Early Pestalozzi Children Project
The Early Pestalozzi Children Project is about a group of deprived European and Tibetan children who were taken into care during the early 1960s and who later became estranged from their care community. The story of their experiences has been all but lost. This Project aims to locate these people and record their story. This project is organised by two former child residents of the Pestalozzi Children’s Village, who arrived there in the very early days of the charity.
The Pestalozzi Children’s Village was originally planned to be a surrogate home for children from deprived backgrounds. At first it was planned, primarily, for European refugee children in German DP camps following the Second World War, along with a small number of British children. It was founded on the philosophies of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, an 18/19th Century Swiss humanitarian. The English Village followed the example of a similar community in Switzerland. The intention was to care for the children right through their education.
The children – who began to arrive from 1959 – had a generally idyllic life to begin with, living on a 170 acre estate near Hastings, with a 19th Century manor house thrown in. They had exceptionally caring staff and teachers and were successfully integrated into the local community. In 1963, a group of Tibetan children were also accepted from northern India.
By 1965, it is thought that the Pestalozzi Children’s Village Trust made a decision to focus the charity exclusively on third world countries. The existing European children, in the main, departed as soon as they had finished their secondary education, or could go no further. They were either returned to their previous homes, reluctantly in some cases, or stayed in the UK to find themselves a future life. For many of them this separation meant that they had, in effect, lost their home and surrogate family.
Subsequent decades have seen several articles and books make mention of the early years of the Pestalozzi Children’s Village. In many cases they have reflected the story inaccurately or incorrectly.
The Early Pestalozzi Children Project was established in 2013 with the aim of recovering the European and early Tibetan story, as far as possible, through oral history recordings and other related research. By gathering and presenting this story, we hope to not only demonstrate what a remarkable experience it was but also present a record that will be of value to future research into the charitable care of children.
Our hope is to record the past to influence the future.
Can you remember?
The Early Pestalozzi Children Project seeks contributions of personal memories of the community’s early days, along with related documents, photographs and ephemera. Anyone who was a worker, volunteer, holiday family or supporter is most welcome to contact us.
For further information, please contact the Project Organisers via our website.
Our intention is to eventually produce a publication telling this story, with supporting information gleaned from records of the time, along with input from surviving adults and their families.