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.

Wennington Week at PETT Monday 14th – Friday 18th May 2012

This event was the10th Anniversary of the first reconnaissance gathering at PETT in 2002. Another very successful, productive and rewarding week!

Craig has written since, “There were 440 scans during the week, and that alone is amazing - Based on past experience, for the whole of the HLF project (18 months) we had projected a total of 350 digitisations!!”   Sue Blake’s photos taken during the 1960’s (over 100) were scanned – also David Richardson’s album containing some superb photos of hot air balloons.  Kenneth and Eleanor’s Christmas Newsletters from 1975 until Kenneth’s death were listed, scanned, and catalogued – Brian Hill’s talks were catalogued – and the contents of a folder containing testimonials written by Roger Gerhardt, and letters and cards to Roger from pupils and staff after the school closed, were listed.  They have still to be scanned and catalogued.  At one point Craig, Roger Dingley and Pat Mitchell met to discuss the way forward regarding the future of the Wennington web-site – to be modernised and divorced from the Other People’s Children site now that the project has come to an end.

Over the whole week there were eleven Wenningtonians, which is a manageable number when it comes to using equipment and making demands of the four PETT members of staff; Craig, Gemma, and Chris have now been joined by Matt Naylor who was able to oversee the cataloguing.  All eleven had been before so it was easier to get going again – knowing each other’s strengths and capabilities made it possible to get everyone involved and get a system going.  Some have learned new skills including operating the dishwasher!  Others who are technophobes were happy to listen to, or read through, and summarise non-confidential transcriptions of recordings.  It was good to know that the system we have been working on for several years actually works!  Having entered onto the database, last Summer, a description of the tea service presented to Kenneth and Frances by Old Scholars at the 21st Birthday celebration as being silver, then, later, reading the letter from Mildred Whitehouse in which she described a stainless steel service, we were able, this week, to go into the database, find the photo, and change the entry.

patmattThere have been a couple of ground-breaking ‘firsts’.  In 2002, at the first gathering, Craig suggested that Wenningtonians might be trained to interview and record each other.  Out of fear?, embarrassment?, lack of know-how? this had not developed until this year, when it happened quite naturally without any training, Jonathan Adamson sensitively interviewed and recorded Penny Jackson’s Oral History.

The second ‘first’ was that contact was made by Skype to a friend of Tom James who lives in Colorado.  Derek had been in England at the time of Tom’s death and had attended the funeral along with Craig, Gemma, Ernie, Andy Brighton and John Pentith.  Via Skype Derek told us of how he and Tom ran away from the East End of London to Ledston Hall School (for maladjusted boys), near Castleford, where Derek’s brother was incarcerated, demanding to be allowed to stay.  Derek was eventually fostered but Tom was sent to Ledston, where he was taught by Sam Doncaster’s parents, before being transferred to Wennington.

There was emptiness at PETT without Tom.  His urgency to ‘get things done’, his words of wisdom, and particularly, during the evenings, in the sitting room of Barns House, Tom would hold court, with a glass (or two) of Scotch, and we would sit and listen to his jokes, his stories of his youth and Union days.

On the last morning, at a gathering before lunch to discuss where we’d got to and what could be done work-wise before leaving, we spent some time remembering Tom.  Katy Pentith, during the week, had written three poems about Tom, which she read to the assembled group.  The Wennington box, which was made by Tom as a mobile office for the Secretary of the Association was on display, and mention was made of the Senate Minute Book which Tom had bought, had embossed, and donated to the school. Tom hated morning meetings because he knew exactly what he wanted to do and considered them a waste of his time, so we tried to keep it short.  But – in true Wennington fashion one thought led to another, and somehow we ended up listening to a very interesting history of Ingmanthorpe Hall, given by David Long.

The third ’first’ was that, instead of depending on the Wennington Co-operative Self-catering Company (which usually meant an un-balanced diet of supermarket quiches and pizzas, a surplus of French bread, and not enough vegetables),  the lovely Vicky (PETT chef) provided us with delicious lunches and evening meals.  All we had to do was heat up, eat up, and wash up.

Despite being busy there was time to get away and relax.   One morning Sam and Richard Pemble felt the need to be creative and took themselves off to a quiet room for a couple of hours to build a Stirling engine which was demonstrated at the lunch table.    There was also the opportunity to wander off to enjoy the large, peaceful, garden – after all the Archive Centre is not just full of old records  and archivists – it lives up to its title and provides a truly therapeutic environment.

Craig commented on the week itself – “It was an extraordinarily positive and affirming occasion. It was/is one of the ways that the heart and core of Wennington (great because it was real, with flaws, certainly not despite them) continues to unfold and grow on into the world.”

Pat Mitchell
May 2012

The Wennington School Association are in the process of updating their website.  Currently, more information about the school and about the work of the Old Scholars Association can be found at or


caldecottIn another productive and immensely enjoyable event, former children from the Caldecott Community gathered at PETT on Friday May 25th for their Archive 'Weekend' (and a real weekend this time!). 

Not put off by the glorious sunshine, the six former children and two partners managed to get through numerous tasks during their three day visit, completing an amazing amount of work on their archives as well as adding lots of new material too.

With two former children joining the group for their first Archive Weekend, there was the opportunity for new one-to-one life story recordings, as well as plenty of time for group reminiscences and exchange of memories.

A particularly interesting conversation occurred between two former children, who had been at Caldecott at different times – one at Mersham-le-Hatch, and one a little earlier at the Mote in Kent.  The reflections on the changing community, their impressions of the staff and their compared experiences made for fascinating listening and a fascinating recording!   

Personal photographs were scanned and added to the Archive; lots of oral history transcribing and summarising was undertaken; the Caldecott 'birthday book' was but one item that was scanned or photographed and added to the digital collections. Ley Melrose's Caldecott films, featuring colour and black and white footage from the 1950s was screened, and Moley's painting of  Mersham-le-Hatch - set on an easel and surrounded by a group of enthusiastic former children on Sunday morning, sharing memories and discoveries in the painting - was added to the Caldecott Collection (watch this space for a fantastic interview with the artist, talking us through the picture!).

Members of the Wennington School Old Scholars Association joined the team at PETT last week for Wennington's annual archive event, five full days dedicated to working on their school archives – and what a productive week it was!   

Over five days the eleven Wenningtonians managed to digitise over 440 items, cataloguing several collections including (but not exclusively) material from former French teacher Roger Gehrhardt ; Kenneth and Eleanor Barnes' Christmas newsletters; the Sunday Assembly talks of teacher and poet Brian Hill,  given by his widow, Irene Hill, herself a former music teacher at the school.  Many personal photographs were brought, shared and scanned, as well as material from the Wennington School Senate book and some talks from Headmaster Kenneth Barnes' time at Bedales School.   

wawArchivist Matt Naylor spent most of the week under a pile of boxes as he migrated the existing Kenneth Barnes (KCB) catalogue into our new database system.  He also found time to conduct a full overview of the material, and compiled a long-overdue detailed description of the extensive Wennington School Archives that came to PETT in 1998.  

Over twelve previous oral histories were summarised and catalogued - On the experience of reading and listening to other people's reflections on the School while writing summaries of them, one ex-pupil remarked that it was like 'shining a torch into the darkest corners of a room'.   Furthermore, four new recordings were made -, one with a former pupil interviewing another for over two hours.  

But that's not all!  Transcripts were made of Trinity Catholic School's production of 'Mal-er-juhs-ted', and a short screening of the performance gave a flavour of the work involved in that aspect of the 'Therapeutic Living' project.  Material was written and recorded for the Wennington website, which itself was discussed at length, the group deciding to push forward to devise and maintain their own Joomla website (watch this space for more on that!)

An interesting discussion was had about the possibility of becoming involved with an international peace-tree planting project which prompted Craig to bring out a large metal pole which had once been in the grounds of the Henderson Hospital, and has inscribed upon it  in Japanese Kanji characters 'Sekai jinrui ga heiwa de arimasu you ni' ["Praying for peace for all people's of the world]".  In typical Wennington fashion, plans were soon hatched to create a roof and base for this and create a feature in the grounds of the Barns Centre.  If this could coincide with a tree planting ceremony, even better!

A palpable absence this week was Tom James, the Wennington Association's 'PETT liaison' who sadly passed away very recently.  But in what was a PETT Archive Weekend first, members of the Wennington group held a cross-Atlantic Skype conversation with  Tom's oldest friend, with whom Tom fled from the East End of London to Ledston School in Yorkshire when both were children. Tom was eventually allowed to return and stay, leading him to say that he was the only person who had run away to a school for maladjusted children; and it was from there that he went on to Wennington. It was a wonderful conversation.   Poems that one ex-pupil wrote were also read aloud to the group, touching powerful shared emotions and memories of a remarkable man; and after some reflection, there was a general consensus that Tom, who was always one for getting on and getting the job done, would have been proud of all that had been achieved during the Archive Week.

That's not to say it was all work and no play.   As always, this event brought people together, creating a time and space to reflect and reminisce, a place to discuss future directions, time to catch up with friends, and even time for two ex-pupils to build a Stirling engine!  

With the help of Wennington Old Scholars - who helped us to pioneer the first such gathering ten years ago - ,  the model of the 'Archive Weekend' which was developed throughout the 'Therapeutic Living' project with Wennington and four other communities,  continues to evolve and expand. It hasbecome a key and defining feature of the Archive and Study Centre and the work that we do here.   If you are interested in holding your own tailored Archive and Oral History event please contact a member of the team.  For more about Wennington and the Association please visit their website ( - watch this space for developments!).
imogenwiltshireResearcher Imogen Wiltshire, from the University of Birmingham, visited the Archive and Study Centre this week to look at the documents in our Q-Camps collection.   Currently working on her AHRC-supported MPhil in the University's History of Art Department, Imogen's research focuses on Arthur Segal's Painting School for Professionals and Non-professionals (1937-44) which was based in London and Oxford.  Specifically, she is interested in the idea of Segal as a pioneer of psychoanalytical and psychotherapeutic approaches to painting.    

Segal (1875-1944) was a Romanian-born, Berlin-based Jewish artist who left Germany in 1933, and after a brief period in Spain came to England where he founded his School in 1937.   Imogen - who has won an AHRC PhD Fellowship to continue her work  - is particularly interested in the therapeutic elements of the School, which was attended by members of the British Psychoanalytical Society, and also used to help traumatised soldiers returning home from the War after 1941.   

Her visit to the PETT Archive this week was to investigate further Segal's association with Hawkspur Camp for Men (1936-1940), the first of two therapeutic camps established by the Q-Camps Committee.  The camps, built by the men themselves, were an outgrowth of an organisation called Grith Fyrd, and devised carefully planned environments, using shared responsibility in the treatment of disturbed and delinquent young men; some of the men from Hawkspur Camp went on to attend the Painting School.  

The Q-Camps archives came to the Archive and Study Centre in 1989 as part of the David Wills Collection - having originally been sent to David Wills at Barns House in Scotland from London during World War II for their safe-keeping (the train they were on was bombed on the way; the archives were re-packaged by the salvage crews and sent on to Scotland).

Wiki-fact: Arthur Segal's son Walter was an architect, who created the Segal method of self-built housing. Coincidence? For more, click here.
The desk of therapeutic childcare pioneer Barbara Dockar-Drysdale, founder of the Mulberry Bush School, has come to the Archive and Study Centre.   Executive Director, Rich Rollinson (pictured, right) worked at the Mulberry Bush for well over 20 years, and from 1991 to 2001 was its Director.   The desk has been restored by PETT conference manager Jo's husband, Anthony Jansen (left). 
Read more about Mrs. D. and the Mulberry Bush School on their website.