemann, 1971, illus Peter Charles
Pan, pb, 1972
Doubleday, New York, 1972, 187 pp.
Reprinted in one vol with Summer at World’s End as World’s End by the Children’s Book Club, 1976
Mammoth, pb, 1993

The children have no more money than they did and it isn’t helped by the way animals keep finding them, like Peter the horse, whose owner is trying to ruin him.


Heinemann 1971 hb (simultaneously in hb and pb)
Pan books pb 1971
Heinemann, pb, 1988
Mammoth pb 1992
Fabbri Publishing Ltd, 1992
Andersen, London, 2010, 192 pp.

The Pinecrest Hotel has stables attached, but they are a nightmare for the horses living there. A groom there, sacked for trying to stop a mare with terrible saddle sores being used, tries to persuade Follyfoot to take her. The slimy hotel owner is eventually persuaded to let the mare come to recuperate. She is in foal, and although chased from her stable by the hotel owner’s bullying sons, and then foaling in a ditch, the foal, Folly, is saved and the mare eventually pulls round.

Dora at Follyfoot

Heinemann 1972 hb (simultaneously in hb) Pan Books pb 1972
Heinemann, pb, 1988
Mammoth pb 1992
Andersen, London, 2011, 192 pp.

The pony Barney is sold to an ignorant family by a dealer who is less than straight. When the drugs calming Barney wear off, he is unrideable. Dora takes him to Follyfoot, realising that his behaviour is a result of fear. She buys a horse at the market (or at least, Ron does, and Dora has to pay him back). To raise the money, Barney is entered in the Midnight Steeplecase to try and win the £100 first prize.

World’s End in Winter

Heinemann, hb, 1972
Children’s Book Club
Pan, 1973, pb illus Peter Charles
Doubleday, New York, 1973, 163 pp.
Mammoth 1992

Mr Fielding is back, and trying to write a book. There are just as many animals as ever, and the Fieldings have met Priscilla, a little girl who can’t walk after a riding accident. They are determined to teach her to ride again.

Follyfoot Farm

Heinemann 1973

Contains Follyfoot and Dora

Spring Comes to World’s End

Heinemann, 1973
Doubleday, New York, 1973, 162 pp.
Pan, pb 1975 (cover Peter Charles, text illus Gareth Floyd)
Mammoth, pb, 1993

Uncle Rudolph is threatening to sell World’s End, so the Fieldings try to earn the money to buy it themselves, though they never seem to get very far, as the savings jar is always being plundered to help more animals.

The Horses of Follyfoot

Heinemann 1975
Pan, pb 1977
Heinemann pb, 1988
Mammoth 1992

Most of this isn’t actually set at Follyfoot at all: the Captain’s American friend, whom Dora calls Blank, is enchanted by Follyfoot, and buys a donkey for them. He invites Dora to visit him in America and help him set up an American version of Follyfoot. That alas does not happen, but Dora rides Blank’s daughter’s horse Robin, whom she no longer bothers with, and Blank gives him to Dora.

Unfortunately the American barn owner and Dora conspire to export Robin without his equine encephalitis jabs, and there is then a scare at Follyfoot when a horse they are re-schooling starts to behave erratically and show symptoms which could be equine encephalitis.

Stranger at Follyfoot

Heinemann 1976
Children’s Book Club
Pan, pb, 1978
Heinemann, pb, 1988
Mammoth, pb, 1992
Character list

The Colonel has to go away from Follyfoot for his health, leaving Slugger nominally in charge. A strange girl, Yaz, arrives, on her brown pony. Yaz spins them many yarns about why she is there, and Dora is suspicious about exactly what she’s done, and who she really is. After they discover the truth about Yaz, they have to prevent her committing a crime.

The Messenger

Collins, 1985, illus Glynnis Overton
Armada pb 1985
Chivers large print 1986

When Rose is 13, she is chosen to be a messenger of the Great Grey Horse, whose long-ago heroism once saved an entire village. Rose is galloped back through time to solve the mystery of the annexe to her parents’ hotel, a house which fills its guests with a sense of tragedy and despair.

Ballad of Favour

Collins, 1985, illus Glynis Overton
reprinted Armada pb 1985

Rose has been chosen to be the messenger of the Great Grey Horse. She has to travel through time to try and save a child she can hear desperately wailing.

The Haunting of Bellamy 4

Collins 1986,  illus Glynnis Overton
Armada pb 1986

Room 4 at the end of the children’s ward has a dark, evil secret, putting patients’ lives at risk. Rose and the Great Grey Horse travel back through time to solve the mystery.

Cry of a Seagull

Collins 1986,
Armada pb 1986

Rose has seen a dark object of despair struggling in the water.  As evil threatens to drag her down in a churning sea, she has to try a desperate rescue – alone.

Talking of Horses

Non Fiction

Heinemann  hb 1973
Little Brown, New York, 1973, illus Margery Gill, 154 pp.
Piccolo, 1977, illus Margery Gill


Jane Royston: Follyfoot Remembered

Follyfoot, the tv serial, was 40 in 2011.  This book has been written by Jane Royston, who was horse manager on the series for four years. If you are yearning to find out what has become of the actors, there are interviews with many of them. There’s also an episode-by-episode listing and background information from cast and crew.

Follyfoot Annuals

A short series of annuals was produced in the mid to late 1970s.  For more details, click here.

Follyfoot Quiz Book

Pan, London, 1974, 156 pp.

Written by Christine Pullein-Thompson. The quiz book included anagrams and crosswords contributed by Christine’s daughter, Charlotte Popescu, and was illustrated by David McKee.