Glimpse history through old images of the Pestalozzi Children’s Village, Sedlescomb, East Sussex, England.
Pestalozzi took refugees from the Napoleonic era into his own home. The children’s home for refugees and war orphans at Sedlescomb was one of a number across the world named after him.
Tibetan Refugees 1963
Tibet fell under the effective control of the People’s Republic of China when the Seventeen Point Agreement was reached in 1951. On 10 March 1959, a revolt erupted in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. The Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India, along with nine thousand other Tibetan citizens, as the uprising was crushed by Chinese troops.
Four years later, the Pestalozzi Children’s Village in Sedlescombe, an 8 minute drive from Battle, became home to 21 Tibetan children. They were to be looked after by some house parents, and a Buddhist religious instructor called a Lama who would instruct them about their faith and the Tibetan language.
By this time, there were about 70,000 Tibetan refugees living in India.
Tibetan Children Take Refuge Here (1963) – British Pathé on YouTube
11th March 1963
In March 1963, the Tibetan children became part of a community of 65 children from 14 countries around the world.
It’s clearly the beginning of a multicultural society, where children were introduced to English food, sports and education, but retaining a knowledge and understanding of their heritage.
NEW START IN SUSSEX – British Movietone on YouTube
This opens with a nice shot of the village green at Sedlescombe.
Pestalozzi Village (1963) – British Pathé on YouTube
29th May 1965
Polish and Tibetan children dance for a large crowd of spectators in the grounds of the children’s village.
PESTALOZZI CHILDRENS VILLAGE – NO SOUND – British Movietone on YouTube
By 1968, the aim of the village had moved away from the rescue of refugees and war orphans, towards educating children from poor and developing countries who would return home.
They seem to have been chosen for their intellectural ability, to educate them and provide opportunities unavailable to them at home. The environment was one where children were encouraged to live happily alongside others of different nationalities, religions, and cultures.
We see Indian, Arabic and Thai children, mostly in their traditional dress. They learn English, pratical lessons in maintaining farm machinery, and will take exams when they are older.
Village Of Peace (1968) – British Pathé on YouTube
Thai Children 1968
Thai children living in the village were filmed celebrating the Festival of Floating Light in 1968.
The newsreel states that the children at the orphanage are being given a western education, but their heritage and culture remained an important part of their childhood experience so they could return to their country of origin as adults.
Thailand Comes To Sussex (1968) – British Pathé on YouTube
Dalai Lama 1973
On 5th November 1973, the Dalai Lama visited the 22 Tibetan children who had arrived at Sedlescombe. Having arrived aged between 4 and 14 ten years previously, they were mostly now teenagers and young adults.
Four of them were still attending local schools, but the rest were attending colleges and polytechnics, or were working as hospital nurses.
DALAI LAMA VISITS PESTALOZZI – COLOUR – British Movietone on YouTube