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The History of Hawkwood

 

Today Hawkwood is, on the surface, a residential adult education college serving the needs of a wide community. But scratch through the surface and just beneath the outer layer is a hidden and vibrating source of creative energy, rather like a volcano, waiting to burst forth. This life force can be experienced in every aspect of Hawkwood’s being. Not just a beautiful Victorian stone built house, but a warm welcoming home for all who visit. Not just a large 40 acre estate, but a biodynamic organic farm, and well managed ancient woodland. Not just a place people come to learn, but a source of ideas, challenging dialogue, art and artistry, new understandings, personal growth and human development.

Since medieval times ‘The Grove’ has been a special place. We don’t know when people first decided to settle in the place where Hawkwood now stands. We do however know that there has been some form of settlement here from very early times. This is not surprising as the house is on the South facing slope of wooded hills which form a semi-circle of protection from the North and open to the South with views of the escarpment and in the distance the Severn Sea.

I can imagine the earliest settlers, whether farmers or monks, working hard to wrest a living from the land, and being rewarded by the well watered gently sloping fields. The fresh water spring close to the house has been pouring forth, without ever running dry, perhaps for hundreds or even thousands of years.

Close to the spring is an elegant, ancient sycamore tree, estimated to be over 400 years old. Clearly this is a place completely in harmony with the environment. Since earliest time the estate has worked with the land, farming sheep, cattle and crops and providing a living for the local community. The early owners of what is now Hawkwood were mill owners using the power of the local streams to use the wool they gathered from Cotswold sheep, known as the Cotswold Lion, to create the finest woollen and felt cloth. In fact the area was famed for producing the cloth for the uniforms of British troops who became known as ‘redcoats’ after the colour of the famous Stroudwater Scarlet cloth. The local mills produced excellent broadcloth, plus the finest quality tweed and the green cloth for snooker and billiard tables, which is still produced in the area.

The estate was in the hands of the Capel family for over 200 years before it was sold in 1936/37 to Colonel Murray who changed the name to Hawkwood after the famous Sir John Hawkwood, whom he admired, and who made a name for himself as a swashbuckling mercenary soldier fighting in Italy in 1350’s leading the Florentine troops to victory.

The house itself is ‘Tudor Gothic’ style built in the 1840’s after the existing Jacobean house was severely damaged by fire. Parts of the stable block date from the Jacobean period (early 1600’s) built on even older foundations.

Hawkwood became an adult education college in 1947 when Lily Whincop, who had recently bought Hawkwood, and her friend Margaret Bennell (who wanted to set up an adult education college) met on the 20th November, and over a cup of tea Lily said; ‘I have a house, you have a plan, couldn’t we put them together?’ And so Hawkwood in its current form was born.

In its initial incarnation as a college the underlying philosophy was that of Rudolf Steiner, and though much has changed in the nature of the educational programme, the teachings of Dr Steiner remain as a guiding principal to much of what happens at Hawkwood.

Today Hawkwood welcomes many and varied groups both to its own programme of courses covering, the arts, nature and sustainability, spirituality, and health and well being. Hawkwood is also a stunning conference venue within a sustainable environment and we actively support ethical organisations to run their own trainings, away days or events on a fully catered residential basis or simply for the day.

In 2015 we are excited to be launching our Centre for Future Thinking and taking the work we do to another level of philosophical endeavour. This is happening at our Seed Festival when we intend to produce and plant the seeds of ideas for the future.

Come and join us as we continue our journey, creating day by day an even more exciting history.

Trevor Bentley

Chair of Trustees

March 2015