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Wheathill Bruderhof

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Wheathill Bruderhof

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Wheathill Bruderhof was a Christian commune which existed in England from 1942 until 1960.

Contents

Origins

The first Bruderhof was founded by Eberhard Arnold in a house in Sannerz, Hesse, Germany in 1920. When the house got too small for the group, they moved to the Rhön Mountains nearby. In 1930, Arnold was ordained as a Hutterian minister. After the Nazis came to power, the Rhön community moved its draft-age men and children to Liechtenstein because of their conscientious refusal to serve in the armed forces and to accept Nazi teachers. Continuing pressure from the Nazi government caused others to move to England and found the Cotswold Bruderhof. On April 14, 1937, secret police surrounded the Rhön Bruderhof, confiscated the property, and gave the remaining community members forty-eight hours to flee the country. By 1938, all the Bruderhof members had reassembled in England. While in England, the population grew to over 350 members, largely through the addition of young English members seeking an alternative to war. Even before the outbreak of the second world war, the community’s German members and its belief in Non-violence attracted deep suspicion locally resulting in economic boycotts. When confronted with the choice of either having all German members interned, or leaving England as a group, the Bruderhof choose the latter, and began to look for refuge abroad. In 1940, following the outbreak of war and under threat of internment of many of the male members of the group, the Bruderhof sold up and relocated to Paraguay. A few members left behind to sort out the final sale of the farms in the Cotswold hills became the nucleus of a new community. During this time they were still attracting pacifists visitors and by Christmas 1941 a group of nineteen, including two families, had gathered together.

Wheathill – A communal village in the Clee Hills

The representatives who remained in England were able in 1942 to start a new Bruderhof in Shropshire, at Bromdon, near Bridgnorth. One member, Charles Headland, came across a remote farm that turned out to be for sale. Lower Bromdon Farm, set at nearly 1,000 feet high in the Clee Hills, consisted of 182 acres of mostly old pasture land suffering from neglect and officially classified as grade ‘C’ agricultural land. By March 1942 the group were able to move in and by the end of the year the group, now numbering 33, was confident enough to give itself a name, The Wheathill Bruderhof, and to issue a report entitled ‘The Founding of the Wheathill Bruderhof’ setting out their aims and philosophy. In April 1944 they took over the neighbouring Upper Bromdon farm of 165 acres, which, as well as increasing the viability of the farm, gave them extra accommodation and enabled a deep bore-hole to be drilled and an extensive water supply to both farms to be installed. In 1945 the community extended further still, moving in to Cleeton Court Farm at the foot of Titterstone Clee Hill. This brought the total size of the three ‘Wheathill’ farms to 532 acres. They became a focus for the small communities movement that existed in Britain at the time. As well as printing and publishing their own books and pamphlets, they printed a number of issues of a newsletter called The Community Broadsheet which kept groups in touch with each other. The Shropshire community was seen as an example of what successful communal living could be like. In 1959 Pathé Newsreel produced a short film item featuring the Wheathill community under the title ‘Communal Village’. In 1959 Wheathill had a population of 110. A second Bruderhof was founded in Bulstrode, Gerrards Cross, Bucks, in 1958, which had a population of about 100 in 1959. However, in a turbulent period which the Bruderhof Movement went through in the following years, the community at Wheathill was wound up and the farms were sold.

Sources

Bruderhof Communities in Wikipedia

Communal Family Trees (Part 2) by Chris Coates at his Communes Britannica Blog.

History of the Society of Brothers

External Links

Bruderhof Homepage

History of the Cotswold Bruderhof

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