Elsie Jeanette Oxenham wrote over ninety books and stories for girls, most of which were published between 1907 and 1959. In 1991 her niece, Elspeth Wendy Dunkerley, discovered several books and stories in manuscript form, two of which were published in 1992 and 1993.
This list places the books in their series, and suggests a reading order which seems to make ‘best sense’. Each major series has been assigned a code, consisting of one or two letters. Then within the series, books are numbered. This numbering may not correspond with the order of publication date.
The Abbey Series is numbered as a single sequence in the recognised reading order, but the titles are often arranged as three sub-series – the First Generation (A01-A27) dealing with the original characters as schoolgirls and young adults; The Retrospective Series (A04-A10), which were published from 1938-1957, and written to fit into the gap between Girls of the Abbey School and Abbey Girls Go Back to School; and the Second Generation (A29-A38) dealing largely with the daughters of the earlier characters, though we see and have news from the original characters as adults too.
If you want to embark on reading all of EJO’s books, the Big Abbey Read suggests the best way to fit them together. New Abbey Girls, Abbey Girls Again, Abbey Girls In Town and Abbey Girls At Home were published in heavily abridged editions by the Children’s Press and you can read the details in our Comparisons articles.
Reading Order of Abbey Series with links to Connectors
A01 Girls of the Hamlet Club
A02 The Abbey Girls
A03 The Girls of the Abbey School
A04 Schooldays at the Abbey
A04a Adventure in the Abbey (Collins Girls’ Annual 1955)
A04b Mistakes in the Abbey (Collins Girls’ Annual 1956)
These 2 stories are not in any of the books. The events purport to take place during the period covered by Schooldays at the Abbey (A04).
A05 Secrets of the Abbey
A06 Stowaways in the Abbey
A07 Schoolgirl Jen at the Abbey
A08 Strangers at the Abbey
A09 Selma at the Abbey
A10 Tomboys at the Abbey
A11 The Abbey Girls Go Back to School ⁂ ⸙
A13 The New Abbey Girls
A14 The Abbey Girls Again
A15 The Abbey Girls in Town
A16 Queen of the Abbey Girls
A12 Jen of the Abbey School (Ro3*)
A17 The Abbey Girls Win Through
A18 The Abbey Girls at Home ⁂
A19 The Abbey Girls Play Up (CK4†)
A20 The Abbey Girls on Trial
A21 Biddy’s Secret
A22 Rosamund’s Victory (Ro4*)
A23 Maidlin to the Rescue (Ra2‡)
A24 Joy’s New Adventure
A25 Rosamund’s Tuckshop (K2⁑; QW2⁋)
A26 Maidlin Bears the Torch
A27 Rosamund’s Castle (K4⁑; QW3⁋)
A28 Maid of the Abbey
A29 Jandy Mac Comes Back (K5⁑)
A30 Two Joans at the Abbey
A31 An Abbey Champion
A32 Robins in the Abbey (QW5⁋)
A33 A Fiddler for the Abbey
A34 Guardians of the Abbey
A35 Rachel in the Abbey
A36 A Dancer from the Abbey
A37 The Song of the Abbey (K6⁑)
A38 Two Queens at the Abbey
Every so often the question of the missing Abbey titles is raised and we’ve tried to answer that.
Like many authors, EJO grew fond of her creations, and found ways to bring them back in later books. As well as the main Abbey Series, which follows the stories of Joan, Joy and Jen through their schooldays, marriages and children, EJO wrote several other series, and some of their characters also turn up as ‘walk-on parts’ or occasionally major players, in the Abbey books. There are five series with close connections to the Abbey Books and four ‘remotely’ connecting series.
† Camp Keema:
CK1 The Crisis in Camp Keema
CK2 Peggy and the Brotherhood
CK3 The Camp Mystery
CK4 The Abbey Girls Play Up (A19)
These books give the background history for Maribel Ritchie (later Marchwood), Rosalind Firth and Cecily Brown/Perowne. Maribel and Cecily appear occasionally in later Abbey books. It is apparent from the publication dates that Camp Mystery was written to fill in more details of the story related in AG Play Up, and that Peggy was an even later ‘fill-in’.
Maribel Ritchie and Cecily Perowne continue to appear or be mentioned in several of the later books in the main Abbey Series.
K1 Patch and a Pawn
K2 Rosamund’s Tuckshop (A25, QW2⁋)
K3 The Secrets of Vairy
K4 Rosamund’s Castle (A27, QW3)
K5 Jandy Mac Comes Back (A29)
K6 The Song of the Abbey (A37)
Patch, Rhoda and Tansy all appear and are mentioned in other books in the main Abbey Series, but these are their own stories. Sometimes this set is split into three smaller series, but as Patch and a Pawn is the first in each of these, and The Secrets of Vairy the only one that deals with Patch without the other two, it seems better from the reading point of view to keep them as one sequence.
QW1 The Girl Who Wouldn’t Make Friends
QW2 Rosamund’s Tuckshop (A25, K2)
QW3 Rosamund’s Castle (A27, K4)
QW4 New Girls at Woodend
QW5 Robins in the Abbey (A32)
Robin is mentioned in later Abbey books, but does not appear again. Woodend girls dance at Rosamund’s wedding in Maidlin Bears the Torch (A26). Lisabel Durrant is a link with Rocklands. Benedicta Bennett reappears in later books in the Abbey Series, from Rachel in the Abbey (A35) onwards, as does Gail Alwyn, though to a lesser extent. Gail is first introduced in Joy’s New Adventure (A24) and Benedicta in Maidlin Bears the Torch (A26).
Ro1 A Go-Ahead Schoolgirl
Ro2 Tickles; or the School that was different
Ro3 Jen of the Abbey School (A12)
Ro4 Rosamund’s Victory (A22)
Rena Mackay is the main character of Go-Ahead Schoolgirl and this series follows her story, though she doesn’t take a major part again until Rosamund’s Victory. Betty Maclean appears in the main Abbey Series from Abbey Girls at Home (A18) onwards. Lisabel Durrant also appears in New Girls at Woodend (QW4), which gives a slight link between Rocklands and Quellyn sets.
‡ Rachel & Damaris/Rainbows:
Ra1 Damaris at Dorothy’s
Ra2 Maidlin to the Rescue (A23)
Ra3 Damaris Dances
Rachel and Damaris then join the main Abbey Series. Damaris Dances is often included in the main series; it takes place partly concurrently with Joy’s New Adventure (A24), Rosamund’s Tuckshop (A25) and Maidlin Bears the Torch (A26). See the Big Abbey Read for more details of the best order in which to read these. In another direction the series continues as below, eventually linking up again with the main Abbey Series in Margery Meets the Roses.
Ra4 Adventure for Two
Ra5 Elsa Puts Things Right
Ra6 Pernel Wins
Ra7 Daring Doranne
Ra8 Margery Meets the Roses
Damaris Dances and Adventure for Two overlap somewhat. The Roses join the main Abbey Series in A Fiddler for the Abbey (A33). Some characters from Pernel Wins reappear in Daring Doranne but nowhere else – but these two books probably best read as part of this sequence.
Ra0 Mistress Nanciebel
This deals with the ‘Ancestress’ of Gilbert Seymour, and of Nancybell Morgan/Seymour, and can be read before or after the main Rainbows series. It is set in mid-seventeenth-century England and Wales.
⸙ The Torments:
T1 The School Torment
T2 The Testing of the Torment
T3 The Camp Fire Torment
Tormentil Grant appears in The Abbey Girls Go Back to School (A11) but this is the only real link with the Abbey Series. Sadie Sandell appears in Camp Fire Torment and in Peggy Makes Good, thus linking the Torment and Sussex sets.
Sx1 The Junior Captain
Sx2 Peggy Makes Good ⸙
Sx3 The School Without a Name
Sx4 Ven at Gregory’s
Sx5 The Troubles of Tazy (Sw4)
Sx6 Patience and her Problems (Wd3, Sw5)
⁂ Swiss Set:
Sw1 The Two Form Captains
Sw2 The Captain of the Fifth
Sw3 Camp Mystery (CK3)
Sw4 The Troubles of Tazy (Sx5)
Sw5 Patience and her Problems (Wd3, Sx6)
Woody Dean Set:
Wd1 The School of Ups and Downs
Wd2 Patience Joan, Outsider
Wd3 Patience and her Problems (Sx6, Sw5)
These last three sets are closely interrelated, as may be seen from the titles they share. Characters from all three series also appear or are mentioned in the Camp Keema set and the main Abbey Series, especially Karen Wilson and Tazy Kingston in The Abbey Girls Go Back to School (A11), and An Abbey Champion (A31).
Wd0 A School Camp Fire
This stands alone in many respects and can be seen as its own mini-series, being four books in one volume. It has only rather tenuous links with the Woody Dean Set in that its main characters attend Helen Robinson’s wedding in The School of Ups and Downs.
EJO wrote another twenty titles which have no connections with the Abbey Series, and a number of short stories that are sometimes taken from books, or perhaps developed into books, and sometimes stand alone.
D1 Deb at School
D2 Deb of Sea House
D3 Deb Leads the Dormitory
J1 The Tuckshop Girl
J2 The Reformation of Jinty
J3 Jinty’s Patrol
J4 A Divided Patrol
Deb Leads the Dormitory and A Divided Patrol were discovered by Wendy Dunkerley, EJO’s niece in 1991.
Sc1 Goblin Island
Sc2 A Princess in Tatters
Sc3 A Holiday Queen
Sc4 Schoolgirls and Scouts
These are not a series, but several characters appear in more than one. Some of the characters also appear in the following two books, probably best listed here, although not set in Scotland. If reading these as a sequence, to meet the characters in the right order you should read Sc6 before Sc4.
Sc5 Finding Her Family
Sc6 The Twins of Castle Charming
These have no connections with each other, nor with any titles in other sets.
Is1 The Conquest of Christina
Is2 Rosaly’s New School
Is3 At School with the Roundheads
Is4 Expelled from School
Is5 The Girls of Gwynfa
Is6 Dorothy’s Dilemma
Is7 Sylvia of Sarn
The Abbey School comprises – The Abbey Girls; The Girls of the Abbey School; The Abbey Girls Go Back to School (A02, A03, A11).
The E. J. Oxenham Omnibus comprises – The Abbey Girls Win Through; The Abbey Girls at Home; The Abbey Girls Play Up (A17, A18, A19).
The Girls’ Adventure Story Omnibus comprises – Goblin Island (Sc1) and two stories by other authors.
The Girls’ School Story Omnibus comprises – Expelled from School (Is4) and two stories by other authors.
Many short stories were published in annuals and magazines throughout the period 1908-1957. Alterations in the names of characters and places from those in the books are quite common. Some stories appeared in more than one outlet, so you may well find something in a different publication to that shown below
A03A Secrets of the Abbey (Little Folks, 1921)
This is taken from Girls of the Abbey School and shows Jen with short black hair and Jack with fair plaits, which necessitated some unwelcome rewriting for E.J.O.
A04a Adventure in the Abbey (Collins Girls’ Annual, 1955)
A04b Mistakes in the Abbey (Collins Girls’ Annual, 1956)
These stories are not in any of the books. The events purport to take place during the period covered by Schooldays at the Abbey (A04). Both were illustrated by Frank Varty.
A12a Girls of Rocklands School (Collins Schoolgirls’ Annual, 1924)
A12b Jen’s Presents (Schoolgirls’ Bumper Book, 1927)
A12c Treasure from the Snow (Schoolgirl Yarns, c1930)
Taken from Jen of the Abbey School (A12; Ro3).
‘Abbey Connector’ Short Stories:
From ‘Camp Keema’
CK2a Camp Keema Finds a Guardian (Girls’ All-Round Book, 1929)
CK2b Peggy Perfect Goes to School (Little Folks, 1931)
From Peggy and the Brotherhood (CK2)
CK2c The Last Night in Camp (Hulton’s Girls’ Stories, 1929)
CK2d Freda Joins the Guides (Girls’ All-Round Book, 1931)
Takes place soon after the events of Peggy and the Brotherhood.
CK3a The Missing Link (Little Folks, 1929)
From Camp Mystery.
Sx2a Peggy Plays A Part (British Girl’s Annual, 1924)
Sx2b Bungalow Baby (British Girl’s Annual, 1925)
From Peggy Makes Good, but using different names for the characters.
J2a The Honour of the Guides (Hulton’s Girls’ Stories, 1933)
J2b One Good Turn (Hulton’s Girls’ Stories, 1928)
J2c The Guides and Roger (Hulton’s Girls’ Stories, 1926)
From The Reformation of Jinty but separating out strands of the story which were intermingled in the book.
From ‘Dorothy’s Dilemma’ (Is6):
Is6a The Silence of Dorothy Cheyney (Little Folks, 1928)
Is6b Dicky’s Way (British Girl’s Annual, 1928)
Is6c The Return of Dorothy Cheyney (Schooldays, 1929)
Is6d Dicky’s Dilemma (British Girl’s Annual, 1926)
Is6e Helen Wins (Bumper Book for Girls, 1936)
These last two set in what appears to be the same school as Dorothy’s Dilemma, with the same, or similar, names used for the mistresses. The girls, however, seem to be different in each story and from the book.
None of these has any links with any of the full-length books:
Honour Your Partner (British Girl’s Annual, 1922)
Dancing Honour (British Girl’s Annua1, 1921)
Both set in the same school, with shared characters.
Muffins and Crumpets (Bumper Book for Girls, 1926)
Set at a drill class, and the slum home of ‘Crumpets’
Auntie Jane’s Piano (The Quiver, 1908)
Set in a small village in Wales
The Changelings (The Star, NZ, 1909)
Set at the seaside in Wales
The following are the fore-runners of stories that were later published as books. In neither case does the eventual book have the illustrations which do so much to enhance the story’s appearance in the annual:
CK2x Peggy and the Brotherhood (Girls’ Own Annual, Vol 57, 1936)
K1x Patch and a Pawn (Girls’ Own Annual, Vol 60, 1939)
Also published first as long stories in annuals were:
Wd2x Patience Joan, Outsider (Little Folks, 1922)
Ro2x Tickles and the Talking Cave (British Girl’s Annual, 1923)
T2x Testing of the Torment (Little Folks, 1925)
D1x St Margaret’s (Schooldays Weekly, 1928/29)
A serialisation from November 1928 to January 1929, in 12 weekly episodes, of Deb at School.
Short Books Taken from Longer Ones:
Collins bought the copyrights from E.J.O. for most of her books, and made all sorts of cuts and changes to many of the titles, including trying to bring events in the main series up to date when they reprinted them.
A12i The Girls of Rocklands School
A12ii Second Term at Rocklandds
A12iii Third Term at Rocklands
from Jen of the Abbey School
Additional material was incorporated in The Girls of Rocklands School, possibly from material rejected for the full-length book – see Kate Kirman’s note in Abbey Chronicle No. 17. Third Term at Rocklands is inaccurately titled, as it takes place during the same term as the events of Second Term.
A16i The Call of the Abbey School – from Queen of the Abbey Girls
Chapters I-IX except for the last half of the final sentence.
A20i The Girls of Squirrel House – from the Abbey Girls on Trial
Chapters 1-11 and part of Chapter 12 to part-way down page 128
Folk Dancing; Morris and Sword Dancing for Girls (Every Girl’s Annual, 1923)