Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Christina Hole (1896-1985)

Alison Petch,
Researcher 'The Other Within' project

Born in Rickmansworth in 1896 and brought up in Kingston-on-Thames by her grandmother. She went to St Bernard's Convent in Slough and finished her education in France. Before the second world war she worked in Cheshire as an organizer and speaker for the Conservative Party. It was during this time that she started to collect folklore seriously. She joined the Folklore Society in 1941, in 1956 she became a member of the Council and was asked to take on the office of Honorary Editor of the journal. According to her Folklore obituary she was most interested in domestic folklore, calendar customs and stories. The first book she published was Traditions and Customs of Cheshire [1937], and she published others on English folklore, English Custom and Usage and English folk-heroes. She edited books on the subject of folklore as well as wrote them. She lived in Iffley, Oxford from the mid 1950s at least.

According to her obituary, '[s]he knew the previous Editor (of Folklore), Professor E.O. James, well, and had run with him the Society for Oxfordshire and District Folklore, organising pleasant and friendly meetings for visiting speakers on Saturday afternoons.' [pp.109-110]

She might have been considered by some rather eccentric - according to the obituary she refused to have a telephone installed in her home even though it would have made her honorary duties easier and was 'surrounded by well-behaved cats whose idiosyncracies gave [her] great pleasure.' [p. 110] Jacqueline Simpson (her successor as editor of Folklore) knew her and says that towards the end of Hole's time as editor when she was quite old, issues of the journal came out later and later, and readers began to complain: she was persuaded to retire and move to a care home where she was found to have a dietary deficiency and, once this was treated, she perked up considerably, 'though she did admit that it was a relief not to be responsible for the Journal any more'. [Simpson, pers. comm.] Simpson also comments that:

I suppose one could call her 'eccentric' because of the cats and the no-phone, but it was a very quiet, ladylike form of eccentricity! [Simpson, pers comm]

Simpson recalls her as polite and understated and comments that Hole spoke little in the Folk-lore Society committee except to give her report on the journal. By modern standards Simpson suggests that Hole's scholarship might be considered thinly spread and a bit amateurish, but she needed to write for a living, and accepted pot-boiler commissions. At least what she wrote was always soundly observed and down-to-earth. [Simpson, pers comm]

The authors of her obituary obviously also liked her a good deal remarking that, 'there was a fundamental goodness and integrity in her which warmed the heart ... she possessed a lively sense of fun and delight in the oddities of people which made her excellent company ... a generous giver and dependable friend.' [p. 110]

H. R. Ellis Davidson and Theo Brown, ' Christina Hole 1896-1985', Folklore, Vol. 97, No. 1 (1986), pp. 109-110

Further Reading

Jacqueline Simpson's essay on Hole in Hilda Davidson & Carmen Blacker [eds.] 2000? 'Women and Tradition: a neglected group of folklorists'. Carolina Academic Press.