Theo Brown Papers

Scope and Content

Research notes, notebooks, maps, file-cards, correspondence and a range of collected resources, from newspaper clippings to booklets, photographs and postcards.

Administrative / Biographical History

Theo Brown (1914-1993), folklorist, was adopted at the age of two and raised by the Langford Brown family of Barton Hall, Kingskerswell, Devon. Her natural father was a Welsh scholar later head of a Department at the British Museum. Her adopted father was a magistrate and member of the local gentry; her adopted mother was interested in pixies on Dartmoor and nature, particularly flowers, and art. Theo took up painting as a result of her mother's encouragement and exhibited as a member of the Kenn group of artists. During the 2nd World War she served as a petty officer with the Fleet Air Arm. At the end of the War a chance encounter with Jackson Knight started her career as a folklorist. In 1952 she took over from Knight as recorder of folklore for the Devonshire Association, and continued researching 'local traditions, strange legends, eccentric characters and Otherworld beliefs' for the rest of her life. She was elected to the Council of the Folklore Society in 1957 and became a Research Fellow at the University of Exeter (Depts of Theology and History) in the 1960s. In 1971 she organised a colloquium entitled The Journey to the other world and contributed a paper on West Country entrances to the Underworld. This was later published, as was her own book The Fate of the Dead. She suffered a stroke in 1978, but continued working and occasionally teaching at Broadclyst Primary School.


The collection largely reflects the system of arrangement employed by Theo Brown, which is a thematic one. For example, some boxes are entitled, 'Black Dog', 'Postbridge', 'Hobby Horse', 'Ghosts', 'Devon Folklore', etc.

Access Information

Usual EUL arrangements apply

Acquisition Information

The papers were deposited in February and April 1993, following Theo Brown's bequest.

Other Finding Aids

A handlist to the contents of each box was compiled by Mandy Marvin in Feb/March 2002.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL arrangements apply

Custodial History

Some materials have been repackaged since the collection was deposited at the University Library in February 1993


Unpublished for the most part. Some academic papers, here represented in draft, eventually appeared in print. Also some ofprints are in the collection.