A FUNDRAISING campaign has been launched to create a blue plaque to honour a best-selling19th century author who was born in Worcester and frequently wrote of the city and the surrounding countryside.

Molly Harris, 23, from Battenhall, came across Ellen Wood, whose pen name was Mrs Henry Wood, when completing her dissertation on West Midlands accents in 2016 and said she was “shocked that such a literary figure was born here and I, as an English student who has lived in Worcester my whole life, had never even heard of her.”

 Molly said: “Growing up in Worcester, children are taught the important, extensive history of our ‘faithful’ city. We have the striking cathedral, world-famous sauce, revered Worcester Porcelain and beloved composer Edward Elgar; just four on a list of our many notable landmarks and public figures. But how many people would add an Ellen Wood or ‘Mrs Henry Wood’ to that list?

“Born in Worcester in 1814, Ellen Wood (née Price) was the eldest daughter of a glove manufacturer and ‘imaginative’ mother.

"She spent the first 22 years of her life in the town before marrying at Whittington church and moving to the south of France, where she remained for the next 20 years.

“She later returned to England, settling in Upper Norwood, near London. She wrote over 30 novels and more than 100 short stories during her lifetime – many of which were inspired by her home county.

“East Lynne (1861), one of the most successful sensation novels of the 1860s, helped her to become one of the best-selling authors of the second half of the nineteenth century. During this time, she exceeded the fame of Charles Dickens in Australia and experienced widespread, international acclaim.

“Among her many readers was Leo Tolstoy who, in 1872, wrote to his brother detailing that he was, ‘reading Mrs Wood’s wonderful novel, In the Maze.’ She owned Argosy magazine from 1867-1887 where she worked as editor, writer and champion of other women contributors including Christina Rosetti.”

Molly added: “Danesbury House (1860), Oswald Cray (1864), Mrs Halliburton’s Troubles (1862), The Channings (1862) and the Johnny Ludlow Series (1874-1899) are further examples of Mrs Wood’s best-known work, the latter arguably being the most Worcester-inspired.

“In many of her stories Worcester was referred to under the pseudonym ‘Helstonleigh’, and Worcestershire featured heavily in the following books; The Channings, Mrs. Halliburton’s Troubles, Mildred Arkell (1865), Dene Hollow (1871), The Elchester College Boys (1861) and the six volumes of the Johnny Ludlow tales.

“Her 1860 novel Danesbury House was based on her family home of the same name - now Primo Bar and Dining in Sidbury.

She wrote of boys from the King’s School walking between the cathedral and her window at No.2 College Green in The Channings, she set The Other Earring (1874) and Ketira the Gypsy (1876) at Worcester racecourse and she revealed her in-depth knowledge of the Worcestershire countryside - drawn from long carriage drives with her grandmother- in her Johnny Ludlow series as well as featuring Droitwich, Evesham and Malvern.

“The Malvern Hills ‘filled her with such solitude and depression’, recounted her son Charles Wood in 1887, and were the backdrop for many supernatural and sinister events in her novels.

“On her death on 10th February 1887 she was buried at High Gate Cemetery and Charles Wood donated money to the King’s School for a writing competition to find the best essay on Worcester. In 1916, a commemorative monument was unveiled in Worcester cathedral where a copy of East Lynne is held in the cathedral library.

“Throughout her career, Ellen Wood often revisited her home county in both body and imagination; the deep impact of her formative years visible in her frequent references to home.

“She ensured she never forgot her native city, so, in 2018, 157 years since East Lynne, how is it that children are raised through local primary schools, high schools, attend college less than a mile from where she lived and never learn of her successes and talents? Why have we forgotten her? How can we remember her? Maybe we can start by erecting a blue plaque at No.2 College Street.”

For more information and to donate to the fundraising campaign, visit: gofundme.com/Blue-plaque-for-Mrs-Henry-Ellen-Wood-Worcester