Purple flowers in front of the chapel doors

Ursula Aylmer (1928–2020)

It is with great sadness that I pass on the news that Ursula Aylmer, widow of our late Master, Professor Gerald Aylmer (1926–2000), died on 21 December 2020. She was 92 years old.

Born on 25 September 1928 into a military family with Anglo-Irish roots, Ursula Nixon met and married Gerald Aylmer in 1955 while working as an editor at the Oxford University Press. Having accompanied Gerald to Manchester and then York, she arrived at St Peter's alongside her husband in 1979, the same year that St Peter's formally admitted female students for the first time, as well as its first female Fellow, who was endlessly grateful for the strong support she received from Ursula and Gerald.

The Aylmers clearly worked well as a partnership, collaborating both on academic projects and in their joint support of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. The college's junior members were the beneficiaries of the personal kindness and hospitality which she and Gerald readily dispensed. Ursula remained closely involved in all Gerald's scholarly projects, acting as an invaluable copy-editor, as well as finding time to curate and publish a compilation of over thirty historical views of Oxford from the 17th-century onwards (Views of Oxford, OUP, 1989).  

Following retirement from St Peter’s in 1991, Ursula published anthologies on Oxford's culinary history (Oxford Food, an Anthology, 1995) and the Bodleian Library (Most Noble Bodley!: A Bodleian Library Anthology, 2002), while she was also responsible for seeing the manuscript of her late husband's The Crown’s Servants (Oxford, 2002) through the press, choosing the illustrations, correcting the proofs, and compiling the index.

Ursula remained in close contact with St Peter's throughout the rest of her life, most recently attending the special 40th Anniversary Women's Gaudy held in Hilary term 2019. She is survived by her son, Tom.

The college flag will fly at half-mast.

Professor Judith Buchanan
Master, St Peter's College

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Ursula Aylmer