All posts by Len Clarke

60 years ago today!

After twelve years of determined preparation came to fruition, sixty years ago the British Pestalozzi Children’s Village took on its very first child.

Richard at Pestalozzi in late August 1959 (not long after his arrival)

On 15 August 1959 a young English boy, Richard Heard (then 11), arrived at the Oaklands estate in Sedlescombe, East Sussex. He was the very first child to join the newly-opened British Pestalozzi Children’s Village.
From Aldershot in Hampshire, Richard’s experience on arrival can only be imagined – there was not a single other child in the place on that first day! A house-mother (Maureen) and a house-father (“Uncle Mac”) were his principle companions. For 24 hours, he had the entire 170 acres virtually to himself (don’t forget, the UK was a lot less regulated in those days – and the Pestalozzi community’s ideals then included allowing children a greater degree of independence).

We are unaware of Richard’s feelings about leaving home – but we know he was warmly welcomed into this newly-created family. And we also know that he embraced the adventure of this new life.

Richard had passed the dreaded 11 Plus exams during his previous school year and this qualified him to attend Bexhill Grammar School.

Richard returns to his Pestalozzi home in Sedlescombe while on military leave – believed to be about 1966.

Leaving the Pestalozzi community around 1964 (tbc), Richard enlisted in the British Army, joining the Royal Corps of Signals. Presently, we do not have any indication of his service history but by the start of 1974 Richard had taken his military discharge and was living in Blandford Forum with his wife and new-born baby.

Sadly, we didn’t hear anything further of Richard until discovering (in April 2009) that he had died from a heart attack some three years previously (about 59 years old).


Do you remember Pestalozzi? Don’t forget – if you live in the south-east of the UK – that on Monday evening 4th February on BBC One TV from 7:30pm (UK time) is “Inside Out – south-east”.

It will include a ten-minute feature about the Pestalozzi Village in Sedlescombe by presenter Ellie Crisell. Ellie interviews final year students, along with four of the original European children – William, Sonja, Yogi and Leonard (all just a little older now!). Also, there will be a look back at the Panorama program from 1960 when Richard Dimbleby visited Pestalozzi at Christmas-time.

Importantly, this will be a nostalgic review before the community closes its doors at the Oaklands estate later this year (Plans are in place for the Pestalozzi Internatinional Village Trust to continue its operations in a revised format).

Once the program has been broadcast, it will be available online for 30 days. We will include a weblink to the BBC page here.

Let us know what you think of it!

Don’t forget – you can find us on Facebook, too – @earlypestalozzichildrenproject


60 years of children & students

Saturday, 29th June 2019 has been designated as the date for the 60th anniversary, ex-Pestalozzi reunion on the Oaklands estate in Sedlescombe.

The Pestalozzi International Village Trust have agreed to the event being held during their celebration of the charity’s past, present and future during 27th – 30th June. The reunion is being coordinated by William Eiduks and Len Clarke (both “ex-Pests” and organisers of the Early Pestalozzi Children Project).

A reunion for all

The reunion is aimed at all ex-Pests and their families – those of us who lived there in care and those of us who lived there during their two-year academic course. Everyone from 1959 right up to today!

From our first ladybird . . .

We also want to connect with the people who made Pestalozzi happen: the former staff, volunteers and supporters, too! If you are an old school friend of one of us – get in touch as well.

. . . to the latest

It will be the last opportunity to gather as a community at Oaklands because the Pestalozzi International Village Trust will be closing its doors and selling the estate before moving on with a redesigned purpose.

For those who can’t make it – we have plans to include you as well! We want everyone to feel involved – even if you’re on the other side of the world! Look out for further information being displayed here very shortly.

What’s planned

The full day and evening will be given over to the gathering and will include some historical displays and informal discussions. It will be an opportunity to meet old friends and recall an important part of your early lives. It will also be an exciting chance to hear what has happened to everyone. The day will be typically Pestalozzi – fun and uncomplicated.

We are working on calculating costs – and we will do our best to keep any levy to a minimum. Again, we will get this information to you as quickly as possible.

Get in touch! (& spread the word quickly!)

There is a lot to be arranged – and we will ask for some assistance. Importantly, we need to get this message out to the hundreds of us that live around the world. (We did start promoting this a couple of months or so ago). Please, please, do spread this around via your social media resources and any other means to all your Pestalozzi contacts – it will help!

To contact us about attending – or anything personal to do with the reunion, please use our dedicated email: .

Alternatively, go to our Contact Page for other ways of contacting us.

Because we don’t know everyone’s details, it would be valuable to us if you can include your nationality, years at Pestalozzi and your current location in the world. A very brief bio would also be helpful.