Arnold Freeman

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Arnold James Freeman (24 March 1886 – 8 March 1972) was a British writer, philosopher, anthroposophist, adult educator, actor, director, Fabian Socialist, Labour Party candidate and co-founder of the anthroposophical magazine, The Golden Blade. He was the founder and first Warden of the Sheffield Educational Settlement.

Anthroposophy philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner

Anthroposophy is a philosophy founded by the 19th century esotericist Rudolf Steiner that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. Followers of anthroposophy aim to develop mental faculties of spiritual discovery through a mode of thought independent of sensory experience. They also aim to present their ideas in a manner verifiable by rational discourse and specifically seek a precision and clarity in studying the spiritual world mirroring that obtained by natural historians in investigations of the physical world.


Early years

Freeman came from a middle-class, non-conformist background, the family involved in importing tobacco and manufacturing cigars. At various times they lived in different houses within the Hoxton area of London. He is the brother of Sir Ralph Freeman consulting engineer for the Sydney Harbour Bridge and of Labour M.P. Peter Freeman. He and his brothers all attended Haberdashers' Aske's School. On completing school in 1905, Arnold went on to study at St John's College, Oxford where, being a committed Socialist, he joined the Fabian Society. He was a vegetarian and engaged in social work from an early age, having been a member of the Highbury Quadrant Congregationalist church.

Ralph Freeman (1880–1950) British engineer (1880–1950)

Sir Ralph Freeman was an English structural engineer, responsible for the design of several of the world's most impressive bridges.

The Labour Party is a centre-left political party in the United Kingdom which has been described as an alliance of social democrats, democratic socialists and trade unionists. The party's platform emphasises greater state intervention, social justice and strengthening workers' rights.

Peter Freeman was a Labour Party politician in the United Kingdom.

He and his sister Daisy spent a year at the Quaker Settlement in Woodbrooke, Birmingham and thereafter he began to do extramural work in tutorial classes for the Universities of Sheffield, London and Oxford. He also began lecturing at the same time he started to teach History and Economic History for the Workers' Educational Association, gradually expanding this into a concern with human nature and human idealism as expressed through Literature, Art and Philosophy. Particularly his work in Sheffield brought him into the mining areas of South Yorkshire. [1]

The Workers' Educational Association (WEA), founded in 1903, is the UK's largest voluntary sector provider of adult education and one of Britain's biggest charities. The WEA is a democratic and voluntary adult education movement. It delivers learning throughout England and Scotland. There was a related but independent WEA Cymru covering Wales, though it is now know as Adult Learning Wales since a merger in 2015 with YMCA Community College.

The Sheffield Settlement

In 1918 he became founding Warden of the Sheffield Educational Settlement in Shipton Street, Upperthorpe, Sheffield at first under the YMCA and later under a Council that included notable local figures. It was part of the University Settlement movement, which "sought to bring education, improvement and hope to the lives of the poor and socially disadvantaged in the decades before the development of the Welfare State following the Second World War. The early decades of the Sheffield Settlement coincided with the serious hardship of the post-First World War era, typified by the Depression and mass unemployment." [1]

The settlement movement was a reformist social movement that began in the 1880s and peaked around the 1920s in England and the United States. Its goal was to bring the rich and the poor of society together in both physical proximity and social interconnectedness. Its main object was the establishment of "settlement houses" in poor urban areas, in which volunteer middle-class "settlement workers" would live, hoping to share knowledge and culture with, and alleviate the poverty of, their low-income neighbours. The settlement houses provided services such as daycare, education, and healthcare to improve the lives of the poor in these areas.

Its stated mission was "to establish in the City of Sheffield the Kingdom of God".

"By the Kingdom of God we mean streets along which it is a pleasure to walk; homes worthy of those who live in them; workplaces in which people enjoy working; public-houses that are centres of social and educational life; kinemas that show elevating films; schools that would win the approval of Plato; churches made up of men and women indifferent to their own salvation; an environment in which people "may have life and have it abundantly". By "Education" we mean everything by means of which people may become more spiritual; everything that enriches human beings, with That which described in three words is Beauty, Truth and Goodness, and described in one word as GOD."

Encounter with Anthroposophy

On a visit to Germany in 1913, Freeman had had a brief meeting with Rudolf Steiner which had left no strong impression, as he describes in Thou Eye Among the Blind. In 1921, however, he described a second encounter:

Rudolf Steiner Austrian esotericist

Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect, and esotericist. Steiner gained initial recognition at the end of the nineteenth century as a literary critic and published philosophical works including The Philosophy of Freedom. At the beginning of the twentieth century he founded an esoteric spiritual movement, anthroposophy, with roots in German idealist philosophy and theosophy; other influences include Goethean science and Rosicrucianism.

“Very shortly afterwards I came across an article of Dr. Steiner’s in the Hibbert Journal. It was a translation of an essay that originally appeared in the Soziale Zukunft in Switzerland. It bore the bleak title "Spiritual Life: Civil Rights: Industrial Economy”. This article made an immediate and profound impression upon me. I underwent something like an instantaneous conversion. Here was a thinker altogether greater than the Shaws and the Webbs and the Wellses. Here was somebody who saw all round the social problem. What Steiner had to say in this connection led me to consider what he had to say in other connections. It swiftly came about that for me there was now only one question in my life: “How can I help that man?” For me and others like me this question knocks insistently at their hearts.”

In 1922 he was co-organiser together with Professor Millicent Mackenzie of the large public conference "Spiritual Values in Education and in Social Life", run predominantly at Manchester College whose principal, Dr L.P. Jacks was another sympathiser and where Rudolf Steiner was able to put forward his ideas to a group of British educators. This conference marked the beginning of the establishment of Steiner-Waldorf education in the UK. [2] [3]

Millicent Mackenzie British educator

Millicent Hughes Mackenzie was a British professor of education at University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, the first female professor in Wales and the first appointed to a fully chartered university in the United Kingdom. She wrote on the philosophy of education, founded the Cardiff Suffragette branch, became the only woman Parliamentary Candidate in Wales for 1918, and was a key initiator of Steiner-Waldorf education in the United Kingdom.

Harris Manchester College, Oxford college of the University of Oxford

Harris Manchester College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Formerly known as Manchester College, it is listed in the University Statutes (V.1) as Manchester Academy and Harris College, and at university ceremonies it is called Collegium de Harris et Manchester. Located in Mansfield Road in central Oxford, Harris Manchester is one of very few mixed-sex higher education colleges in the UK whose undergraduate places are exclusively for students aged 21 years or over. The Principal of the college is the historian Prof Jane Shaw.

Waldorf education

Waldorf education, also known as Steiner education, is based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy. Its pedagogy strives to develop pupils' intellectual, artistic, and practical skills in an integrated and holistic manner. The cultivation of pupils' imagination and creativity is a central focus.

These convictions caused some conflict amongst some members of the Settlement's Council but it was Freeman's main aim to achieve spiritual values through education. He had come to Sheffield as a University tutor, and members of the University's staff played a major role in the work of the Settlement, though it had no formal association with the University. There were a lot of activities besides: courses of handicrafts, rambles, camping expeditions and involving the membership in the performance of plays. “The Settlement's Little Theatre put on a great variety of productions by the best serious dramatists, with some of whom Freeman corresponded. He never compromised over the quality of the work selected for presentation. Several notable local people, including industrialists, supported the work with donations, and a number of people later active in the public life of the city were associated with the Settlement.” [1]

In 1923 Freeman stood as a Labour Parliamentary candidate in the Hallam constituency.

When Freeman retired in 1955 at the age of 69 the Wardenship went to Christopher Boulton, an anthroposophist and lover of theatre. In 1961 the Shipton Street Settlement, along with its Little Theatre, vanished. In its place Christopher Boulton founded a Rudolf Steiner Settlement where the Merlin Theatre and the Arnold Freeman Hall still flourish. The Sheffield Repertory Company also started with the plays its members presented at the Little Theatre before they became independent in 1923.

Arnold Freeman died in 1972


As Arnold Freeman

As Arnold James Freeman

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