Archive News

Happenings and goings on in the Archive and Study Centre: Events, researchers, discoveries, additions. For latest articles added to the Archive and Study Centre section of the website, click here.

Wenningtonian Sam Doncaster Writes:


In late April of 2016, Pat received an email via the Wennington website (which sends enquiries to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. email address). It had come from a mysterious Norwegian address.

The writer said that his mother had worked at “a Wennington school” as a “kitchen maid” in 1948 and that he had some photographs of this period and would we like them?

“Of course”, she replied, and there then sprang up a correspondence and numerous photos were duly emailed. We could immediately identify some of the people and places, but some had to be passed on to those Wenningtonians of that era who we knew to have a computer. Their responses were generally of amazement that such pictures could emerge 70 years later – most of the faces were recognised.

But almost the best photo was that of a couple standing outside a caravan which several people identified as being Dr Kurt Cassirer and his wife, a name only known to this older generation and to eagle-eyed readers of Energy Unbound:


thingsrud cassirers    

“I had been teaching a German Jewish boy coming from a family dis­tinguished in art and philosophy. One day he disappeared; the police had snatched him, he was over sixteen and they interned him. Later he was stupidly packed off to Canada. His father was also interned, and when liberated from the camp on the Isle of Man,[Kurt] joined our staff as a language teacher. In the camp he, Kurt Cassirer, joined with Paul Hamburger and Alfred Schweitzer (a physiologist of whom more will be said later) to occupy themselves in making music. All three met again to play to us. It was an unforgettable occasion, almost unbelievable in its quality. Paul Hamburger of course played the piano, Kurt Cassirer the violin and Alfred Schweitzer the violin or viola. For me the Bach Double Concerto is forever tied to the memory of that performance. All the fifty children were present and it seemed wise to tell the juniors that they need not come back after the interval. Not one of them wanted to go. They insisted on staying, from the teenagers right down to the five-year olds, for the whole two-and-a-half hours, listening with rapt faces.

That was the beginning of a long association with all three. Paul Hamburger began to come frequently and toyed with the idea of joining the staff, not only to teach Music, but also Mathematics. He was at that time, just after release from internment, working in a factory canning peas. Later he began to bring with him the soprano Esther Salaman, whom I knew as a former Bedales girl.”


Having started at Wennington in 1951, I recall the visits of Paul Hamburger where we would have an evening of superb piano playing at the closest of quarters. None more so than on the occasion when he was in full flow with one of his “firework” pieces when a string broke in the bowels of the Chappell grand piano. PH was not to be stopped. Raiding parties were dispatched to collect the right string from one of the upright pianos in the school while PH took the Chappell apart, installed and tuned the replacement string, and the recital continued! All of this in front of a rapt audience with PH providing a running commentary in his pronounced German accent – very exciting. He would always finish with a brilliant musical “lollipop” – to use Sir Thomas Beecham’s terminology, with countless encores.

 We are determined to find a photograph of Paul Hamburger to go here. Can you help?

Meanwhile, there is an image of him



We have only just learned (May 2016) that it was this incident that caused PH to start a fund to enable the school to purchase a Steinway grand piano. I can clearly remember the day that the new piano arrived – a dark winter’s evening when the lorry arrived, unusually, at the front door of the school.   Its precious cargo was then removed, carefully wrapped and on its edge. A special trolley was then employed to wheel it through the front door and into the music room where it had its legs attached and then turned upright.   I imagine that it then had to be tuned although I cannot recall that happening.

We now had two grand pianos with the Steinway always covered in its special coat and only used with permission and threats of dire consequences if it were ever to be scratched!

But I also recall the visit and Sunday evening talk by Alfred Schweitzer in the year before he was killed in the Alps – he was, to me at least, a very glamorous figure as a “mountaineer” in the period immediately after the ascent of Everest when such men were so much in the public eye. We were all shocked when Kenneth announced his death.


This entire story took on yet another turn when our Norwegian correspondent, Leif Thingsrud, informed us that his mother had left Wennington at the end of the school year and then gone to work in London as an au pair to the Schweitzer family and the young Julian, who later attended Wennington as a pupil.


schweitzer energy-unbound

Having always known the name “Kurt Cassirer” from 1951, but never having seen or met him, it was wonderful to finally have an image of this man who had played such a significant part in the musical life of Wennington.


The Caldecott Association's second Archive Week of 2016 again produced and out-produced (as per expectation!):

  • 86 photographs scanned and added to the systemcald21st thumb
  • 260 colour negative strips scanned (that's a lot of negatives! Well done, Barry)
  • Over 2.5 hours of audio recording: One hour of discussion by Jean and Sandra about Sandra's photograph album; an hour and a half fascinating oral history interview with Sandra
  • An entire box of previously-accessioned miscellaneous Caldecott collections sorted and catalogued (thanks, Bob)
  • A morning and afternoon sorting simply complex issues on the website
  • Caldecott (and Mulberry Bush!) teacher Desmond Draper's 1966 talk to the Association for Special Education, South Hants & West Sussex Branch at a conference in Havant - transcribed.
  • A large plastic box of jumbled and unsorted photographs - hundreds and hundreds, including an entire photograph album - grouped and sorted, and prepared for more recent Caldecottians to identify and sort further when they have time (this was a mammoth task contributed to by everyone)...
  • ...and a box of salvaged objects, including a gong
  • An entire recorded interview with the late Mike and Rosemary Clover transcribed (thankyou Eileen and Jean), and a start made on an interview with Betty Rayment
  • Two VHS video tapes digitised
  • A new collection of Caldecott and child-care related postcards and publications gathered by Robert sleeved, accessioned and prepared for cataloguing (good work, Craig)
  • Decisions taken, and work taken forward, on the late Elizabeth Lloyd's book about Caldecott, "The Story of a Community": two steps closer to publication.

And no doubt other things. AND, we played host to an inspirational visit from Jessica and Matt Turtle and Jane Rothery, who are spearheading the creation of the Museum of Homelessness - see their website at


cald pot thumb  cald gong thumb  cald urn thumb 

It is always good to see new people coming to the Archive Weeks, and to find ourselves doing new and different tasks with new and different material; getting to know one another and the people and heritage of the Caldecott Community more and more deeply. It was a phenomenally robust and resilient enterprise, created and creatively sustained primarily by women through and past the turbulence of the first half of the 20th century, celebrating its centennary in 2011. A lot of dynamic heritage to learn from.


One of the Trust's recording studios: prepared and waiting


Third stage in sorting jumbled photographs: two or three more stages to go


The communal art of transcribing oral history interviews


Ghandi and the Caldecott Community, 1931


48 pence: A day in the life of a child (1924)

Wennington Archive Week 2016: May 9 -13

wenn2016 rowsatworkFormer students from Wennington School began the tradition of Archive Weeks back in 2004, and continue to press the horizons of a special way of gathering together and making use of the Archive: Over the years they welcomed others to join them in their Archive Weeks - former children from other school communities; then interested academics; then the wider public, in the Common Roots Events first held in 2014. This year's Common Roots Event was a corker, and deserves a page on its own.

wenn2016 sam-stuart320This year Wennington welcomed two new researchers, who are working on very different but fundamentally - existentially? -  related areas. Mike Phillips of the University of Leeds is developing his Master's degree theme on urban alternative schools and education from the 1960s to the 1990s, and consulted the LibEd and David Gribble collections, as well as diving into the library. Annabella Pollen of the University of Brighton began a survey of our collections to extend her current research on Kibbo Kift and its related organisations, looking into the Little Commonwealth established in Dorset in 1914 (led by Homer Lane, and a direct influence on A.S. Neill and his Summerhill School), and into the Q Camps - which grew out of Grith Fyrd, the self-governing/self-sufficiency self-help organisation for long-term unemployed men, and with direct relations in Braziers Park, Forest School, and Northfield Military Psychiatric Hospital, as well as Otto Shaw and Red Hill School.

2015 072 01 02 01 01Apart from that, Wennington's Archive Week 2016 resulted in 203 scanned images of documents and photographs, not counting the scans of the 279 pages of Kenneth Barnes' first, unshortened version of his story of Wennington School, Energy Unbound - a typescript which Kenneth Barnes gave to education academic Michael Fielding in 1977, and which Michael gave to the Archive last year (In his letter to Michael Fielding, Kenneth said the "unshortened manuscript" was "massive", "and contains some matter that will be of less interest to the general reader than to those who knew the school". We shall find out). The typescript was OCRed, and is being corrected and prepared for future research by Wenningtonians. Two manuscript Sunday talks given by Kenneth Barnes to students of Bedales in the late 1930s were transcribed, and the horizons of the Archive Week were pushed even further as several Wenningtonians asked to see their files; and of course on May 10th Wennington co-hosted a third very special annual Common Roots Event on Community and Re-Creation/Re-creation through community.



"I may have told you that a lot of my papers pre-1940 were destroyed by a fire in a room at the school shortly after that date."

This virtually throw-away line in Kenneth Barnes' 1977 letter to Michael Fielding tells us a huge amount which is not -as far as we know - recorded anywhere else. It tells us about an incident in the early life of Wennington School (anyone recall this?), which must have been extremely frightening in the context of a new boarding school trying to find its feet in the early stages of the War; it tells us about the absolute loss of documents which would be essential in a full biography of Kenneth and Frances in the years leading up to the founding of the school - what is lost is always important information; and it gives context and an added sense of their value to the Bedales talks and other surviving pre-1940 materials which are in the surviving Kenneth Barnes Collection. We know all of this only thanks to Michael Fielding's interest forty years ago, the fact that he has saved this correspondence all these years, and through his generosity in identifying the Archive and placing this material here. Thankyou!


volunteers thomas

A tangle of cables in boxes: Colours, lengths, types.

Television cables, video cables, audio cables, microphone cables, headphone cables and speaker cables, telephone cables, electrical cables,
three pin, two pin, round pin,
splitters, joiners, random adapters,
scart and XLR and RCA connectors, HDMI and DVI Connectors, ethernet connectors, male connectors, female connectors,
2.5mm, 3.5mm, 1/4"; strange and weird and undefined connectors,
yellowed plastic 50s earphones,
reel to reel and audio-cassette, mini-disc, DAT and dictaphone pieces,
extension tubes and darkroom equipment...

A mixed and fallen pile of leaves from 25 years of gathering and activity.

The world of archives in a nutshell.


When volunteers come into the Archive, it's like rain on the desert. So much happens that can't happen in any other way.

When someone chooses to use their two weeks holiday to come regularly in, it is amazing. Many thanks to Thomas Fees (inset), and to all our volunteers.


dennie-briggs 20160413Weighing in at just over three new-born baby elephants, 44 cartons and one mailing tube containing books, papers, tape recordings, and memorabilia relating to the life and work of teacher, clinical/research psychologist and therapeutic community pioneer Dennie Briggs are shaking off the California sunshine and making their way by sea to the Planned Environment Therapy Trust's Archive and Study Centre in Gloucestershire.


Dennie entered the therapeutic community world as America cranked up for the Korean War.  Having served in the Navy during World War II, in 1950 Dennie was called back in,  and by a circuitous route which took in the mental and emotional screening of recruits at the Newport (Rhode Island) Naval Training Station, by way of psychological research for the launching of the first atomic-powered submarine, and a locked ward in California where he was suddenly asked by the psychiatrist in charge - called away on an emergency - to take responsibility for a group meeting that he was simply sitting in on ("At one point a patient confronted me and asked if I was scared. I said I was...") - found himself working with the great American psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Harry Wilmer in the admissions ward of the Oakland, California, Naval Hospital, then met and worked for a month with "father of the therapeutic community" Maxwell Jones at Belmont Hospital in the Spring of 1956, before heading off to Japan to develop military therapeutic communities there. And then...


But have a look at the interview archivist Craig Fees recorded with Dennie in 1991, in which the reality and richness of the story outstrips imagination - read that here; and you can also read Dennie's own written accounts of his work in Japan, in the California prison system, and more, in a special series commissioned by the Archive and Study Centre - read them here.

After Japan, his therapeutic community adventure eventually took Dennie to Dingleton Hospital, in Scotland, where he worked again with Maxwell Jones, and to the Henderson Hospital in London, where charge nurse Ian Milne met him, as Ian recalled in Issue 8 of the late Joint Newsletter in July 2003. It was during 'the revolutionary days' of 1966-69, with plenty of characteristic anecdotes of Henderson and Dennie's role there -

"Also, there was some work Dennie was doing with Hell's Angels, off site, in which he invited me to assist. Me, with my long hippy-like hair and pink tie-dyed T shirt. One of the Angels told me that I was just like them, as I was "make love not war‟ and they were "make war not love‟. It was certainly hairy at times, but it is a tribute to Dennie that nothing ever got out of hand. I certainly learnt a lot about the structure of Hell‟s Angel‟s gangs, and how to work in an ethnographic way (although, I confess, we did not not describe it that way then."

"Dennie - Not a Forgotten Hero!" (pp. 43-44)


An acute observer of the current social and psychological world, Dennie maintains an interactive website at, with an online Living Archive, and ongoing discussion and commentary. He is an active moderator and contributor to the Therapeutic Community Open Forum email discussion list; and authored  A Life Well Lived: Maxwell Jones, a memoir, published by Jessica Kingsley.

With a third of a ton of unique documentation on its way to England, it is an exciting time in Toddington.