Noel Streatfeild

Noel Streatfeild

1895 - 1986
Born into a family of clergy in Frant, Mary Noel Streatfeild, known as Noel, grew up to be one of England’s most-loved authors of children’s fiction, books that are still regarded as classics, such as “Ballet Shoes,” “White Boots,” “Tennis Shoes” and many more. Her family moved to Eastbourne in 1911, when her father became the Vicar of Eastbourne at St Mary the Virgin Church, in Church Street, Old Town.




Noel grew up in a vicarage family, a fact that greatly influenced her writing, but a situation that she greatly resented. Her family moved to Eastbourne in 1911 when her father became Vicar of Eastbourne and Rural Dean, based at St Mary the Virgin Church, Old Town.

Living in The Vicarage, Vicarage Road, she attended Laleham School, in Selwyn Road, followed by The Eastbourne School of Domestic Economy, in Silverdale Road, she then worked at the outset of WW1 in the kitchens of St Mary’s Hospital in Church Street, created from the former barracks and workhouse as a hospital for injured soldiers.

Noel Streatfeild


The influence of plays and shows that she saw in Eastbourne fuelled her love for acting, dancing and writing; after the First World War she attended the Academy of Dramatic Art, pursuing an acting career and travelling the world, a contemporary of budding actors such as John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson and Noel Coward. Her links with Eastbourne continued when she returned to appear at the theatres and to visit her family, until her father became Bishop of Lewes and the family moved away. After the death of her father in 1929, Noel started to devote her life to writing.

Her most famous book “Ballet Shoes,” published in 1936, sold 10 million copies in 50 years , has been televised and filmed, is still selling and still borrowed in libraries. It tells of a very different world to our world today but, in her own words, “books should be doors leading children into unfamiliar worlds.”

Noel continued writing into her 80s, she was a charismatic figure, flamboyant and colourful , a prolific speaker and writer. She is buried in her family plot in Westerham, Kent, leaving behind her a history of acting, performing and an abundantly rich catalogue of literature.



To read Di’s full research click here


Researching Noel’s life and books throws up the close similarities between her characters and the family life she knew , we see the high-spirited and rebellious child whose school reports complained “could do better.” After she grew up in Eastbourne , dreaming of luminaries in her teenage years such as Diaghilev, Anna Pavlova, thrilled by theatre visits and her own reading , she ultimately achieved her dreams and her potential in her writing. Her sister, Ruth Gervis, who illustrated “Ballet Shoes” summed Noel up: “ she lived in her imagination.”

Di Clarke

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Find My Past
Noel Streatfeild- White Gauntlet Design
St Mary’s Hospital, Barracks & Workhouse | Blue … – Visit Eastbourne’s-Hospital-Barracks…/details/?dms=3…

A Vicarage Family –a biography of myself Noel Streatfeild
Collins 1963
Noel Streatfeild – A Biography Angela Bull
Barracks, Workhouse and Hospital-
St Mary’s Eastbourne (1794-1990) John Surtees
Eastbourne Local
History Soc 1992
The Years of Grace Noel Streatfeild
Watson&Viney 1950
Ballet Shoes Noel Streatfeild
Dent 1936

Eastbourne- A pictorial history Elleray 1995
Publ. Phillimore

Noel Streatfeild—picture sources

“Noel Streatfeild” a biography by Angela Bull
Publ. Collins 1984
Map from “Barracks, workhouse and hospital,
The story of St Mary’s ,Eastbourne “ by John Surtees, publ.1992 Eastbourne Local History Society.
“Noel Streatfeild” Angela Bull
Modern photo- researcher’s own photo
“Eastbourne- a pictorial History” by Elleray. Published 1978/1995 Phillimore and Co
Photograph of St Cyprians displayed on ebay
“Noel Streatfeild” by Angela Bull
Laleham School- Flickr website
Lionel Fraser,
(written permission will be required)
“Noel Streatfeild” Angela Bull
Newspaper images- The British Newspaper
Archive on
“Barracks, workhouse, hospital …” Surtees
“Noel Streatfeild” by Angela Bull
“Barracks, workhouse …” Surtees
Newspaper Archives on Find My Past
Cover illustration of “Ballet Shoes” publ Puffin Books
Illustration from “Ballet Shoes”
“Noel Streatfeild” by Angela Bull



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