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