Action 4 Botton

Camphill and Botton

The Camphill story began when Austrian doctor Karl König and a small band of colleagues and children settled near Aberdeen, escaping the Nazis in 1939. They had already developed a vision of offering better lives and education for ‘handicapped’ children. One of those children was Peter Bergel, whom many of you will remember as a later resident of Botton village. With the goodwill of publisher WF Macmillan, whose son Alistair was a ‘special’ child supported by the esteemed physician, the group was able to acquire Camphill house on Deeside. They moved in on 1 June 1940 and so the first Camphill community began its life and work. While war raged in Europe, the small community began taking in more children from England and Scotland and expanded into nearby houses acquired with the help of the Macmillan family.

König strongly believed that every child, however ‘handicapped’, can be educated and has a great potential to achieve, which was a revolutionary idea at the time and a principle still being practised as ‘curative education’. Over time the question arose: when the children become adults, where can they live and continue to enjoy this degree of wellbeing and support, find a home and meaningful work? The answer to this was König's visionary proposal of a village community where people with and without disabilities live together, based on love and trust, in brotherliness and equality. König and co-workers founded a charity to support their village project in October 1954 and named it the Camphill Village Trust. After the death of their long-standing friend and sponsor WF MacMillan, his family got in touch with König who acquired Botton Hall with three surrounding farms of Macmillan's country estate in North Yorkshire.

In August 1955 the first co-workers, Rev. Peter Roth and his wife Kate together with Alan and Kitty Henderson (who still live in Botton), and several others moved into Botton Hall, Botton Farm, High Farm and Falcon Farm. Peter Bergel, John Stevenson, Alistair Macmillan and several others joined them from Newton Dee a little later, marking the beginning of the first Camphill community for adults with learning disabilities in Botton on 5 September 1955. Over the years the charity has been able to purchase additional farms at the head of Danby Dale to allow the settlement to grow, and gradually the small development took on the identity of a real village community, where people of varying abilities live their lives and work together based on trust and shared values, working and farming with a strong connection to the land.

Alistair Macmillan was one of those first residents of the newly formed village community where he lived happily until his death in 1991. Bill Macmillan wrote that “since 1955 Botton has become home to an increasing number of people with special needs, leading happy and fulfilling lives in family groups, working on the land and in the many workshops, whose products are widely sought after. It is a busy and happy place; indeed, as has been well said, it is ‘A Very Special Place’. George Macmillan’s remaining descendants, now including a fifth generation, are happy that this should be so.”


  • Bill Macmillan, “Botton Hall. The Story of a House.”
  • Jan Martin Bang (editor), “A Portrait of Camphill”

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Camphill Village Trust (CVT)

The following is the text from the Memorandum and Articles, the foundation document of the Camphill Village Trust (CVT) founded by König and his co-workers in 1954, which is still legally binding to this day. It describes how community life is to be enabled and supported by the charity's board of trustees. This has always been a well understood principle and undisputed agreement, and it is a key issue of the current crisis affecting CVT communities like Botton, Delrow, the Grange and Oaklands Park, that the restructuring of these communities by the charity's trustees signifies a substantial departure from these legally binding principles. The current trustees are thereby seen to be in breach of trust and acting ultra vires, i.e. outside the objectives and powers provided by the charity's founding documents

This has been confirmed by leading UK charity lawyer Hubert Picarda QC. In his extensive legal opinion commissioned by relatives of learning disabled residents he stated that to replace a "shared life community ideology" with a "care worker culture" represented a fundamentally different charitable purpose. He made clear that it was not for the trustees, or the Charity Commission, to interpret the wording of the Objects clause so as to exclude an integral part of it. Mr Picarda argued that if CVT continues effectively to strip the charity of its raison d’être, the contributing public - CVT’s donors on whom it relies heavily - may view this as "little short of a scandal." There is already considerable anecdotal evidence that donors are having second thoughts about giving to a charity they believe is straying irreversibly from its founding principles laid down by Karl König, its founder.

Objects: “in accordance with the principles of Dr Rudolf Steiner (as summarised in the appendix) … particularly (without limitation) by the establishment and maintenance of communities … or other types of social and/or educational community, in which beneficiaries live and/or work and/or to which they otherwise resort, in community with persons providing support.”

Powers: “recruit and appoint community members to act as Co-workers for the benefit of beneficiaries and provide such Co-workers and their dependants with accommodation, food and support to meet their other personal and family needs, as the Trustees shall from time to time determine, in accordance with the principles of Dr Rudolf Steiner (as summarised in the Appendix to this Memorandum)”


Summary of the principles of Dr. Rudolf Steiner relating to the establishment and operation of Camphill charities.

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), an Austrian philosopher, scientist and social reformer ... offered insights that have inspired new approaches to medicine, education, the arts, architecture, agriculture, social reform and economics. The name given to this new branch of science is ‘anthroposophy’, a Greek word meaning ‘wisdom of Man’.

Anthroposophical principles as to curative treatment, education, medicine, architecture, agriculture, horticulture, art, science and religion form the basis of the life and activities of communities, provided that every member of such communities shall be at liberty to follow the religion of his/her choice. Rigidity in the matter of control should be avoided and the closest liaison should be maintained between all those responsible for the administration of the Charity and its community or communities in their everyday life. Specific practices following the developed social and philosophical ideas and theories of Rudolf Steiner should be integrated into the work of the Charity as far as appropriate, including:

1. Community Life.

Camphill establishes and maintains intentional communities. Their sustainability rests on an ethical foundation that recognises the uniqueness of the individual and seeks to respect, value and enhance the strengths and potential of each one. Social life in Camphill communities is based upon a threefold arrangement reflecting the recognition of the human being as comprising body, soul and spirit. This arrangement is expressed in the exercise of freedom in the spiritual/cultural domain; the safeguarding of equality in the realm of rights and responsibilities; and the practice of brotherliness in the economic realm. By application of these principles community members are bound together by will and personal commitment, not by legal constructs, meaning, for beneficiaries, any form of compulsion and for Co-workers the rights and obligations of contract.

2. Steiner Waldorf Education.

Based on the work and teachings of Rudolf Steiner, this is founded on an understanding of the human being related to specific concepts of body, soul and spirit and their development through childhood. It integrates educational content and method in ways that are supportive of this. The curriculum aims to meet the developmental needs of the growing child and adolescent, nurturing faculties rather than merely delivering prescribed information.

3. Anthroposophical Medicine.

This an extension of natural scientific medicine which constitutes an international school of thought and practice based on the work and teachings of Rudolf Steiner and as further elaborated by the Medical Section of the School for Spiritual Science based at the Goetheanum, Switzerland and by its members working throughout the world. Anthroposophical medicine includes the prescribing of anthroposophically developed medicines, therapies, social therapies, and pastoral medicine.

4. Biodynamic Agriculture and Horticulture.

This unique form of organic husbandry is inspired by the research of Rudolf Steiner and is founded on a holistic and spiritual understanding of nature and the human being. It embraces respect for the environment, production of healthy food, and an understanding of the valuable connections between the individual, the community and the spiritual forces at work in nature.

Original subscribers:

The original subscribers to this Memorandum on the 5th day of October 1954 were:

  • Karl König, Camphill, Milltimber, Aberdeenshire. Superintendent.
  • Ernest Newcombe Hogg, 38 Overdale Avenue, New Malden, Surrey. Assurance Official
  • Aubrey Edwin Guest, 567 Selvage Lane, Mill Hill, N.W.7. Glass China Merchant
  • Richard Hember Lascelles, 36 Purley Bury Avenue, Purley, Surrey. Solicitor
  • Ursula Gleed, 122 Harley Street, W.1. Secretary
  • Charles Henry Ockendon, 281, St. Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Company Director
  • Thomas J. Weihs, Newton Dee House, Bieldside, Aberdeenshire. Deputy Superintendent.


Association of Camphill Communities (AoCC)

Objectives (extract)

(a)   To form an Association of Camphill communities which are active in the fields of curative education and social therapy. Such activities might include training, living and working with people who have a learning disability, mental health problems or other needs, including agricultural and horticultural work or any other work based on the principles of Rudolf Steiner.

(b)   To promote community living as a shared way of life, in which the social and therapeutic impulses of the founding group led by Dr Karl Koenig are of special importance.

Principles of membership (extract)

(a)  To develop social forms based upon the threefold social principles outlined by Rudolf Steiner. To endeavor to order their internal financial dealings according to the “Fundamental Social Law” as formulated by Rudolf Steiner.

(b)  To uphold the image of the human being as described in Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy.

(c)  To be based on a Christian way of life and to celebrate Christian festivals.



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