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13 November 2014

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You are in: Berkshire > History > Local History > Who spawned Mr Toad?

Mr Toad

Mr Toad: based on a Berkshire man?

Who spawned Mr Toad?

Who was the inspiration for Mr Toad? Which property inspired Toad Hall? And do you fancy writing a modern-day Wind In The Willows? Find out more below.

It's the centenary of Cookham Dean author Kenneth Grahame's Wind In The Willows, first published in October 1908.

Kenneth Grahame

Kenneth Grahame

Fans of the world famous children's novel have speculated for years on which Berkshire property was the inspiration for Toad Hall, and on whom the extravagant and foppish character of Mr Toad was based.

Up and down the Thames there are families claiming their grandfathers were Mr Toad (Andrew Howard at Beale Park in Lower Basildon, John Dicksey at Harleyford Manor in Marlow) 

But Kenneth Grahame expert Roger Oakes, who has a large collection of rare and early editions of the famous book, thinks it's an amalgam of different characters.

"Not least he was influenced by his own son who he christened 'mouse'," says Mr Oakes, "he was also influenced by Horatio Bottomley, a liberal MP who'd recently come to the House of Commons at that time.

Matt Lucas as Toad in BBC adaptation

Matt Lucas as Mr Toad in the BBC's adaptation

"And of course Oscar Wilde, the flamboyant extrovert and great after dinner speaker who undoubtedly was an inspiration for Toad."

Toad's magnificent sprawling manor  is also said to be inspired by various Berkshire estates.

Corey Starling, bailiff at Mapledurham House, says: "No one knows definitely for fact, but if you look at the illustrations from the original book, the porch way and entrance way for the manor house for Toad Hall is identical to our manor house as well.

"But there's always been an argument as to whether it's us or Hardwick Hall (in Derbyshire), but it does really look like our place."

Kenneth Grahame lived in The Mount in Cookham Dean as a child with his maternal grandmother after the death of his mother. He returned there as an adult and died in Pangbourne in 1932.

Mr Toad at River And Rowing Musuem

Mr Toad at River And Rowing Musuem (C) Andy Wilson

Grahame using the rural surrounds of Cookham Dean as inspiration for not only Wind In The Willows, but The Golden Age, published in 1895 - a book that sealed his reputation as an author.

He  originally created the adventures of Toad, in letter form, to amuse his son.

The River & Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames features a permanent exhibition on The Wind In The Willows and are asking budding writers (aged 16+) to come up with a modern-day Wind In The Willows.

More details here:

Paul Mainds, of the museum said: "The Wind in the Willows is one of the great treasures of children's fiction.

"Kenneth Grahame knew all about the power of the river on the imagination, and on our real lives.

"This competition gives authors the opportunity to re-animate these themes and make them more relevant for today's young readers, especially in light of the environmental issues that now effect our rivers and the wildlife that lives in and around them."

last updated: 15/10/2008 at 15:13
created: 15/10/2008

Have Your Say

Who do think inspired Mr Toad, or any of the other characters in Wind In The Willows?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

simon boyce
Mr Toad was inspired by Kenneth Gramhame's son Alistair Gramhame or 'mouse'. I think that Ratty was inspired by Kenneth Gramhame himself because in the 'Pipper at the gates of dawn' his discription of the events is that of something I think that he himself experienced. Mole may have been influenced by Alistairs mother as he behaves a bit like a mother sometimes. Badger might be like kenneth Gramhame's Grandfather as he is strong disciplined person and Kenneth Gramham lived with his grandparent as a boy and didn't know his father that well.

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