Dr Henry Alexander

We are excited to have come across a video recording of an interview in Germany in April 1960 with Dr Henry Alexander, co-founder of the British Pestalozzi Children’s Village Trust. This recording is held in the archives of SWR (Südwestrundfunk).

Dr Alexander was visiting Baden-Württemberg to select refugee children from DP camps who could be accepted for care by the British charity. We have long known that “Onkel Alex” was an excellent promoter – and, during this visit, he had the opportunity for a useful bit of publicity on German television.

Two particular points of interest: 1) Why the Pestalozzi charity did not seek UK government funding and 2) The phenomenal generosity of the British public in the 1950s and early 1960s.

To watch the interview (in German), please use this link We have included our own translation of the interview, below.

Our sincere thanks to Vladymir Rogov for bringing this clip to our attention.

Let us know your reactions: got to our Facebook page


Program: “Abendschau” (Evening Show) – 7th April 1960

(From the archives of SWR, as displayed on their web page: SWR RETRO)

The following brief conversation occurs before the interview officially started:

SWR Why doesn’t the British Government help?

HA We don’t want their help because there are always strings attached and requirements have to be met.

Interview begins [00:08]

SWR Hello, Dr Alexander. What is the reason for your trip here in Baden-Württemberg?

HA I came here to look for children in need who were stateless and living in refugee camps and who would benefit from an education and living conditions in the English Pestalozzi Village.

I assume that you know about the Swiss Pestalozzi Village in Trogen where we have two English houses for which we are responsible and which we support financially.

We are now building an International Pestalozzi Children’s Village in the county of East Sussex in England. This will be the second International Children’s Village in the world. 

The first children to arrive at Pestalozzi are from camps in this area in which these stateless children lived and which, as I was informed by Dr Lindt1, was where the greatest need lay. 

Later, we will build other national houses like they have in our sister Village in Trogen, Switzerland where they also hope to have a German house.

I would now like to show you an aerial photo of how our own Children’s Village looks like. It comprises about 70 Hectares and in the middle is the Manor House in which the twenty children we have at present, live.

An aerial view of Oaklands and the Manor House.

They are Ukrainian, Polish, Latvian, Russian, and a couple of English children. We also have some coloured children from Jamaica, for instance, as we want to include children from outside of the European sphere, as is in the English tradition. In general these children have acclimatised well which gives us great hope and encouragement for the future.

Here you see the children playing football in front of the Manor House. [Photo of Roman , Jurek and Stachek].

Here you see them having afternoon tea, which is an important part of English life and tradition – even if they are in fact drinking lemonade. [Photo of Roman, Arnolds, Stachek, Leonard, Jurek, Niko and Richard]. That is what life looks like in our village at present’

SWR And so, from which point of view did you select these children?

HA Purely by their need. Only by their Need!

SWR How are these Children’s Villages financed ?

HA Almost exclusively from individual donations. The English public has shown itself to be understanding and generous.. School children and organisations such as women’s institutes collected for us. These donations started when we were looking to send English children to Trogen in Switzerland. Through these donations we now have an annual budget of £50.0002 exclusively from public donations. We don’t want financing from the Government.

Interview ends [03:06]

1 Thought to be Augustus R. Lindt, then United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

2 In 2020, this is roughly equivalent to £1.16m – and achieved with nothing like the promotional resources available today!

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

Finding The Forgotten Story