Our family history

No one knew how the money would be found to build the world’s first working community for adults with special needs. But the words of Karl König – an Austrian doctor who became one of Britain’s most ardent campaigners for people with learning disabilities – proved to be prophetic: ‘If we are doing the right thing, the money will come.’

The village of high hope

And sure enough, once a suitable site was found, a small group of parents and friends soon raised the deposit needed to buy it. In 1955, a former estate with three farms, nestled high in a dale in the North York Moors, was reborn as Botton Village. Here, people who society considered ‘handicapped’ and ‘ineducable’ would have the chance to develop skills and lead rich and satisfying lives.

Blazing a trail

Despite an acute lack of modern comforts and equipment, with the support of friends Botton’s thirty-one pioneers were soon eating food and selling milk from their organic farms. Workshops began turning out delicious bread, colourful woven goods and quality wooden toys. It was not a day job or institution, but a real community, where people not only worked together but lived together in supportive extended families. Sharing household tasks and meals, the thoughtful quiet times as well as the festive celebrations and social gatherings all combined to create a very special atmosphere – and an inspirational way of life that took root, grew and sent seeds flying forth.

Years of growth

By the end of the 1960s, four more Camphill communities had firmly established themselves. Then, as now, each had their own character. Rural Newton Dee enjoyed close proximity to bustling Aberdeen. In an idyllic spot above the Severn, the sunny aspect and rich soil of Grange Village proved ideal for cultivating fruit and vegetables. Near Watford, Delrow Community began as a clinic for people with psychiatric disorders. And our first wholly urban community, Camphill Houses in Stourbridge, raised eyebrows by starting what many then viewed as a radical experiment: supporting adults with learning disabilities to live independent lives. How times and attitudes have changed!

As the years rolled on through the 70s, 80s and 90s, three further communities with a strong urban focus – The Croft, Larchfield and Camphill St Albans – opened their doors. So did two more that were based around farming and caring for the land: Loch Arthur and Oaklands Park. And Taurus Crafts broke the mold entirely by becoming the first Camphill centre in Britain to train and support people within a customer-focused social enterprise.

Ever changing

Over the years eleven of the adult communities (two in Scotland and nine in England) joined together to form the Camphill Village TrustLimited (CVT), one registered charity number 232402. The Camphill Family raises funds for the Camphill Village Trust. However in 2012 the differences in law and regulation in Scotland and England were the catalyst for an innovative change to the structure of the Camphill Village Trust Ltd.  The two Scottish communities, Newton Dee and Loch Arthur, were finding it difficult to balance the increasingly different political, legal and social care environments in England and Scotland.  A mutual decision was taken that they break from the CVT to set up as two separate charities in their own right.

The two communities will retain a bond with the other nine English communities in Britain and Ireland. Consequently the Camphill Village Trust comprises nine centres in England for which The Camphill Family raises funds.

And that’s not all

These nine caring communities, that are today supported by friends of The Camphill Family, are also part of a world-wide family of more than 100 communities in over twenty countries. Altogether, within our ‘wider family’ some 3,000 children and adults with learning disabilities, mental health problems and needs for support, live, learn and work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect. With your help, we look forward to continuing to give each other respect, independence, purpose, social and cultural opportunities and worthwhile work to do. These are our constant values in an ever-changing world.