A New World in Essex: The Rise and Fall of the Purleigh Brotherhood Colony 1896-1903

Join us at this free event to celebrate the launch of A New World in Essex with a talk from the author.

In the 1890s, a time of widespread concern about the ills of late-Victorian society, one group of Christian Socialists, known as the Brotherhood Church, fired by the writings of Leo Tolstoy, set out to build an alternative to the harsh realities of urban life. Their mission led them to seek out a place where they could live out their beliefs, going ‘back to the land’, seeking self-sufficiency and equality of labour and reward. Their search led them to Purleigh in Essex, deeply rural and in the midst of a depression.

Despite the commitment, enthusiasm and sheer hard work poured into it, the colony lasted barely three years, but it had a strong influence on many progressive thinkers and experiments in the following decades. The ideas behind it and the causes of its failure remain relevant to this day.


Victor Gray is a former County Archivist of Essex. He was awarded an Honorary Degree by the University of Essex in 1993 for his contribution to the study and publication of Essex history. In 2014 he was made a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the University of Suffolk. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and was awarded an M.B.E. in 2010 for services to British archives.


Thursday 21st November, 10.30am-12.00noon   



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