200 acres, farm, garden & shop

Camphill Correspondent February 1975 – p7: –

Rev William Boyd’s Letter from Stourbridge

Called out of Switzerland to this work was Friedrich Geuter who had worked in one of the Anthroposophical undertakings in Stuttgart after World War where he used to meet Rudolf Steiner personally in the course of his work. After the new work of Curative Education had come into being in 1924, he joined the staff of the `Sonnenhof’ Children’s home at Arlesheim, Dornach. When the circle of Anthroposophists in London asked for a lecturer on Curative Education for the World Conference in 1928 he was sent from Arlesheim anal was then asked to introduce the work in England at the small home in Kent.

Towards the end of 1929 Mrs Theodora Wilson, who at that time was chairman of the Child Welfare Committee of Birmingham City Council, invited Friedrich Geuter to lecture at a meeting she had arranged at her home `Elmfield’ in Selly Oak . It was on this occasion that the meeting took place between her son, Michael Wilson, and Friedrich Geuter. Out of this meeting came the chain of events which led them to open their own Children’s Home in a neighbouring house just one year later. The new home was called `Sunfield” and Mrs Geuter and her children were invited to come over from Germany to join them. In the following year they were joined by Eileen Hutchins who took over the education of the Geuter children plus three children of a friend, and also by David Clement, with whom Michael Wilson formed the first Sunfeld Children’s Homes Company in 1934. The house, `Elmfield’, was given to the group in 1935 so that Eileen Hutchins’ small class could then become Elmfield School. Broome Farm, not far from Stourbridge, had already been purchased in 1937; one of the first bio-dynamic farms in Britain, it continues to be farmed by David Clement who took charge of it during the war.

Even before the War, Sunfield had outgrown its original setting and was transplanted to the Clent Hills near Stourbridge . Soon Elmfield too was rudely uprooted from the city by the exigencies of war and was sheltered at Sunfield until that storm blew itself out. Then Eileen Hutchins was able to found the school anew on a broader basis than before in Stourbridge itself.

Oliver Mathews’ children were among the first pupils to come to Elmfeld in its new setting. To avoid the long journey each day between Birmingham and Stourbridge it was decided that he and his family should move to the neighbourhood of the school. Only then did the Christian Community begin to come into its own here, having previously served Elmfieid and Sunfield with the `special sacraments’ from Birmingham centre.

Stourbridge itself is a rather non-descript little town appended to the south-west tip of the Black Country. It stands with one grimy heel within the industrial area but prefers to face outwards towards the landscape of rural Worcestershire, since the captains of industry who built it up preferred to live up-wind of their blast furnaces, iron-founderies and the metal industries which these have generated. The town has no buildings of historic or architectural value. Some of the crystal glassware which has been made here since Huguenot times is considered valuable and beautiful. The only other claim to fame is that Dr Samuel Johnson went to school here.

So much for `heredity and environment’. We can, however, observe what lives and works in and around the community in Stourbridge with other eyes – with the same vision which discerns, for example, how an unborn child can draw his prospective parents into the particular circumstances within which he is to be born. And we can begin to grasp something of the nature of those `children’ who are in the process of incarnating into the unpretentious circumstances which Stourbridge offers. (At the same time it should be made clear that the `persons’ and `institutions’ mentioned here need stand in no formal relationship to one another).

The first concerns the coming of those who, out of their devotion to Anthroposophy, made the free decision to put their life and work at the disposal of those who were seen by the majority as outsiders, rarely treated as anything other than out-casts, the mentally handicapped. `I was a stranger and you took me in;’ the impulse which brought Sunfield here worked on. Of all the priests it had to be Oliver Mathews, with his concern for the welfare of prisoners, who came and established the congregation. One of the original members, a former social worker, has kept up her commitment over decades to `hopeless’ families who might otherwise have seen themselves as no more than a fraction of someone’s official duties. The area of her concern has now extended to include other outcasts like the Ugandan Asians. The reputation of members and friends of the Christian Community as foster parents has been enhanced by one married couple offering their home as a place of warmth and security for babies and small children whose parents are unable or unwilling to bear their responsibilities. The same impulse made itself felt in the life and work of the second priest, Bill Boyd and his wife Rita, when they came in 1968. This time the outsiders who presented themselves were those in the troubled years of adolescence who had become homeless and often without hope. To do justice to their needs the Stourbridge Residential Centre was formed, supported by the substance of care and concern which, during twenty-five years had been growing among several members of the community and who now involved themselves with the spirit and soul of the Centre. And further facets of this impulse show themselves in the development of the Camphill Movement in Stourbridge and in the Birmingham Housing Aid Service described here by their founders:

`The second child’ which makes its presence felt in the configuration of the community is that which is represented by Elmfield. If it were simply a matter of school and its staff, one might reasonably look for the impression this would make on the life of the town or on the congregation in terms perhaps of the sprinkling of teachers, parents and pupils among the other members. There is indeed a remarkably large proportion of teachers in the congregation, active or retired, State or Waldorf school teachers. The effect of Eimfield school, however, goes beyond that of a self-contained self-sufficient educational institution. Because the school has gone through such a difficult period that it’s very existence seemed threatened, the conventional view of how such an establishment should operate has been shattered and a new image is beginning to arise of the place of the school in the community. The newly awakened sense of responsibility of the community towards the school has resulted in a stream of living aid being directed towards it. This has led to a quite radical reformation of the Eimfield impulse though, since the whole process is still in the middle of it’s development and the plans for re-siting the school have not yet been carried out, it is not possible to hear the whole message of the Eimfield impulse to the community.

The third child is the one who concerns herself, broadly speaking, with the land, the realm of the soil, plants and animals. Now that the pendulum is swinging mightily away from a disproportionate emphasis on an industrial economy, one can expect to see the fruits of the great amount of patient and persistent effort made on her behalf by those who are actually engaged in the work of the Bio-dynamic Association, centered on Broome Farm. A recently formed Organic Gardeners’ Club, meets regularly in the chapel of the Christian Community, and various members of the congregation are commited to aspects of the Environment question.

Obviously such a general survey cannot hope to cover the life-involvement of every individual and group in the community. It must nevertheless be clear that care for the `outcast’, care for the right education of children and care for the land are three of the brightest stars in the Stourbridge constellation.

A recently digitised movie of Sunfield in the 1950s can be seen here

A 1939 report by Michael Wilson is available here