Caldecott Nursery and Community at Cartwright Gardens
This article is a précis of selected statements out of four of the first five Annual Reports (the 2nd Report has still to be found); it outlines the progress from the original nursery school to the Boarding School status. In the photograph immediately below we have tentatively identified Phyllis Potter as third on the left at the top of the stairs, and Leila Rendel as far right. Who were the other adults? Who were the children? And who took the photograph? Where would the original glass plate negative be?
The Caldecott Nursery began life on the 23rd of October 1911. Firstly managed by Leila Rendel and Phyllis Potter, shortly after that by a small Committee, and there-after by a Council of interested and influential 'friends and family'.
It started, for mornings only, in one borrowed room at 26 Cartwright Gardens, St Pancras, thanks to the generosity of the management of St Pancras Day Nursery and St Pancras Working Girls Club who normally occupied the building most of the day.
The nursery opened with an initial complement of 12 children (some from the overflow of the St Pancras Day Nursery). By the end of the first twelve months the membership had risen to thirty one children, and that made it necessary to take an extra room at No. 26. Later, with an expected further increase in children and no further space available at No. 26, the Directors took on a 3 year lease of the next door building No. 25 (previously run as a boarding house and accommodating a miscellany of mainly semi-professional medical workers and entertainment artists). This brave step was in spite of running costs being twice the expected income, a fact that must have put a significant pressure on 'friends' and family on whose good-will and generosity the Nursery depended.
1913, the Nursery was to be opened both morning and afternoon, with an expected increase in numbers to about 40 children. The Nursery was staffed by voluntary 'teachers' and, in addition, the Directors managed to run a monthly Parents Meeting, as well as organising short country holidays for some of the children.
With running costs of around £200 p.a. and income at only £60 p.a. a strong personal appeal was made for additional funds, as well as furniture and clothing.
The newspaper cutting is from the Westminster Gazette, July 9, 2013, p. 6.
By end of 1914 a formal Constitution had been published, that declared the name of the organisation to be 'Caldecott Community' and one of its principles was to educate its children (now numbering 57 and a long waiting list) using 'none-collective teaching'.
It further declared its aim to develop into a facility that included a Day School, a Mother's Club, a play-hour (after school), a Holiday School (to accommodate needy children during normal school holiday periods), and the provision of Country Holidays, medical inspections and daily dinners.
During this year, country holidays of one week were, indeed, arranged for many of the children, thanks to the efforts of Leila Rendel and Phyliss Potter in arranging suitable accommodation.
Also seen about this time were appeals for 'Hospitality' accommodation to cover periods of difficulty in maintaining child care, for some children, outside the normal function of the Community. An early example of the Director's breadth of vision.
The year was marked by the unfortunate death of a child. By all accounts a well-liked and intelligent child, Patsy Barkis age 7, was missed by all, and a small stone statue representing her was erected. (Efforts to find this statue have, not surprisingly, failed).
Moving into 1915: a Mothers Club was opened to encourage the co-operation of parents with the aims and activities of the Community. It met three times per week until the early war activities and fear of Zeppelin raids reduced the meetings to every Saturday.
Country holidays continued for about 40 children, thanks to the generosity of Mrs Wilhelm Rowntree who, not only loaned a pavilion in Yorkshire, but also paid the fares and provided liberal allowance for food and drink.
The running costs had, by now, increased to a reported £410 p.a. with an income of £110 p.a. but in spite of this mis-match plans were being laid to move to a larger property.
It was sadly recorded, that Edith Rendel, Leila's Aunt, and a staunch supporter of the Community, passed away in August 1915, aged 55.
In spite of this significant loss of support and, no doubt, practical help, the Directors continued with plans to move the Community. One obvious factor in this decision was the fear of war-damage (rightly so as Nos. 19-26 Cartwright Gardens received significant bomb damage); another was that the benefits of country living was evident on the children who managed to attend the country holidays; and finally a move became a necessity as the London Count Council had condemned No 25 Cartwright Gardens and declared it as unsuitable for use as a school.
Country summer holidays had continued, but now for a period of one month, the noted benefits to the children adding support to the Director's view that country living was of great benefit to the welfare of the children.
With no other suitable property to be found in the local area, the Community commenced negotiations to lease Beeleigh Abbey in Maldon, Essex. This failed to get to completion, but the Directors managed to secure a five year lease on an equally suitable property – Charlton Court, in East Sutton, Near Maidstone, Kent.
In June 1917, thirty children (twenty five from the original Nursery) took up residence in this fine country house where, in accordance with the Director's plans the Nursery School was to become a 'Boarding School for Working Parents children'.
Transcribed and Prepared by Bob Lawton, January 2016