Wednesday, 16 January 2013

West Sussex Sanctuary

It has been some time since I last posted... And in that time we have moved from the belly of the beast (London) and found ourselves in the West Sussex outpost of Bexley Hill.

Aside from being very pretty and remote, I have just settled down to do a bit of research on any oddities that are hidden around me...

Obvious ones, would be Chanctonbury and Cissbury Rings, but on the way to both, you pass through a little village called Washington.

Here in the 1922, the daughter of a wealthy textile magnate bought 50 acres of land and began a community where class structures were banished and all could find themselves in a 'Back to the Land' movement, away from the increasingly materialistic and industrialised world.

All that it left now is a small structure containing a potted history of The Sanctuary, later known as Sleepy Hollow.

Not unlike the beginnings of The Findhorn Community (which in contrast was a huge success), each family was given a plot of land to live and grow vegetables, water being drawn from a well or rain collecting tanks. Cottage based practices were carried out, weaving, spinning, basketry.

Vera Pragnell the founder of the commune was a disciple of Edward Carpenter and carried with her an anti-capitalist vision, which as injected into her vision for The Sanctuary. Standing on 'Speakers Corner' in 1920 she spread the word of 'The Good Life' to struggling Londoners, drawing 40 families to the West Sussex Village. Later rumour spread that the commune allowed the practice of witchcraft and free love, the elders died and new generations sold off land, or began to privatise their settlements. Other than the shack, a few place names are left...Vera's Walk and Bohemia Row.

1 comment:

  1. Many years ago, in the middle 1960's I went camping with a group of Ealing Young Communist league members to a field in the Sanctuary. There was around 15 of us and we had a lovely time, over a long weekend . i have only just re-discovered the place, thanks to you. It brought back some nice memories. I think that a communist party member owned one of the houses. History says that Jomo Kenyatta stayed there in the 1920's for a short while.