lenclarkeMy name is Len Clarke and I'm attempting to discover details about the co-founders of the Pestalozzi Children's Village in Sedlescombe, Sussex - Dr Henry Alexander and Mrs Mary Buchanan.

My connection with them is that I was one of the very first children to attend the Pestalozzi Children's Village in 1959, being one of a small number of English children who got that chance. My time there was pretty marvellous and left a positive and indelible mark on the remainder of my life. The achievements of Alexander, Buchanan and their original staff is probably best endorsed by the fact that so many of the living European children continue to stay in touch with each other, half a century later.

Sadly, however, much information has been lost regarding how the Village was established and how this dynamic couple inspired so many people, nationally, to support their cause. Even worse, I find that their stories have virtually disappeared from any permanent records. I am in touch with Dr Alexander's two sons, whom I have known since my own childhood. Sadly they have very little recollection nor materials relating to their father's Pestalozzi activities. This has not been for want of interest: the pair of them attended our 50th anniversary reunion in 2009 and spoke regarding their father.

Further, and just as surprisingly, Mary Buchanan has all but "disappeared". I am aware that she died quite some years ago now (but no date or location) but, other than references to her book about the Pestalozzi Villages, there is precious little to suggest she ever existed. Except for the fact of my close connection to her, personally (as a ten/eleven year-old), I could be forgiven for thinking she was a figment of imagination!

I recall that "Uncle Alex" (as he was to us children) later told me that he did some work for FICE during his retirement (possibly in the 1970s?). I believe that FICE was created/developed in connection with the Pestalozzi Children's Village in Trogen, Switzerland in the late 1940s and I know that this is where Dr Alexander's connection with Pestalozzi began. But how he and Mrs Buchanan met and built their ambitious relationship, I have no idea. Also, I believe that Mary Buchanan had some connection with Elisabeth Rotten - but beyond that, I'm rather lost.

I'm not an academic, but I sincerely bemoan the fact that the work of these two (plus an incredible group of committed staff) seems to be lost. While my motivation has an emotional element there is also a pragmatic purpose. My thought is that, perhaps, one day in the future (near or distant) someone may be inspired by the story and go on to help children who would otherwise miss out.

If you do have any information about Dr Alexander's and/or Mrs Buchanan's activities, I would be extremely grateful to hear from you. My main interests are twofold: the story of the Village's creation and the early days of its existence - to about 1966. I'm particularly fascinated by what appeared to be Dr Alexander's capacity to harness powerful or influential support and Mary Buchanan's ability to orchestrate a nationally successful fund-raising campaign at "grass roots" levels.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Kind regards,

Len Clarke



[Updated, January 2016: Things have really taken off. See the Early Pestalozzi Children Project website!]