The Caldecott Community began life in 1911 in St Pancras, London, the inspiration of 28 year old Leila Rendel. The effects of the First World War on London, and Miss Leila's belief in the need to create a healthy environment for her ever-expanding group of working-class nursery children, led her to move the Community out into the countryside in 1917; the first of several moves into country estates, from Kent to Dorset, until the Community finally returned to Mersham-le-Hatch, in Kent, in 1947, with a 50 year lease.
Miss Leila led the Community until 1967 and sadly died in 1969, soon to be followed by her co-Director Ethel Davies (Miss Dave) who died in 1974. The loss of these two iconic leaders was the beginning of the end of a long and succcessful era of pioneering child care.
In 1997, as the 50 year lease on the magnificent Mersham-le-Hatch property near Ashford in Kent neared its end, the Caldecott Community changed its name to the Caldecott Foundation, and has continued to evolve and develop its work, both in the Ashford/Smeeth area of Kent, and in Nottinghamshire.
A wealth of history
As can be imagined, the move from the extensive Mersham-le-Hatch property, and the transition in the nature of the Foundation's work, uncovered a wealth of documents, photographs, artefacts, and general memorabilia from as far back as the early days of the St. Pancras nursery school, the amount of which outstripped the Foundation's storage capacity. Concerned at the potential loss of so much of their history and heritage, a small group of ex-Caldecott pupils stepped in and retrieved as much as was reasonable from the surplus material. They researched potential homes for the material, visiting suitable archives, and in 2007 decided to place their collection in a specialist facility called The Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre, in rural Gloucestershire.
Having discovered the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre in the mid-2000s and placed their archives there in 2007, the members of the Caldecott Association then helped to pioneer the award-winning "Archive Weekends" as a way of conserving, cataloguing, sharing, and adding information and value to theirs and the Community's history and heritage. The Caldecott Archive continued to grow as ex-pupils and staff donated, or lent, their carefully (and sometimes not so carefully) kept photographs and personal documents related to their time with the Community. Some people even delved into their past and have written, or recorded, their memories for the benefit of the Caldecott Archive. (If you have memories, they would be very welcome!).
Over a decade after welcoming the Caldecott Archives, the Planned Environment Therapy Trust too the decision to wind itself up, and transferred its assets to a sister charity, the Mulberry Bush Organisation. The Archive and Study Centre became part of what was renamed MB3, with the archive collections renamed the Planned Environment Therapy Archive.
Discovering the Internet
From the outset, the Association has sought to make the history and heritage of the Caldecott Community as widely known and as accessible as possible. We feel there is a great deal to be learned from its 100 year-plus continuous history. Needless to say, we began to turn our attention to the Internet.
Our first website began life in 2010 as a site-within-a-site on the Planned Environment Therapy Trust's "Therapeutic Living With Other People's Children" website - which is still very much worth going to! [you can find it on the UK WebArchive here]. As that project came to an end, and with the help of the then archivist, we built a new website, safely nested inside the Planned Environment Therapy Trust's. Then, in 2013, when we felt we were ready, and again with the support of the Archive and Study Centre and its archivist, the late Bob Lawton took us to our first stand-alone website with our very own domain name: caldecott.org.uk.
Our new website was first harvested by the Internet Archive in 2017, and can still be seen in part today by clicking on caldecott.org.uk. As part of its wider mission to support and encourage dissemination, participation, and engagement in the history and heritage of therapeutic environments, the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive still managed the annual hosting and occasional troubleshooting of the website: but it was created and filled by Bob Lawton, Barry Northam and other Caldecottians, and the Caldecott Association finally had its very own digital domain.
In 2019, with a change of direction at MB3, and their decision to end support for the Association's website, we took a deep breath, gave ourselves a new domain name - caldecottassociation.org.uk - and re-launched the website again. There is a greater emphasis now on the Association and our members, but we hope everyone can enjoy and learn from the pages we put together here. We are always happy for feedback, and to hear new ideas!
Caldecott Association member Matthew King, left, with Bob Lawton, in thoughtful communion with computer and Internet, during an Archive Weekend.
A slice of caldecott.org.uk