The Whiteway colony... then and now
We've had a wonderful tour around one of Gloucestershire's most intriguing communities.
The Breakfast Show's Kate Clark met the people of Whiteway...just south of Birdlip and to the east of Sheepscombe. Here are her thoughts on a memorable visit.
I hoped to arrive at Whiteway with an open mind, receptive to new ideas and eager to discover the philosophy behind the community. However, this was well-nigh impossible as I had already heard the whispers of Whiteway. The hearsay on the hill lead me to believe I was about to find a bohemian group of flower power, wife-swapping radicals, who were perhaps 'past their best'. God forgive they might even be nude! At this point I was wondering if I needed back up, headstrong I might be but that won't help me with their sorcery.
I could not have been further from the truth. The first person I met was a small, silver haired and sensibly dressed lady in her eighties. This is Joy Evans, daughter of leatherworkers who settled in the colony during the 1920s. Joy is a wood carver, her husband was a furniture maker and her son is an artist blacksmith. In a matter of fact manner she described how difficult live was at Whiteway. The small wooden houses were cold, drinking water had to be carried ¼ mile from the stream and the farming land was thin and stony. Water was not piped until 1949, electricity did not arrive until the early 1950s and the toilet would have been a 'bucket and chuck it.' I was questioning the mindset of anyone who chose to live this severe way of life. Was the dream of building a community free from restraint and injustice really worth it? Joy's eyes sparkled when she spoke of a wonderful free childhood, where neighbours were seen as aunts and uncles and gardens were without boundaries.
Today's residents say they were 'drawn' to Whiteway. Penny White and her husband were won over by the open land and a stream at the bottom of the garden. Chris England and her husband had waited 35 years to buy a house in the colony and Joy Thacker said the moment she walked up the path to her one bedroom bungalow, it just 'felt right.' The Whiteway pioneers in 1898 wanted a community free from prejudice, where everyone would share work, food, companionship and live in equality. Today Whiteway seems very much laid back. No-one will force you into joining in with community chores and meetings. However, if you would like to live somewhere peaceful and safe where your neighbours will go out of their way to help you, then Whiteway it is. I was converted, or was that an effect of something in my tea?