Katharine Mary Briggs was born in 1898 in Hampstead, London, the eldest daughter of Ernest and Mary Briggs. The Briggs family had its origins in Yorkshire and had made a fortune from the coal mining industry there. Ernest Briggs was a watercolourist who specialised in Scottish scenery. He built Dalbeathie House in Perthshire and moved his family there in 1911, but died in 1913. In 1918 Katharine went up to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, to read English. After obtaining her B.A. degree in 1922, she returned to Perthshire and spent the years between the Wars in writing, producing plays, running an amateur touring company, The Summer Players, and doing Guide and Brownie training. She studied Folklore and the history of seventeenth century England. When the Second World War broke out she taught for a short time in a Polish Refugee School and then joined the medical branch of the W.A.A.F. After the War she went back to Oxford to gain her D.Phil. by a thesis on Folklore in seventeenth century literature. Having obtained this degree, she went on to publish a book called The Personnel of Fairyland about British Fairies. After this she continued to write other and more scholarly books on Folklore, including A dictionary of British folktales in the English language, 1971. She was awarded the D.Litt. in 1969 for her contribution to scholarship and lectured at various conferences and American universities. During this period of her life she lived at the Barn House in Burford. She died in 1980.
From the guide to the The letters and papers of Katharine Mary Briggs, ca.1900-1980, (GB 206 Leeds University Library)