The grounds are filled with fruiting plants

(All photographs taken on October 7th, 2014)













and the hum of fruitful labour


The New Building with scaffolding and ladders, to replace the facing timbers


Between guests and groups, Simon and his small team have worked through the summer rejuvenating the buildings and grounds. Taking advantage here of a fine run of late summer sun.




September 8, 2014

Dr. Jeremy Harvey has been a trustee of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust since 1992, having been introduced to PETT through a circuitous route by the late Robert Laslett, David Wills' literary executor and a trustee himself since 1971 (part of the first generation of post-Founder trustees). Jeremy has been a long-serving member of the Management Committee of the Trust, regularly travelling up from his home in Somerset to meetings in Gloucestershire, London, and Oxford; and played a key role in the early formulation of PETT's application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the "Therapeutic Living With Other People's Children" project, among other things. "Long live our creativity", he wrote for the PETT blog in 2013: "We could, if we so chose, grow our creativity and create a happier and more peaceful world in the process...Does any of this chime with you?" His creativity and unfailing sense of joy will be very much missed, as he stands down after more than 20 years; and is characterised by the fact that the arrival of his"Thankyou" to the Trust pre-empted the Trust's 'Thankyou' to him! Here is what he has written:


Thank you PETT


It has been an enjoyable and challenging experience, one that has taught me certain valuable lessons. I already had an interest in and respect for therapeutic communities and their work. Thanks to Maurice Bridgland’s book on educational pioneers in residential work I knew of David Wills and his achievements. I had learnt from George Lyward’s work at Finchden Manor that children and young people in need can amaze us if they have champions. As a trustee I soon saw that PETT was trying to champion an all-age field of real need. But speaking up for, collecting material about, providing research opportunities and the exchange of good practice in a not-well-known field is important, essential (for who else will do it?), and unglamorous work - and does not (yet) attract funding. Nor does it survive without hard work, dedication, determination, and a great deal of sacrifice on the part of those who keep the place and our organisation going.


I have learnt much, then, in these years and received far more than I have given. I owe a big THANK YOU for PETT’s setting and buildings; also for:


  • numerous lifts from Cheltenham station to PETT and back with especial thanks to John Cross; and the chance to spend time in London and Oxford before or after meetings;

  • PETT’s responsiveness to change and big challenges, and its survival in the face of difficulties which have included the indifference of successive governments to our kind of work;

  • the courage and determination of the chairs and trustees to keep PETT’s work ongoing and to care well for all concerned, and the professionalism shown;

  • the creativity and resilience that people have drawn on;

  • friendships made, the presence of good humour, insights gained, generous hospitality, and residential and social visits with family and friends;

  • the expansion of the archive and its breadth and richness; the chance to place my Lyward papers in it; the conferences and special events held; the success of ‘Other People’s Children’ and its affirming the experience and stories of others;

May PETT and all associated with it find strength, satisfaction and success in their dreams and endeavours.


Jeremy Harvey

21 July, 2014


Simon has opened up a new path through our wood at the bottom of the field. Listen to the birds and wind by clicking on the Play arrow (recorded June 17th, 2014); and take the visual tour below.


woodland tour 01

woodland tour 02

woodland tour 03

woodland tour 04

woodland tour 05

woodland tour 06

woodland tour 07



PETT has learned of a bequest of £20,000, and the gift of his books related to working with children, from Frederick William Marchant Garner, known to Maureen and Craig of the PETT team as "Bill".

Bill Garner was born in1920. Prior to the Second World War he was a young clerk in the Gas Light and Coke Company, the forerunnner of British Gas plc. In the Army from 1940-1945 he discovered a genius for teaching other solders, and after the War found that he had special skills in working with "maladjusted" children, and children others found difficult to teach. He became a Quaker, and he knew of, met and was ultimately inspired by David Wills.  But the "crown of my whole teaching life", as he called his work with the 'C' stream of an 'ordinary city school', Ivydale School, in Peckham, was very much his own invention. Here, over many years, he developed and proved the success of an inclusive/engaging/participating/non-punitive approach to remedial work and to teaching the children regularly sent into the lowest stream of an urban school. The kind of work David Wills and others did in large houses in the countryside as part of supportive teams, Mr. Garner did in a city school, with the approval and support of his headteachers.


It was through his interest in David Wills and in following up his own work that Mr. Garner found the P.E.T.T.  - that, and a friend connected to the Internet. Having met over the phone, PETT archivist Craig Fees posted a copy of Maurice Bridgeland's "Pioneer Work With Maladjusted Children" to Mr. Garner. Then, over a period of three years, from 2006 to 2009, Craig recorded a series of 24 telephone interviews with Mr. Garner about his life, and especially about his work with the C stream at Ivydale School. A 25th interview was recorded by one of our volunteers, a young person who had been in special education himself.

PETT Secretary Maureen Ward transcribed a paper Mr. Garner wrote for us, which we hope to get permission upload to the website, along with selections from his recordings - watch this space. He had a warm voice and a special sense of humour, with an unshakeable aplomb, and a delight in teaching. If any children he taught read this, please get in touch: What do you remember?



The recordings of the Child Care History Network's Autumn 2013 conference,  "Radical Then, Radical Now: Care and Education in Communities" - A conference to celebrate the centenary of the Little Commonwealth and Homer Lane, and to reflect on the future of residential therapeutic child care and education - are now available on the CCHN website.


The conference was held in association with Hilfield Friary, the site of The Little Commonwealth, and supported by the Planned Environment Therapy Trust.


Go to the Conference landing page







Welcomes and Introductions,with apologies for coming in late on Brother Hugh's very warm welcome:


Brother Hugh, SSF: Welcome to Hilfield Friary (site of the Little Commonwealth)


David Lane, Chair of CCHN - Marking the 5th anniversary of the Child Care History Network


Craig Fees: The conference: overview of the day


Judith Stinton: The Little Commonwealth (Introduction, leading to the Tour)




The Walking Tour


Judith Stinton, "Round the Houses": A walking tour of the Little Commonwealth buildings and site




Presentations: Session One


Michael Fielding, "Self-government, shared responsibility and the possibility of radical democratic education"


Albert Lamb, "The Rescue of Childhood: Homer Lane and A.S. Neill"


Brother Philip Bartholomew, SSF: St. Francis School, Hooke, and the place and role of Hilfield Friary and the Society of Saint Francis in community living, service, and education


Charles Sharpe, “Freedom cannot be given. It is taken by children and demands the privilege of conscious wrong-doing." Has Homer Lane's thesis space to be accommodated in the 21st century?




 Planting the centenary celebration tree




Presentations: Session Two


Emily Charkin, "Building and Learning: Exploring the fundamentals of radical education and child care"


John Diamond, 'the children of the dangerous and perishing classes'




Presentations: Session Three


David Gribble, "Similar ideas in dissimilar settings"


David Lane: Gathering thoughts of the Future: CCHN's next five years