Kathleen Syer, gardener and textile worker, b. 17.08.1890 (see electoral register, 1939)

From Elizabeth Lloyd, "Story of a Community"


Charlton Court: I thought very beautiful: especially the blue carpet and the candles and there was Kathleen Syer, who was a friend of my aunt's at the harmonium and Phyllis Potter leading the singing with that lovely voice and later telling a story in such a way that it was impossible not to listen. I had never experienced anything like this life before and I thought it wonderful.


Goffs Oak: The drains appear to have been defective and when visitors were expected, Kathleen Syer, who was in charge of the garden, would be seen going round with a large can of very strong disinfectant which she put down the drains; the smell of the former masking, it was to be hoped, the smell of the latter.


The Mote: [Elizabeth Lloyd writing about her:]

Crafts, carpentry and weaving played a considerable and valuable part in the life of the Community. The weaving looms were owned by a very remarkable woman who was also in charge of the garden. She was extremely versatile, being a wonderful gardener who could grow anything it seemed and she was the most highly skilled craftswoman I have ever met. She had been at the Community since its early days at East Sutton, just after the first world war: she was a great friend of my aunt and I remembered her well from childhood days. She taught generations of children to do the most intricate and beautiful embroidery in almost mediaeval kind of colours, bright and clear, and to weave expertly and in equally lovely colouring. She was an artist to her finger-tips and could turn her hand to anything: cooking, organ-playing.

She was also excellent company, with a caustic, witty tongue. She worked at the Community until her late sixties, when she retired. She lived to be over eighty, her company stimulating and amusing to the end. Her name was Kathleen Syer. I give her name because she must have been known to anyone who was at the Community from about 1920 to the 1960s.

I saw Kathleen Syer in action at the Community after I had been there a week.

The little bell that tinkled so frequently at meals, either for 'silence' or to end the silence or 'less noise' or 'tables can clear' was heard in the middle of one breakfast. Miss Leila said she had something to say and would everyone please listen.

We supposed visitors were coming and could the house please be cleaner, tidier or altogether quite different. A visitor is coming and the house must be cleaner. "And who," asks Miss Leila "scrubs the East Hall and when was it last done?"

Miss F. says very loudly that it is done at least three times a week. Miss Syer rises then sits down again. Miss Leila and Miss Dave converse together: the bell rings again, “And who", asks Miss Leila ominously, "scrubs the Front steps?"

Miss Syer gets up again and with great purpose walks to the Top Table, "I do" she says. There is such a silence as is seldom experienced. She walks very slowly back to her seat and site down with a kind of triumphant air about her. The bell rings yet again and we hear "tables may clear".

No other or future reference was ever made again to the scrubbing of the front-door steps. I realised what a very great deal I had to learn about the conduct of the Community affairs.


On arrival at The Mote, the three staff who had been left behind did not rush to greet us, in fact they did not seem at all pleased to see us: however, supper was produced and we went to bed in the basement where we were rocked to sleep by the deafening noise of guns and rattling shutters.

The next morning, Kathleen Syer, who had stayed behind, painted a gloomy picture of life in Kent and an even gloomier one of the countless hours she and her helpers had re-packed and re-labelled everything. We were unnerved by this for there the labels were, hanging from every bed, chair, table, stool, bookcase, locker and cupboard - absolutely nothing had been forgotten: were all these to be moved again, for the second time?