Currently there is no comprehensive historical record of Micklepage. Rather, various historical documents exist in the archive and relatives of the founders, members of the Trust, locals and visitors continue to share a rich oral tradition of the community sharing family memories handed down through the generations. Some of these relatives are now involved in the complex process of completing a new Micklepage archive in an attempt to breach these gaps and join documents and stories together. With the help of a group of loyal volunteers they are beginning to transcribe documents and record memories into something more tangible.
A brief history of Micklepage
Two young committed Christian social workers had the vision of a place in the countryside where they could take mothers and their children from the slums of South London to give them some respite from the poverty and hardship of life during the 1930’s depression. Joan Jameson and Beatrice McDougall had support both in practical and financial terms to buy the farmhouse of Micklepage with 20 acres of surrounding land and in 1938 a hostel for accommodation was built on the land in the position of the house that is now called Micklepage Leigh.
Soon after this a connection was made with a Mission in Camberwell London, run by the Reverend George Gibson and his wife Murton and they joined together as the Community of St. Hilda. This community grew at the Micklepage farm, consisting of families and individuals, some resident and others visiting or closely linked. The Bishop of Southwark was one of these ‘visitors’ and Bishop Bell of Chichester was always a strong supporter. Members took simple vows as the Trust Deed states “to unconditional service within the universal church of Christ”.
The onset of the Second World War influenced the growth of the Community as it became a home for evacuees, some Jewish refugees and the conscientious objector Ken Harding and his family. Ken took over the farming and continued for the next 20 years to build a milking herd of beautiful Jersey cows.
In 1941 Michael Townroe came as a priest-in-charge to the nearby village of Partridge Green and quickly sought out involvement in the Community. He married Beatrice in 1942 and they both remained trustees of Micklepage for the rest of their lives.
At the end of the war in 1945, the nearby Gaveston estate was purchased. A larger farm was established and a community school was set up at Gaveston Hall to serve the wider community. George Gibson was by now the rector of the local parish of Nuthurst and principle of the school.The day to day running of the school was mainly the preserve of Joan Jameson. At its peak there were more than 70 pupils at the school.
In the late 50’s this Christian community venture began to contract as key members of The Community of St Hilda resident at Micklepage Farm gradually moved away and eventually in the early 60’s the farm was sold following the sale of Gaveston school. At the same time the three properties adjacent to Micklepage were built.
Between the late 70’s and early 80’s the Micklepage Community went through a lengthy process to re-acquire and convert the original Barn building. The sale was completed in 1977 and the conversion, designed by neighbour architect John Fortune, was carried out by a succession of working parties between 1979 –1987. A link had developed with the Chaplaincy of London University led by the Reverend Davis Ashworth and many university students contributed their labour during this time. The ‘working party’ that helps maintain the Micklepage properties to this day have their origins in this student group.
During this period of transition and renewal the two ‘homes’ at Micklepage as we know them today were formed and the Community of St Hilda became the Micklepage Trust.
" "Micklepage is an extrodinary and wonderful place, and the 'seperate' lives of all of us who come here are joined through Micklepage as part of the one story" Michael Gibson
We are currently in the process of putting together a comprehensive archive of the history of the Micklepage community.
If you have stories to share about any aspect of Micklepage through the years we would love to hear from you.