BESTALL, Alfred (1892-1986)
Plaque erected in 2006 by English Heritage at 58 Cranes Park, Surbiton, KT5 8AS, Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames
Cartoons and Illustration
ALFRED BESTALL 1892-1986 Illustrator of Rupert Bear lived here 1936-1966
Alfred Bestall was the illustrator and writer of Rupert Bear for 30 years. An English Heritage plaque marks his former home at 58 Cranes Park in Surbiton, where he produced many of his famous cartoon strips.
Born in Burma, Alfred Edmeades Bestall came to England at the age of five. He studied art in Birmingham and London before serving on the Western Front, and took up work as a full-time illustrator from 1919. Having worked for Punch and contributed to children’s books including The Play’s the Thing (1927) by Enid Blyton, Bestall had his big break in 1935, when he succeeded Mary Tourtel as writer and artist of the Rupert Bear strip published in the Daily Express.
Bestall sustained the persona of Tourtel’s ‘Little Bear Lost’ – with his distinctive checked trousers and scarf – and developed Rupert’s adventures in Nutwood. The 30 years (1935–65) during which Bestall produced the strip saw Rupert rise to international stardom. Bestall continued to illustrate the Rupert Annuals until 1973.
His time as the writer and illustrator of Rupert Bear overlapped almost exactly with his time at 58 Cranes Park. He moved there on his father’s death in December 1936, living with his mother Rebecca (d. 1964) and sister Maisie (b. 1895). Bestall described the house as ‘nothing very interesting...just an old-fashioned suburban place with a garden’, but it was highly significant for his life and career. Working regularly in an attic room at the front of the house, the illustrator produced many of the cartoons for which he is best known. In 1966, following the death of his mother, Bestall sold number 58. A much-loved member of the local community, he remained in Surbiton until 1980, when he moved permanently to North Wales.