The Thomas Gifford Trust is a charity registered with the Charity Commission No. 1155669. It is a local charity dedicated to Charlbury Town and the surrounding area. The Trust has existed since 1592 and its charitable purpose is:
The work and focus of the Thomas Gifford Trust over the last 10 years or more has been on raising funds for and managing the construction of Charlbury Community Centre, which opened on 9th September 2017. We are very proud of this achievement and it is already adding much to the sporting and social life of the town.
HISTORY: as summarised from the research of Lois Hey
The Thomas Gifford Trust was established in 1592, when Thomas Gifford handed over to 8 local residents of Charlbury, Fawler and Finstock to hold on trust, The Playing Close and other properties in Charlbury. These included the Church House (now Manor House and Sunnyside in Church Street) where the Manorial Courts were held and Church Slade, being a two acre field north of Charlbury.
When Eynsham Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539, all the Abbey’s land in Charlbury became Crown property and, in common with monastic property throughout England, was promptly sold. In 1555, when Mary was on the throne, the Manor of Charlbury was sold by Edward North to Sir Thomas White. Sir Thomas White founded St John’s College in Oxford, and in 1574 he endowed the College with the Manor of Charlbury. St John’s had the foresight to have their ownership endorsed by Elizabeth I. However in January 1590, Elizabeth I gave the Manor of Charlbury to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, as a present.
Essex sold the Manor two months later to Robert Chamberlain and Philip Scudmore, who financed the purchase by borrowing £800 from a moneylender. They then leased the land for 99 years to John Chamberlain (probably Robert’s brother), who resided at the old Eynsham Court house (now the Priory). However, in 1590 the President of St John’s College, Dr Hutchinson, also happened to be the vicar of Charlbury. He produced the document, endorsed by the Queen, establishing the ownership of St John’s. Robert Chamberlain and Philip Scudmore had no alternative but to sign documents recognising the ownership of St John’s while they still owed £800.
Mr Thomas Gifford, a gentleman of Middle Claydon, Bucks, now enters the story. He was the son-in-law of John Chamberlain. In 1591 Thomas Gifford signed documents whereby he would discharge the £800 owed by Robert Chamberlain and Philip Scudmore in return for, amongst other things, the Manor and tithes of Charlbury.
John Chamberlain then took a new lease to the Manor of Charlbury from St John’s College for three lives, but shortly thereafter sold the lease to Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley. It was then pointed out to Thomas Gifford that property which did not belong to the Lord of the Manor had been included in the supposed sale to him. So it was that in October 1592, he signed a deed handing over The Playing Close and the other lands on a 998 year lease to George Tennant, a dyer, Richard Evans, gentleman, and 6 other local notables to be held for the benefit of the people of the parish of Charlbury – thus The Thomas Gifford Trust was established.
Chris Potts – Chair of the Trust
Chris Potts is a partner in large regional law firm, where he heads the Oxford office. He is the Chairman of The Thomas Gifford Trust and uses his broad knowledge of commercial and charities law to assist with navigating the multitude of agreements involved with running the Community Centre. Chris and his family have lived in Charlbury for nearly 20 years – he has 3 children who went to Charlbury and then Chipping Norton school.
Stuart Duff – Vice Chair
Stuart is a chartered business psychologist and a Partner at the firm Pearn Kandola LLP based in Oxford. He specialises in coaching and personal development, and is the author and editor of iLEAD, a series of three books addressing leadership skills in the areas of task, thought and people leadership, winning Leadership Book of the Year in the Chartered Management Institute’s annual book awards. Stuart has lived in Charlbury for over a decade and has actively participated in local activities. He was the vice-Chair of Governors at Chipping Norton School for 10 years and is still an active Community Governor. He is also the 3rd XI captain at Charlbury Cricket Club and has coordinated a Charlbury 6-a-side football team for the past ten years.
Eileen has worked in IT and financial and retail administration for more than 30 years. Having lived in Charlbury since 1982 she has been treasurer of the PTA, scouts and guides and the Corner House; and for the last 15 years treasurer for Nine Acres. She is looking to seamlessly integrate the facilities of Nine Acres with the new building to the advantage of all.
Sue and her husband Graham moved to Charlbury in 2012. Sue was a secondary school English teacher for over 20 years, latterly also setting up and running a Behaviour Support Unit. In 2006 Sue left the classroom to support the education of children in care in West Berkshire.
Sue retired in 2014 and is now very active in Charlbury, singing with Voices Unlimited, working as a volunteer with Books on Wheels and as a member of The Library Design group. She also continues to sing with a chamber choir in West Berkshire and works as a volunteer for the Oxford Support Group of Hope and Homes for Children and at Helen and Douglas House in Oxford.
She has a very strong commitment to reading and to the wide use of libraries for all. Sue is the trust’s link to Oxfordshire Library Service and to The Friends of Charlbury Library.
Richard has lived in Charlbury for 24 years after previously living in Norway and the United States. He is now retired from a career with a multinational energy company ending with the position of vice president. He is a Chartered Engineer and has experience managing large development projects and negotiating major commercial ventures. Currently he looks after Health and Safety and cost and budget within the Thomas Gifford Trust.
On the Thomas Gifford Trust Tanya has responsibility for Communications and she helps organise activities for school age children. She was Chair of the Charlbury Community Centre Appeal Committee which raised money for the Community Centre and is still involved in fundraising activities to help with the running of the centre. She’s an active volunteer at several of the town’s other organisations such as the Day Centre, the Library and the Home Library Service. Tanya also sings in our local community choir. A graduate of Sheffield University in French and Russian, her career experience is in Library and Information Services, and more recently as a pre-school leader in South Oxfordshire.
Ed is in the sustainability team at the University of Oxford Estates Services. He and his family have lived in Charlbury for twenty years with both of his children going to Charlbury Primary school and then Chipping Norton school. Ed is on the Charlbury beer festival committee and enjoys helping to raise money to contribute towards all the incredible organisations in Charlbury.
Guy moved to Charlbury in 2014 having spent forty years in the teaching profession. He played cricket and hockey for Oxford University during the 1970s, wrote four Chemistry text books in the 1980s and was then a Headmaster from 1993 until retirement. He now works part-time as an educational consultant, tutor and author – but he mostly enjoys making time for family, music, chess, walking and real tennis.
Steven Fairhurst Jones
Steven has worked for 4 years in local government in Oxfordshire, on the back of 20 years in the civil service. Steven’s current role is Senior Policy Officer at the County Council, where he has lead responsibility for corporate performance management, strategic and operational risk, and related business improvement activities. A Charlbury resident for over 10 years, Steven is a strong supporter of Charlbury Community Centre, where he runs the volleyball club and joins his family in using the sports and library facilities.
Matthew is responsible for the maintenance of the Community Centre and chairs the building committee – a team of talented volunteers. Matthew owns and manages SkillsYouNeed.com, a website dedicated to teaching life skills, and is also a director of One Village. He is a graduate of the University of Wales where he studied IT and management and was then employed to set up one of the UK’s first online learning platforms. He grew up in Charlbury, moved away for 25 years and then returned in 2015. He is a keen walker and gardener in his spare time.
Sir Stephen Bubb
Stephen has lived in Charlbury for 31 years ( though perhaps better known for his dog) and is well known nationally for his work in charity and campaigning for people with learning disabilities. For 17 years he led the UK’s national body representing Charity Chief Executives. For a decade he chaired the Social Investment Business and he established the European Third Sector leaders network.
He has had many nonexecutive roles, particularly in health and for a decade he was a governor at St Thomas’ hospital in London. He was a Youth Court magistrate in London for 20 years and has sat on the Honours Committee and served as a public appointments assessor for the government. He has conducted a number of national reviews for government, including the review of government progress on actions resulting from the Winterborne view scandal. He led a review of choice and competition in the NHS for David Cameron and has been the only charity leader ever to address a full meeting of the British cabinet.
Now semi retired he is the interim director of the Oxford Institute of charity based at New College Oxford and is the director of Charity Futures, a Third Sector think tank.
In Charlbury, he is a director of our local deli and a regular at St Mary‘s.
Gary spent 20 years serving as a Royal Air Force Tornado GR1 Navigator, ultimately as a Squadron Leader and deputy Officer Commanding of XV Squadron.
Following his RAF service, he worked for a large multinational company for several years as Head of Military Training and Simulation with direct responsibility for over 250 staff. Since then, he has owned and developed several businesses with Kim, his wife for 35 years. They sold their national property letting franchise in 2015 and now spend time managing their extensive property portfolio.
Three years ago, Gary was diagnosed with Lung Cancer and had the upper lobe of his right lung surgically removed. Thirteen months later, he ran the London Marathon raising over £8000 for Cancer Research UK. This year Gary will compete in his fourth Blenheim Triathlon.
Gary moved to Charlbury in 2019 and was elected to be a member of the Charlbury Town Council in May 2021.
THE PLAYING CLOSE – HISTORICALLY
According to a talk given by Lois Hey to the Charlbury Society in 1987, it is around 400 years since the land now known as the Playing Close was confirmed as belonging “to the only use, profit and commodity of the tenants and inhabitants of Charlbury, and to no other use”.
It was where all the able bodied men of Charlbury had to practise archery in the days of the longbow, to be ready for military service. In 1813, the Trustees had to order that “all timbers and dunghills be removed before the ensuing fair”, although thankfully the atmosphere is now a lot fresher than it would have been then.
The Playing Close is now well known for the magnificent trees, planted in 1890 at a cost of 7 shillings 10d, the Water Fountain erected to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria to the Town and the green oasis it forms in the middle of Charlbury.
THE PLAYING CLOSE – 2014
Today we enjoy the Playing Close as a pleasant place to walk and sit, to visit the quarterly Farmers Market, as a venue for School Fairs, the local Scouts & Guides Fair, along with various other events such as the Annual Fun Fair and Street Fair.
If you want to use the Playing Close for your event or other community activity, please contact the Trustees.
The Trustees gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Town Council to assist in the maintenance of the Playing Close.
This year the Charlbury Community Centre has employed a team of young people, who have undertaken lots of different projects around the town, from building raised beds in people's gardens, to facilitating outdoor and indoor virtual coffee club get-togethers for seniors, and helping with activities for children. This would not have been possible without the financial support of WODC (Community Activities Grant), PF Charitable Trust and local donors. Thank you all very much!