Accommodation arrangements at the Pestalozzi Children’s Village changed from year to year, according to needs at the particular time. At all times, we lived in comfortable conditions – nothing more arduous that sharing rooms between several children. This is an outline of what was provided during the first six or seven years of the Village’s operation.
The First Arrivals
The first nine children who arrived at the Pestalozzi Children’s Village, between August and September 1959, were all boys. They were housed in “The Stables”, adjacent to the Manor House. The upper level of one section of this building had been converted into three bedrooms and a bathroom and catered for 8-10 children. At various times, one room was allotted to a single housefather. Storage space was limited to a small locker and some drawers.
Girls began to arrive in December 1959 and were quartered upstairs in the Manor House. One large room (which had previously been the Trust office) was converted into the first bedroom and accommodated five girls in single and bunk beds. As more girls arrived, they were allocated other, smaller rooms, each with one or two beds.
A vivid recollection is that all beds were covered in brightly coloured bedspreads made with crocheted squares which had been crafted and assembled by various Pestalozzi support groups around the UK.
It was common for visiting Pestalozzi support groups to ask to see where their bedspreads had been put to use. Many years later, a former staff member recollected that, because of the impractical nature of finding a specific bedspread, one bed would be put on display and identified as having on it one of the donated covers from that particular support group! This was never meant as a patronising act – it was just impossible to know who had supplied which cover and the staff did not want their dedicated supporters to leave disappointed.)
The First Expansion: Cedarwood House
To cater for more children – before the Village’s intended “master plan” was initiated – a prefabricated cedar wood house was constructed on the far side of the Walled Garden in 1960/1961. Rooms here accommodated two to four children in single beds and up to about twenty girls and boys in total. Following the construction of International House and the arrival of the Tibetan children, the Cedarwood House become renamed Tibetan House.
This was the first planned building, opened in 1962, in what was intended to be a gradual expansion to eventually accommodate some 300 children (sadly, this was never to be). Designed by the high-profile partnership of Sir Hugh Casson and Neville Conder, this three-storey building was split into two “houses”: “North House” and “South House” – each accommodating about 10-12 children and with their own house parents. All children had their own room, with a wardrobe, table and bookshelf. Bedroom windows overlooked the Oaklands estate. By any standard, this was comfortable accommodation.
We believe that Home Office regulations dictated that, once the children had reached a certain age, it was necessary to impose some segregation between boys and girls.
The three-storey International House accommodated the children on its two upper levels. Naturally, girls had to be on one floor and boys on the other. However, the building was divided into two, separate houses (North House and South House) – with the two corridors divided in the middle by locked doors. It happened at one stage that, in one house, girls were on the top floor and boys on the lower floor and, in the other, the opposite. In spite of the separating doors being locked, it was decreed that this arrangement contravened the regulation and the organisation was to change the order in one of the houses – so that, in the entire building, only boys would be on one floor and girls on the other. The fact that there were also staircases and other corridors which provided access (even if a slightly longer route) between the houses and floors seemed to be of little interest to the bureaucrats: the rule was there!