Chrystabel Procter was born in London, the daughter of Joseph Procter, a stockbroker and Elizabeth Brockbank, an artist. She was educated at St Paul's Girls' School, London, then Glynde College of Lady Gardeners, Sussex and she studied gardening abroad in France, Germany and Tuscany. She became Gardener to St Paul's Girls' School 1916-25 and was Gardening Mistress there for the last six years of her appointment. She went on to become Head Gardener of Bingley Training College, Yorkshire 1925-32 and during that period was Sub-Warden of Alcuin Hall at Bingley as well as undertaking advisory work in schools for West Riding County Council. She came to Girton as Garden Steward 1933-45 where she was in charge of about 46 acres of garden and grounds, grass and woodlands. She supervised the planning, administration and financial management of the College gardens and during the war supplied the kitchens with the greater part of their vegetable and fruit requirements. While she was in Cambridge, she was an examiner in Gardening at Homerton Training College. In 1945 she became Estate Steward to Bryanston School in Blandford, Dorset, where she worked closely with a Governor of the school, Lord Forrester. She stayed at Bryanston until her retirement from full-time professional work in 1950.
She then travelled in East Africa and Australia visiting her friend Helen Neatby (Girton 1919) and spending some time lecturing and giving horticultural advice. When Helen Neatby became Principal of Kaimosi Training College, Kenya, a Quaker foundation, Procter moved to live with her and garden there 1957-61. While she was in Africa she was asked to write some children's verses for the Tanganyika Schools Broadcasts which were published in 1955 and 1957. Ill-health caused a return to England and she and Neatby bought a bungalow in Sidcot, moving to a Quaker housing complex some years later. Procter did not become a full member of the Society of Friends until relatively late, in approximately 1966. She was brought up an Anglican but became very interested in Catholicism and was a Roman Catholic for many years, rejoining the faith at the end of her life. She died at Weston-super-Mare on 21 June 1982.
The Brockbanks (Mrs Procter's family) suffered from hereditary deafness which affected Chrystabel from the age of 15. She perfected lip-reading to such an extent that in her adult life many people were unaware that she was deaf.
Throughout her life Chrystabel Procter combined gardening and teaching with writing. Many of her essays and poems were published in newspapers and journals, and her biography of Helen Neatby, 'Helen Neatby. A Quaker in Africa', was privately printed in 1973.
The papers include personal and biographical records, records relating to her career (although there is very little about her period at Bingley Training College) including a chronological sequence kept while Garden Steward at Girton College, and to her time in Africa. There are also records relating to Procter's writing and a number of versions of her autobiography. The collection of family papers includes material of and pertaining to her sister, Joan Beauchamp Procter, zoologist.
The papers were bequeathed to Girton College and sent by Helen Oates, Chrystabel Procter's executrix and friend. One large box of material arrived in 1986 and further parcels early in 1987.
The papers had been partially arranged by Chrystabel Procter. Many were in envelopes or clipped together and labelled in her characteristic hand in red crayon or ink. Helen Oates tied bundles together labelling them Africa, Autobiography, Bryanston, Diaries, Family History, Miscellaneous, Helen Neatby, Poetry, Dr Joan Procter, Publications, Testimonials.
Some rationalisation has taken place in the cataloguing but wherever possible CP's order has been kept.
The papers are currently arranged as: Procter 1: Personal and biographical; Procter 2: Career; Procter 3: Africa; Procter 4: Writing; Procter 5: Family papers.