Stretton, Hesba

Stretton, HesbaSARAH SMITH (1832-1911) was born in Wellington, England.  She had the good fortune of being able to read books from her father's bookshop, a printer of evangelical literature. Her mother was a strong evangelical, but died when Sarah was young.

In the March 19th, 1859 issue of Household Words, a publication conducted by Charles Dickens, she published her first short story called The Lucky Leg. It is an intriguing story about a man who wanted to marry a woman with a missing leg. It was more secular, but her talent was recognized. Hesba Stretton became her pen name, Stretton coming from the name of a neighboring village, and Hesba coming from the initials of her siblings. H (Hannah or some sources Harriett), E (Elizabeth), S (Sarah), B (Benjamin), and A (Annie).

She wrote Jessica's First Prayer in 1867, which became one of her most beloved stories. It sold very well and was translated into many languages. Other best sellers were Little Meg's Children and Alone in London. She was familiar with her subject matter and the plight of street children. She visited and helped many children in disadvantaged situations. She kept a simple life unencumbered with worldly possessions. She wrote over 60 books and stories.

Hesba Stretton Book Descriptions - Click Here.

Curiosmith Features:

Jessica's First Prayer

The Child's Life of Christ

Alice Gilbert's Confession

Humphrey Grainger's Losses

The Worth of a Baby

Only a Dog

Mrs. Burton's Best Bedroom

Poison in the Packet

A Miserable Christmas and a Happy New Year

How Apple-tree Court Was Won

Two Secrets

The Storm of Life

Nelly's Dark Days

Cobwebs and Cables

Bede's Charity

Max Krömer

Enoch Roden's Training

The Children of Cloverley

Alone in London

The Crew of the Dolphin

No Place Like Home

Jessica's Mother (illustrated)

Jessica's Mother - KINDLE

Lost Gip

Pilgrim Street


Fern's Hollow

A Thorny Path

Little Meg's Children

Under the Old Roof

The Christmas Child

Michel Lorio's Cross - PAPERBACK

Michel Lorio's Cross - KINDLE

Her Only Son - PAPERBACK

Her Only Son - KINDLE

Sam Franklin's Savings Bank - PAPERBACK

Sam Franklin's Savings Bank - KINDLE

A Man of His Word - PAPERBACK

A Man of His Word - KINDLE

Left Alone - PAPERBACK

Left Alone - KINDLE

A Night and a Day - PAPERBACK

A Night and a Day - KINDLE



1832 - She was born in Wellington, Shropshire.

1858 - Began writing living at home at age 26.

1863 - Sarah, a writer, and sister Elizabeth, a governess, move to Manchester.

1867 - Sarah and Elizabeth move to London.

1892 - Bought a house at Ivycroft, on Ham Common near Richmond in Surrey. Sarah and Elizabeth live here until the end of their lives.

1911 - Buried at St. Andrews, Ham Common.



Father - Benjamin Smith, was a printer, bookseller and post-office worker.

Mother - Anne Bakewell Smith, evangelical, died when Sarah was 9.

Anne - sister Anne owned a house in All Stretton. Sarah visited Anne and her nieces and nephews in All Stretton.

Elizabeth - sister and lifelong companion. Changed her name to Elizabeth Stretton.

Hannah or some sources Harriet - sister, oldest sibling and housekeeper.

Benjamin - moved to Canada, then Kansas, lay preacher.

James - died in 1833.

William, Charles and mother Anne all died in 1842, a tragic year.



Day school for girls run by Mrs. Cranage at the Old Hall in Watling Street.

Reading in her father's bookshop.


Charity work:

Campaigned in 1889 for the first Act for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, subsequently known as the Children's Charter.

Campaigned with Baroness Miss Burdett-Coutts to help form L.S.P.C.C. then N.S.P.C.C. National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Partnered with Benjamin Waugh - a co-campaigner for reform of the juvenile justice system. Waugh wrote: The Gaol Cradle: Who Rocks it? (1873).

Collected money for Russian peasants during the Russian famine of 1892.

Hesba Stretton visited:

  • Courts and Assizes
  • Child refuges
  • Charity hospitals
  • Soup kitchens
  • Juvenile work schemes
  • Orphanages
  • Workhouses
  • Inner slums


Social Reform Books:



Max Krömer

The horrors of the Siege at Strasburg 

Highway of Sorrow

Suffering of the Russian Stundist peasants.

In Prison and Out

Juvenile Prison Reform

In the Hollow of His Hand

The treatment of Russian Stundists 

Under the Old Roof

Married Women's Property Acts

Nelly's Dark Days


Brought Home



For a complete works listing see Hesba Stretton's Book Descriptions.

For a non-fiction articles listing see Hesba Stretton's Non-fiction Articles.

Books and Stories by Hesba Stretton:

A Green Bay Tree.

A Man of His Word. [A story.]

A Miserable Christmas and a Happy New Year.

A Night and a Day. [A tale.]

A Thorny Path.

Ally Transome; or Faithful in Little.

Alone in London.

An Acrobat's Girlhood.

Bede's Charity.

Bible Apocrypha. Selections. English Good Words from the Apocrypha.

Brought Home. [A tale.]

Carola.  [A tale.]


Children of Cloverley (The).

Christmas Child (The).

Clives of Burcot (The). [A novel.]

Cobwebs and Cables.

Crew of the Dolphin (The).

David Lloyd's Last Will.

Doctor's Dilemma (The).

Enoch Roden's Training.

Facts on a Thread of Fiction: In Prison and Out.

Fern's Hollow. [A tale.]

Fishers of Derby Haven (The).

Friends till Death.

Gospel Story for Young People (The).

Half Brothers.

Her Only Son.

Hester Morley's Promise.

Highway of Sorrow (The) at the Close of the Nineteenth Century.

How Apple-Tree Court Was Won.

In the Hollow of His Hand: A Story of the Stundists.

Jessica's First Prayer.

Jessica's Mother.

King's Servants (The) I. Faithful in Little. II. Unfaithful. III. Faithful in Much.

Left Alone.

Little Meg's Children.

Lord's Purse-Bearers (The).

Lost Gip.

Max Kromer: A Story of the Siege of Strasbourg.

Michel Lorio's Cross.

Mrs. Burton's Best Bedroom, and Other Stories, etc.

Nelly's Dark Days.

No Place Like Home.

No Work No Bread. [A tale.]

Old Transome. (The first 9 chapters of Ally Transome.)

Only a Dog. [A story.]

Papers on the Parables.

Parables of Our Lord (The).

Paul Rodents.

Paul's Courtship. [A novel.]

Pilgrim Street, A Story of Manchester Life.

Sam Franklin's Savings Bank.

Soul of Honour (The).

Storm of Life (The).

Sweet Story of Old (The): A Sunday Book for the Little Ones.

Ray of Sunlight (The); or, Jack Stafford's Resolve, and other readings.

Thoughts on Old Age: Good Words from Many Minds.

Through a Needle's Eye.

Two Christmas Stories. 

Two Secrets.

Under the Old Roof.

Wonderful Life (The); [The Life of Christ.] [The Wonderful Story of Christ.] The Child's Life of Christ

Worth of a Baby (The).



1. The Lucky Leg. March 19, 1859 issue of Household Words conducted by Charles Dickens.

2. The Ghost in the Clock Room. Chapter 2 in The Haunted House, the 1859 Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round conducted by Charles Dickens.

3. Another Past Lodger Relates Certain Passages to Her Husband. Chapter 6 in Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy, the 1864 Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round conducted by Charles Dickens.

4. Not to Be Taken For Granted. Chapter 4 of Doctor Marigold's Prescriptions, the 1865 Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round conducted by Charles Dickens.

5. No. 4 Branch Line. The Travelling Post Office. Chapter 7 of Mugby Junction, the 1866 Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round conducted by Charles Dickens.



Cutt, Margaret Nancy. (1979) Ministering Angels: A Study of Nineteenth-century Evangelical Writing for Children.  Wormley, England: Five Owls Press.

Lomax, Elaine. (2009) The Writings of Hesba Stretton: Reclaiming the Outcast. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Rickard, Suzanne L. G. (1996) Living by the Pen: Hesba Stretton's Moral Earnings, Women's History Review, Vol. 5, No. 2.

Walker, Alicia A. (1977) Alone in London: Nineteenth-Century Street Children in Novels by Charles Dickens and Hesba Stretton. Thesis. Emporia State University.