Caldecott Community at Goffs Oak

(This article is a précis of selected information from the 11th to 15th Annual Reports; it outlines the continued progress of the Boarding School during most of the years at Caldecott House, Goffs Oak.)


The Community moved into Claramont House, at Goffs Oak, in June 1924; promptly re-naming it 'Caldecott House'. This followed extensive efforts in raising a mortgage (for the property was to be purchased instead of rented) and significant fund raising, and some generous donations from Community supporters that allowed for the purchase of extra land. In all, the house and some twenty acres of fields were purchased for the sum of £3750.

The rural views were not as idyllic as those of Charlton Court. The house was less compact, with larger rooms, and larger, more numerous passages that gave greater freedom, but entailed more effort in cleaning and sweeping. There was a large Conservatory (Winter Garden) to one side of the front door, and with the removal of the plants, and the addition of some equipment, it soon became a workshop and studio for carpentry, weaving and similar activities. Likewise an unused coach-house was soon converted into a Chapel, and was large enough to invite some twenty village children to the first Christmas nativity play. A walled kitchen garden with an additional orchard helped feed the Community; and a Farm area now had five cows, although pigs were still needed in this early period.

All these alterations depleted the small funds of the Community, and serious pleas for extra funds and practical support of all kinds became the norm. A 'Caldecott Week', a Jumble Sale, a reunion and a Sports day all contributed valuable funds. By the year end there were four vacancies for children and fifty applications were received, showing that the need hadn't diminished.

The first full year (1924-25) saw little change, being treated as 'a year of consolidation' rather than a year of change. Contact with a London Dance establishment resulted in the introduction of Eurythmics classes, and a Sunday evening sing-song became the usual way to round off each week. The larger house allowed for an increase in children and a further fifteen were admitted from fifty five applications.

During this year the Community's education system was inspected by the Board of Education, and in October 1925 the school was recognised as 'Efficient'.

The name George Wheatley (see 'George' by Briony Webb) appeared again in a list of old-pupils reporting that he was working as a Clerk in the firm of 'Carreras' the tobacco importers.

By end of year 1926, expenditure was still at £1000 more than firm income – the start of a worrying time. Chapel collections were still being distributed to various charities. To assist in fund raising, the Community held two successful Garden Fetes, and equally successful 'Caldecott Week' and a repeat of the Christmas nativity play.

The profile of the Community was helped by a visit from the Her Grace, Duchess of Atholl. She was active in the Scottish social service and a Member of Parliament, and at the time of her visit she was serving as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education in the UK Conservative & Unionist Party.

In February 1927, Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE died. He was a long standing member of the Community Council, and for a number of years had acted as Treasurer. With his passing, the Community lost a long time staunch friend.

The difficult times continued and the Annual Report for 1926-27 issued in June 1928, contained very little other than the list of Subscribers and the Balance Sheet. This minimised report was recorded as due to the need for economy and the need to re-structure the Community expenditure. Strangely enough the Caldecott Community Tree logo first appeared on this report, surely adding to the cost of publication.

Economic measures presumably continued through 1928 as an Annual Report was not published. The next 'Annual' Report was a sizeable 34 pages and covered the period 1927 to 1929. The Annual Meeting for 1927 was cancelled due to bad weather but a short report on it is made together with a reprint of a sizeable document written by Lady Betty Balfour in support of the Caldecott Community.

By the end of the period the numbers of children had risen to forty two, ranging from 2½ years to fifteen years of age. Lack of suitable sleeping accommodation prevented further expansion in numbers.

During this period, by analysing the nature of the application forms received, the Council concluded that:-

“ is not the child from the normal home that knocks for admission but, in nearly every instance, it is the child with the abnormal home conditions that is in piteous need of the help that the Community offers.”

The Council, therefore, decided that “... the aim of the Caldecott Community shall in future be to provide a home-school for normal children from abnormal home conditions – homes that had become abnormal through death, sickness, separation. or divorce, while the illegitimate child, the most unfortunate of all, ...shall find a welcome within its doors”.

Not-with-standing the change in selection process, the Policies of, and daily life in, the Community remained the same.

The Annual Meeting in 1928 included several speeches, in support of the work of the Community, made by notable people. These were reported in their entirety.

Sir Josiah Stamp GBE. Bsc. (A railway and manufacturing magnate) took time away from his business to attend this meeting and speak. As did Miss Margery Fry, MA.JP. a Principal of Somerville College. Also the Earl of Lytton GSCI. GSCE. who became Vice-President of the Community and a Council member.

Less serious in content, but equally important for fund raising are the reports on two performances of the play “King Saul” performed at Rudolf Steiner Hall in London, and a Garden Fete held at Caldecott House.

During the period, a 'Young Farmers Club' was started with five girls and one boy. A Caldecott Wolf Cub pack opened, as did a Brownies pack.

The Partial Adoption Scheme continued but with less income to the Community as sponsors tended to continue their support for a child, after the child had left the care of the Community, taking their sponsorship with them.

The lengthy Report concludes with two years of financial analysis.

Unfortunately, formal reports for the next few years have not yet been found. Of course, they may not have existed as the Community was obviously going through a very difficult time, for whatever reason. This seems to be a safe assumption as the next formal report starts at 1932, by which time the Community is housed at Mote House (The Mote) in Maidstone. For the moment, what pressures forced the Council to sell this seemingly suitable property, and move back into rented accommodation, can only be guesswork.


Extracted and Prepared by Bob Lawton, 2016