The Thomas Gifford Trust

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:

  • to maintain the Playing Close for the benefit of the inhabitants of the area;
  • to promote such other charitable purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants as the Trustees shall from time to time think fit.

Charlbury Community Centre

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 of TGT

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 Kenrick
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.

Tanya Stevenson
On the Thomas Gifford Trust Tanya has responsibility for Communications, including mainaining the website, and she helps organise various activities and does the day to day banking and bill paying for the Trust. 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. 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.

Edward Wigzell
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.

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 Scott

Matthew is responsible for the maintenance of the Community Centre and chairs the building committee – a team of talented volunteers.  Matthew owns and manages, 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.

Ashley Beighton

Ashley has over 30 years’ experience of managing an extraordinarily wide range of construction projects from complex, fast-track new build and refurbishment projects to high profile, multi-billion pound infrastructure programmes. However given half a chance, he’d rather be up a mountain! He lives in Charlbury with his wife and two daughters.

William Robinson

William discovered Charlbury in 2009 and moved here the following year. Before that he had spent 35 years working in, and teaching, legal translation and legislative drafting for various European organisations. He is secretary to the Charlbury Exhibition Foundation, the local educational charity. It was the walking around the local countryside that first drew him here but now he is also a frequent user of the Community Centre where he helps to organise regular table tennis sessions (social rather than competitive!).

Arne Kuehl

Arne manages the financial matters at the Thomas Gifford Trust. He’s a Chartered Accountant and currently holds a position at the University of Oxford, serving as the Head of Administration and Finance for the Department of Social Policy and Intervention. Since 2020, he and his family have made their home in Charlbury. Prior to this, Arne experienced various chapters of life—working and living in East Africa and, his native country, Germany, where he grew up and spent the majority of his years.

Kim Harrison

Kim is a Charlbury resident after living and working in Scotland for 25 years and before that for 9 years in Germany. A graduate from the University of Warwick, she is a business woman having started and run her own property business for 16 years and also a fully qualified Primary School teacher. She is currently the Chair of the Board of Governors at Charlbury Primary School and the RBL Poppy Appeal Organiser for Charlbury and surrounding areas. Committed to the role of serving others, she is delighted to be a Trustee for the Thomas Gifford Trust.

Catherine Ball

Information to follow

Playing Close

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.

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.


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