Mr Toad: based on a Berkshire man?
Who spawned Mr Toad?
By Linda Serck
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.
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 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 (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
Have Your Say
Who do think inspired Mr Toad, or any of the other characters in Wind In The Willows?