A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode

Cotswold Bruderhof


Bruderhof 1

The Cotswold Bruderhof by Richard Barton (2016)

Eberhard Arnold was a well-known German scholar and in 1920 began with a group of friends to live a communal life – the Bruderhof. The community was moved by the teaching of Jesus and they had a longing for an entirely new way of life, utterly different in spirit from that which led to the Great War. Their numbers quickly grew to 200 people of many nationalities, chiefly German, British and Swiss. Arnold died on 22nd November 1935, aged fifty-two-years, and his pacifist religious group was expelled from Nazi Germany in 1936. For over four years in Nazi Germany they had offered an uncompromising witness for peace and brotherhood. The community then bought the 200-acre Ashton Fields farm at Ashton Keynes, near Cirencester, in 1936. This commune, known as the Cotswold Bruderhof, at its peak housed more than 350 people. By 1938 the dilapidated farm had been transformed into a model of progressive agriculture. In 1940, pressured by anti-German feeling in England during the war that threatened to intern its German members, the Bruderhof sold up and moved to Paraguay, and eventually to the United States.

I have a copy of a brief history of ‘The Cotswold Bruderhof’ dated June 1938 and volumes of their magazine, ‘The Plough’ for 1938 and spring 1939.

It seems sad that the U.S.A., the earthly paradise that they sought, is now preparing to turn away ‘non-Americans’ and to embrace many of the attitudes and values which led to the Bruderhof being expelled from Germany eighty years ago.

Bruderhof 2

Bruderhof 3


One comment on “Cotswold Bruderhof

  1. Richard Barton
    August 4, 2020

    From Stephanie:

    HOWARD CHEYNEY 1914-2005

    I am researching the life of Howard Cheney, who was quite a character even in old age, rejecting his family’s affluence before WW2 by joining the Cotswold Bruderhof community, living in Paraguay with them during the war years – also apparently travelling by train in the jungle. His grandson followed his route 4 years ago.

    I later learned that although this episode was always painted in rosey colours as an adventure, after his death they came across a letter to his mother begging her help (a ticket I assume) to get him out of there.

    He returned and after the war reluctantly inherited the family business in Birminghamham (Ubiquitous Cheney Locks – remember the clasps on old Luggage) but could not settle. He sold the business and bought a farm on the un-spoilt Warwickshire/Oxford border. By then he was a Humanist, and remained a committed environmentalist and pacifist for the rest of his life. He was an active and lifelong campaigner for CND/peace movements from the outset.

    Howard, son of an successful industrialist, became a committed Green Party member who would certainly wish to be remembered for his Peace campaigning around the country. He was self effacing, inspite of being one of the original Committee of 100 and willing to stand his ground on principle and obviously held in high esteem in those circles.

    I only met him a few times but his presence and principle in farm matters ie dedication to “radical self sufficiency” around the farm prevailed in collective decision making (with his 2 sons). Howard and Margaret lived almost spartanly but not through lack of funds as you will see from the extract below below.. If they needed to buy a combine harvester they would.

    Links: – Obituary – Activist

    His wonderfully named maternal grandmother, Arminel Bounsall, was a Nonconformist and this tradition may have fed his search for a more pure lifestyle.

    Please contact us with your memories etc –

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This entry was posted on October 30, 2017 by in Lives Bound Together and tagged , , , , .
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