Aelfthryth Gittings 1939-2012
Historical Research
SCPR 1978-2000


Burford Probate Group, meeting at the Gatehouse



Aelfthryth’s work with the probate groups


Aelfthryth was a founder member of the Burford (later Oxfordshire) Probate Group, and like many of the other members, learnt her palaeography in 2004 at a class run by Mary Hodges. The group went on to transcribe the wills and inventories for Burford as part of the volunteer input for the Oxfordshire Victoria County History’s research into the town’s history. The group then cast its net wider and helped the VCH with its research into Henley and then the parishes around Benson and Ewelme. The group’s work can be seen especially in the books published by the VCH on Burford and Henley[1].


Aelfthryth was instrumental in setting up another group to transcribe the wills and inventories for the parishes in the Wychwood area, and she was the main organiser for this new group. She kept the group’s records, went to the Oxfordshire History Centre and The National Archives at Kew to obtain photocopies of the originals, and kept track of who was doing what. She hoped that the group would manage to transcribe 200 people’s documents before Christmas 2012, and was very pleased that this was achieved.


Aelfthryth was a meticulous transcriber, who put a great deal of thought and effort into her work, and refused to be beaten by difficult-to-read writing or obscure meanings. She was fascinated by the information about families that could be found in the documents: for example, the Toovey family of Henley who were early Quakers; and the Bishop family of Northleach whose sons lived in Burford. She was very proud to have an article on the Bishop family, written with Angela Dix, published in the Summer 2012 edition of the Oxfordshire Local History magazine[2]. She also enjoyed the insight that the documents gave into people’s lives in the 17th century, and especially by the contents of their kitchens! She was planning to give a talk on kitchens implements at the April meeting of the Wychwood Local History Society.


Like all members of the group, she thoroughly enjoyed the discussions and friendship of the monthly meetings, and the visits made to places such as Ewelme and the costume collection at Claydon. She made a wonderful potato salad for the ‘bring-and-share’ lunches, and all remember her special rice-maker. The group enjoyed meeting at her house, watching the progress of the ducks nesting in her yard, and sitting having coffee under the mulberry tree.


She will be much missed by us all.


Angela Dix                                                      Honor Lewington

Barbara Allison                                               Jan Cliffe

Barbara Tearle                                                 Jean Bailey

Heather Horner                                               Mary Hodges


January 2013.


[1] The books were three: Antonia Catchpole et al, Burford: buildings and people in a Cotswold town; Simon Townley, Henley on Thames: town, trade and river; Simon Townley (ed), Henley on Thames and environs (VCH Oxfordshire volume XVI)

[2] Angela Dix and Aelfthryth Gittings, ‘Two brothers from Northleach: William and Matthew Bishop’ Oxfordshire Local History Review vol 9 issue 3, 2012.