Clousden Hill Free Communist and Co-operative Colony

Event date(s)

1 May 1895 to 17 April 1902

Description/importance

The Clousden Hill Free Communist and Co-operative Colony was for a time an internationally famous anarchist-communist inspired 'land colony' enjoying strong links with local co-operative societies.  It look the form of a market garden set up to test Peter Kropotkin's theory that a wider range of foods could be grown in mining areas by utilising some of the new technologies of the 1890s, in this case centring on artificially heated greenhouses.  The Colony was largely brought together from May 1895 by Frank Kapper (an anarchist-communist refugee from the Austro-Hungarian Empire where he was born as Franz Kapir), together with financial support from William Key, a Sunderland businessman and Independent Labour Party activist.  It developed as a market garden with varying numbers of colonists (a mix of European refugees and British trade unionists, socialists and co-operators) either living collectively at Clousden Hill Farm or renting houses in nearby Forest Hall.  Prominent socialist organisers, such as Tom Mann, stayed at the Colony when on Tyneside, and some of these (including Jim Connell, author of The Red Flag) wrote sympathetic accounts based on their visits.  The Colony included women, who were very political, as well as children.  It appeared to have been a generally happy part of the contemporary 'back to the land' movement, though subject to internal political disputes that along with a shortage of money eventually brought about its closure.  The anarchist-communist identity of the Colony had practically disappeared by 1898 as the whole affair drifted towards becoming some kind of co-operative, leading to bankruptcy in 1902.

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