Catalogue ReferenceR/D134
TitlePapers of the Revd Peter Ditchfield
Date[c.14C]-20C
RepositoryBerkshire Record Office (code: GB 005)
LevelSub-Sub-Fonds
Extent16 vols, 153 bdls, 116 docs, 1 item
Admin HistoryPeter Hampson Ditchfield was born on 24 April 1854 at West Houghton, near Wigan in Lancashire. He attended the Royal Grammar School at Clitheroe, and then read mathematics at Oriel College, Oxford. A fellow student was Cecil Rhodes, with whom he formed a close friendship.

He was ordained deacon in 1878, and priest in 1879. Between 1878 and 1879 he was curate at Sandhurst, and between 1880 and 1886 he was assistant curate at Reading Christ Church. In 1886 he was presented to the living of Barkham by its patron, John Walter III, proprietor of the Times. He remained rector of Barkham until his death in 1930.

A keen amateur historian and archaeologist, Ditchfield was, amongst many other things, editor of the Berks, Bucks & Oxon Archaeological Journal from 1895-1924, and secretary of the Berkshire Archaeological Society for 38 years. In 1893 he applied unsuccessfully for the history chair at King's College, London.

He was the first person to represent Barkham on the newly established Wokingham Rural District Council in 1894 and was the first chairman of Barkham Parish Council from 1894-1928. Ditchfield was also an Oxford Diocesan Inspector of School from 1886-1915.

Peter Ditchfield was a prolific writer, and during his life he wrote or edited over 60 works on folklore, local history, village life, archaeology, architecture, and ecclesiastical matters. He also contributed innumerable articles to local magazines and periodicals in the United Kingdom and to American magazines. For many years he edited the Notes and Queries column on local history in the Reading Mercury.

Ditchfield was in great demand by local societies as a speaker, and he was regularly invited to preach by local churches.

Cricket was one of Ditchfield's great passions, and he used to play for various local clubs, including the Gentlemen of Berkshire, Wokingham, and Barkham. In his younger days he also used to join the hunting field from time to time.

Music was another of Ditchfield's great interests, and he used to compose librettos and perform the resulting work in public himself. Probably his greatest artistic achievement was as author and deviser of the Reading Historical Pageant in 1920.

In 1899, at the age of 45, he married Miss Florence Monk Smith of Ravenswood, Wokingham. There were no children of the marriage.

From 1906 to 1924 he was co-editor with W Page of the four-volume Victoria County History of Berkshire.

Ditchfield was an active Freemason following his initiation in 1893, and was Grand Chaplain of the Freemasons of England in 1917.

Peter Ditchfield died on 24 September 1930. A marble cross adjacent to the church porch marks his grave. Three years after his death, a carved wooden reredos was erected to his memory behind the altar in Barkham Church.

While Peter Ditchfield was a conscientious and beloved parish priest his private papers indicate an unceasing devotion to writing or editing books and articles on historical subjects, in particular folklore and old customs, and to the necessary research.

See the BRO library index for copies of some of his publications.
ArrangementArrangement of catalogue

1. Personal papers of Peter Ditchfield
2. Reading Historical Pageants
3. Berkshire War Memorial Committee records
4. Draft articles and stories
5. Miscellaneous manuscripts in other hands
6. Miscellaneous historical notes
7. Printed material
8. Newspapers and press cuttings
9. Printed items relating to Berkshire charities
10. Correspondence
11. Notes on folklore
12. Papers relating to David Davies
13. Dawson family papers
14. Miscellaneous original documents
15. Maps and plans
16. Prints and photographs
17. Miscellaneous
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