A VILLAGE history has been published 26 years after the death of its mysterious author.

Benson residents know little about Edith Ditmas, an Oxford-educated spinster who completed her history of the village in 1981, five years before she died aged 90.

A typed manuscript has remained in the local library ever since, proving an invaluable resource for local historians.

Now modern technology has let village group the Bensington Society scan the work and publish her History of Benson for the first time, Investigations into her life, though, have largely drawn a blank.

The society has uncovered just one grainy photograph of Miss Ditmas, blown up from a group photograph of the village’s WI branch.

Yet despite her invisibility, the newly published 224-page book, now on sale for £15, shows incredible diligence and depth of research into the village’s past.

President of the Bensington Society, Peter Clarke, said: “All we know is that she had an MA from Oxford, and was obviously an academic of some stature.

“She never married, and probably looked after her elderly mother for many years.

“We think she possibly came to live in the village in the 50s or 60s.

“Apart from being in the WI and very keen on St Helen’s Church, she kept her head well and truly below the parapet.

“We’ve been trying to find out more about her, but she really must have been an enigmatic person.”

He added: “It is a complete mystery whether or not she tried to get it published when she wrote it.

“All we know is that she obviously fell in love with Benson and left this as a tribute to the village.”

Research by the Oxford Mail found that before turning her attention to local history, Miss Ditmas had enjoyed fame as one of the first female pioneers of information management.

During the Second World War, she was the General Secretary of the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux (Aslib), and her papers are now held by the National Library of Wales.

They include her acadmeic research into the King Arthur legends.

A hundred members of the Bensington Society attended the recent book launch in Benson Village Hall.

The book, published by Pie Powder Press, also includes a set of historic maps of the village, selected and introduced by expert John Leighfield, and a review of archaeology in the village by Paul Smith.

lsloan@oxfordmail.co.uk Did you know Edith Ditmas? Email the address above or call 01235 813417