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Utopia Britannica

British Utopian Experiments 1325 - 1945

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St Georges Hill Diggers Colony 1649 - 50
LEADER/FOUNDER: Gerard Winstanley
On April 1st 1649 half a dozen men began to dig common land at St George's Hill - the best documented 'Diggers Colony'. Soon joined by others, they attempted to tend the heath as a "common treasury for all", building huts, grazing livestock and cutting firewood. Continually harassed & attacked by local landowners the Diggers, or True Levellers as they called themselves, were forced off St George's Hill and moved to Cobham a few miles away. Through Winstanley's writing others were inspired throughout England to take up their spades and start to cultivate the commons.
GRID REF: TQ125664
REF: World Turned Upside down
FILM: Winstanley. British Film Institute

Cobham Heath Diggers Colony 1650
Diggers from St George's Hill moved here after eviction. Here they built seven houses and cultivated 11 acres. Finally driven out of the area after their huts and furniture were burnt in April 1650.
GRID REF: TQ114602
REF: World Turned Upside down

Concordium 1842 - 48
Community and school set up by followers of Sacred Socialism at Alcott House on four acres of land with extensive gardens planted with fruittrees. Also a playground, lawns, walkways, arbours and summerhouse. The residents lived a spartan life of Physical Puritanism, eating a raw vegetarian diet and subscribing to a whole range of 'new' ideologies, including phrenology, hydropathy, mesmerism and celibacy. They promoted their ideas through printing The Heathian and New Age magazines. They established The British and Foreign Society for the Promotion of Humanity and the Abstinence of Animal Food, a forerunner of the Vegetarian Society. In 1848 the community disbanded, and the building was used as a cholera orphanage for girls, later known as `The National Orphan Home'. The building was replaced in 1862, and its use was subsequently changed to a private residence, `South Lodge' and more recently into luxury flats.
GRID REF: Ham Common Richmond.
REF: Search for a New Eden.

Concordium 2 C1843
Community set up by the Owenite Missionary Alexander Campbell after he left the Ham Common Concordium.
GRID REF: Hampton Wick
REF: Search for a New Eden.

The Cokelers 1850 - Late 1800s
Followers of John Sirgood lived in the area. Called The Society of Dependants, or Cokelers they ran a series of co-operative shops and built a number of small chapels - numbered 2000 at their peak in 1885.
GRID REF: TQ044434 Loxwood, Northchapel, Warnham & Shamley Green
REF: Alt.Com 19thCent Eng

The Hilltop Writers Colony C1860 -1914
Haslemere / Hindhead
A writers colony among the Surrey Hills, in and around Haslemere’ where some 65 Victorian writers came to make a permanent home, rent lodgings or stay with friends, while writing their books during the fifty years or more following the arrival of the railway in 1859. Amoung them; Alfred Tennyson, Christina Rossetti and William Allingham; the novelists George Eliot, Conan Doyle, Grant Allen, Richard Le Gallienne, Margaret Oliphant, Mrs Humphry Ward and H.G. Wells; playwrights Bernard Shaw and Arthur Pinero; the essayist, Logan Pearsall Smith; and Flora Thompson.
GRID REF: SU886360
REF: The Hilltop Writers -a Victorian Colony among the Surrey Hills.W R (Bob) Trotte

Merton Park Estate 1870s
Model estate developed in the wake of Bedford Park by John Innes.
GRID REF: TQ263694
REF: Villages of Vision

Merton Abbey 1881- ?
FOUNDER/LEADER: William Morris
Collection of buildings set in some 7acres of grounds on the banks of the river Wandle 7 miles from the centre of London where Morris set up the workshops for Morris & Co.
REF: Designing Utopia

The Jezreelites 1881-1905
FOUNDER/LEADER: Clarissa Rogers and James White
An offshoot of the Christian Israelites built 'Jezreel Tower', a great temple on Chatham Hill near Gillingham. A remarkable building that would have housed the sect if it had ever been completed. It was demolished in 1961.
GRID REF: New Brompton
REF: Alt.Com 19thCent Eng

Craig Farm C1880s
Co-operative farm set up by Harold Cox, a disciple of Edward Carpenter to whom he sent his first pair of hand made sandles from Kashmir. Bernard Shaw reported that the only succesful crop grown was radishes which were made into jam! The farm appears as 'Crankie Farm' in the book by Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson.
GRID REF: SU874430 Tilford
REF: Heavens Below / The Simple Life.

Witley Artists Colony C1880s
Enclave of artists gathered around watercolourist Birket Foster. Foster started in a cottage and ended building himself a great half-timbered mansion.
GRID REF: SU955394
REF: Villages of Vision

Cudworth SmallholdingsC1890s
FOUNDER/LEADER: Professor Long
Smallholding scheme consisting of some 40 to 50 families living on 10 acre holdings on the 400 acre Cudworth Estate.
"It is interesting to note that every one of these families has come out of a town. A few of these back-to-the-land folk, it is true, need not work for their livelihood; but whether or not they are spurred by necessity, every one keeps some livestock and does some gardening, and the children, instead of being brought up in the Old Kent Road, Brixton, or Stoke Newington, are taught to plant a tree, to handle a hay-rake, or to milk a cow. They will live intimately with the wind, the clouds and Mother Earth." FE Green The Awakening of England 1912.
The smallholders made a living from poultry and soft fruit.
GRID REF: Exact Location not known
REF: Back to the Land. Jan Marsh. Quartet Books. 1982./
The Awakening of England FE Green1912.

The Haslemere Peasant Industries 1896 - ?
FOUNDER/LEADER:Godfrey Blount.
The Haslemere Peasant Industries, set up by Godfrey Blount and his wife Ethel was an artistic community with the aim of integrating work, leisure and the country life and the philanthropic principles of the home industries movement. The Peasant Industries was an umbrella organisation of small workshops that employed local craftworkers. It also ran a shop in London. Along with C.R.Ashbee's wife Janet the Blounts were prominent members of the Healthy and Artistic Dress Union(1890) which promoted the wearing of "unusually comfortable, loose-fitting clothes made of hand-woven cloth."
GRID REF: SU904328 Haslemere
REF: The Arts & Crafts Movement. E.Cumming & W.Kaplan

Woodcote Village 1901
Garden Suburb development.
REF: Garden First. W.Webb.

Whiteley Village 1907
Cottage homes village.
GRID REF: TQ094623
REF: Villages of Vision

Onslow Garden Village1921
Original plans for the village included a number of blocks of flats to be run as Co-operative Housekeeping schemes, an institute & recreation grounds. The Co-partnership ran out of finance after building 300 houses and the flats were never built.
GRID REF: SU 971499 Nr Guildford
REF: The Architectural & Social History of Co-operative Living. L.F.Pearson

Lyne Place 1935-41& 45-47
Country house and farm set up as a base for the Historico-Psychological Society by P.D. Ouspensky a follower of GI Gurdjieff.
GRID REF: TQ010669Virginia waters.
REF:The Strange Life of PD Ouspensky / Madame Blavatsky's Baboon.

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Site last updated 3.1.2007