Blog > Guy Clutton-Brock: from Oxford House to hero of Zimbabwe

Guy Clutton-Brock: from Oxford House to hero of Zimbabwe

If you were to ask: “What is Oxford House?” the answer you would probably hear is: “A community centre”. However, it was not until the Second World War that the Settlement started evolving into the vibrant and welcoming space we know today. Much of this transformation was due to the efforts of one man.

1958~ Guy Z

When German bomb raids forced the East End population to flee their homes, new Head Guy Clutton-Brock opened the doors of the House to hundreds of people. His vision was that of an inclusive refuge where the gap between rich and poor would vanish. In Cold Comfort Confronted, published in 1972, he left a memoir of his days at Oxford House. “To feel at one with one’s fellows through continuing crisis and to fall asleep on one’s feet with exhaustion at serving them were both new experiences”.

Clutton-Brock obtained special mention for his character and intellectual attainments at Cambridge University. His commitment to community drove him to a career in the prison and probation services, youth and community work.

Under his guidance, the five storey red-brick building became much more than a bomb shelter. As Peter Kuenstler recalls, “sing-songs and other activities were organised” in the “brightly lit and warm” building. Kuenstler, John Raven and Merfyn Turner were among the young conscientious objectors Clutton-Brock gave refuge to in Oxford House.

1942 GM Sally Oxford House roof

After the war, Clutton-Brock went to Southern Rhodesia as teacher of agriculture. Together with his wife Molly, he founded Cold Comfort Farm, a cooperative which soon became a widely acknowledged symbol of non-racial progress.

As his daughter Sally wrote, “Guy really believed in the good of the common man and always supported the underdog”. This attitude made him appear more and more suspicious in the eyes of the white government.

In 1965, when Rhodesia declared independence from Britain, Guy and his wife were deported; on their departure, hundreds of Africans went to the airport to say goodbye.

Upon his death in 1995, Clutton-Brock was declared the first white National Hero of Zimbabwe and his ashes were scattered at the Heroes’ Acre shrine.

 Text: Sarah Baldiserra

Images:
1: Guy Clutton-Brock, John Raven, Charles Raven, 1963. Sally Roschnik.
2. Guy Clutton-Brock, 1958. Sally Roschnik.
3. Guy Clutton-Brock with his wife Molly and daughter Sally on the roof of Oxford House, 1942. Sally Roschnik.

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WANTED: Archivist for heritage project Fascism in the East End The Blitz The Original Oxford House Conscientious objectors The Welsh Schools The Excelsior The Effects of World War I in Oxford House War Memorial The Inauguration of the Oxford House Building 1892 From Oxford House to Local and International Stardom In the Spotlight: the Repton Boxing Club and Oxford House Hensley Henson, Oxford House leader The Kray Twins Alfred Soord, The Crucifixion. Oxford House Chapel Women and Oxford House Oxford House and its Clubs Why you should donate to save our secret chapel The Bethnal Green Tube Tragedy The Webbe Boys’ Club Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s Super Kid (a.k.a. Eddie Marsan) Save Oxford House's 'Secret' Chapel Oxford House and Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram Our resolution? Raise all the funds to start our major heritage project Post War Regeneration of Bethnal Green Weavers’ Fields and the Huguenots Guy Clutton-Brock: from Oxford House to hero of Zimbabwe WWI: Zeppelins or ‘Take me back to dear old Blighty’ The Hidden Gem: Oxford House Chapel History in the making Oxford House and Ben Uri Gallery The Chapel Oxford House Arms: Dominus Illuminatio Mea Why is Oxford House listed as Grade II Heritage? Heritage Lottery Fund - 'Oh! ‘wins’ the lottery' Who designed Oxford House? The Boys and Men’s Clubs in the 19th and early 20th century Why a new building in 1891? Rise under Rev. Winnington-Ingram How it all begun. Clubs and activities at Oxford House 1884 Who created Oxford House? What is a settlement? 130 Not out! Our pre-history: The Oxford Movement From Victorian Gap Year to Community Hub
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