Radical ESSEX




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Purleigh Colony

The Purleigh Colony was established in February 1897, and operated for three years from 1896. An anarchist colony with strong links to Tolstoy and Russia. Organised along the lines that Tolstoy had laid out, incorporating the free anarchist ideas of John C Kenworthy, the members had a goat, made bricks, grew grapes and tomatoes, and decisions were made as a group, with no rules. Some denounced currency and postage stamps, and refused to hold legal titles to the property. The colony ran a printing press, publishing translations of Tolstoy and The New Order magazine.

By 1899 the colony ran into difficulties and divisions began to arise – outdoor crops failed due to members apparently shirking duties, and divisions arose regarding the admission of the homeless and destitute. the ‘insanity’ of some members was pointed to, along with frayed tempers. Eventually there was an exodus, and a number of the founders rode bikes to the Cotswolds to found a new community.

More information here

The colony no longer exists (View on Map)
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Radical Essex is a project re-examining the county in relation to radicalism in thought, lifestyle, politics and architecture. A programme of events will take place across Essex throughout 2016 and 2017, shedding light on the vibrant, pioneering thinking of the late 19th and 20th centuries. The project will celebrate the crucial role Essex has played in the history of British Modernism and its utopian ideologies under the themes ‘The Modernist County’ and ‘Arcadia for All’.

The Radical Essex site is designed by Fraser Muggeridge studio and Alex Rich, developed by Twelve.

Radical Essex is led by Focal Point Gallery in collaboration with Visit Essex and Firstsite. Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England it forms part of the country wide Cultural Destinations programme, a partnership with VisitEngland, supporting arts organisations to work with the tourism sector to deliver projects that maximise the impact culture has on local economies.

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If you are a business or arts organisation interested to be involved in the project or learn more information, please contact us here

We gratefully acknowledge the support of our project partners: