The early days of the Cotswold Community (5th October 2018)

One of the bonuses of having this website is that I occasionally receive an email from an ex-staff member or young person (who would now be middle-aged) who once resided at the Cotswold Community. As a result of sharing their experience another bit of the jigsaw, as to what it was like then, falls into place.

A few days ago I received an email from Barry Rogers, who had been a member of the education team (the Poly, as it was known) from 1969. Barry pointed out that my website didn’t contain enough material about the people, who helped to transform the Approved School into a therapeutic community, alongside Richard Balbernie.

“I can find no mention of the early pioneers who helped establish the future of the Community. People like Dave Gilbert, Roger Fildes, John Pilston, Bob Dunne, myself and many more who laid the foundation for those who followed, when “sleeping in” [the household with the boys] was unpaid and a sofa in the sitting room was our bed.”

I followed this up with Barry and asked if he could say more about this time. His reply, which you can read in full in the Comments section of the website, contained the following observations:-

“My first day there, in 1969 as a teacher, was working with Gordon Godfrey in Number 11 with a group of boys, some of whom were still living in the buildings in what ultimately became the Poly Square. The Cottage was already up and running. Two [semi-detached] houses on the drive where opened which became Bulderstone [originally known as The Rookery], and Number 11 became living accommodation for the boys with Roger Fildes (an ex-telephone engineer) its competent manager. Richard [Balbernie] wasn’t keen on the name No 11, said “It sounded like a bloody public lavatory”. The problem was solved when the place burned down.

In the Poly, I was initially upstairs with a group where we wrote, rehearsed, sang songs and made First World War uniforms, with the help of the talents of Community wives. It was a play we named, “Christmas in the Trenches”. It was put on in the large hall [later known as the Weaving Hall] with all boys and staff attending. I directed it and the cast included John Cooke, Bob Yeo, Bill Denson and others whose names I can’t recall. This was produced at Christmas 1970. Nick Benefield and Christine Bradley were in the cast which gave some adult poise to the boys. As a post-performance treat, Trevor Blewett had arranged a delivery of fish and chips which we all ate with gusto along with lashings of adrenalin and the usual post mortem which, of course, we all decided was positive.”

The Weaving Hall where Christmas in The Trenches was performed

The Comments section of my website can be very easily missed.
It’s worth having a look as there are also some comments from the Approved School era.