Margaret Cross (22 December 1866 in Preston, United Kingdom – 14 March 1962 in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, UK) was a British educator and school principal, a pioneer of Co-education and of Steiner Waldorf education in Britain as well as of Biodynamic agriculture. Together with Hannah Clark she founded the Kings Langley Priory School, later the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, which was closed in March 2019.
Margaret Frances Cross was born on 22 December 1866 in Preston, Lancashire. Her mother died when she was two years old and she was raised by her maternal grandmother until she, in her turn, died. She then moved to her father’s family who were farming in Cambridgeshire, completed her schooling and studied at the University of Cambridge. While at the university, she met Miss Hannah Clark, one of the pioneers of co-educational boarding schools in Britain and began to work at her school as assistant teacher. The two became partners until Hannah Clark’s death in 1934, though at some point she left England to further her studies in Vienna.
With Hannah Clark, Margaret Cross moved first of all to Overstrand in Norfolk as teacher of music and mathematics, then in 1899 to Coombe Hill House, East Grinstead in Sussex, where apparently, her father, now retired from farming, lived as a border. Here the two women developed their educational methods and values of mixed-sex education close to nature, with the practical tasks farming and animal husbandry, cooking, cleaning and washing forming an integral part of the lessons.
In 1909 the Priory in Kings Langley, London was acquired, with Margaret Cross listed as co-principal and responsible for much of the development work. The intention was to integrate into the education the principles of Maria Montessori, as particularly Margaret Cross was interested in modern methods of education and made it her business to attend conferences and keep abreast of developments. Then Margaret Cross was invited by Prof Millicent Mackenzie to join her with a group of other teachers from Britain, in attending a course of lectures on education by Rudolf Steiner in Dornach, Switzerland in December 1921. This was followed in April 1922 by a further course of lectures Steiner held, this time in England, during which period he visited the school in Kings Langley. It was this visit that prompted the two women to offer their school as the first to implement the ideas of Steiner’s education in Britain, a conversion that was to take place over many years.
Margaret Cross began to concern herself with Anthroposophy and was present at the Christmas Foundation Meeting of the re-constituted Anthroposophical Society in 1923. It is not clear when she began to study and practice Biodynamic agriculture but in 1929 she joined the Agricultural Research circle of the Anthroposophical Society. Her initiative and research together with Ehrenfried Pfeiffer led to the founding of the Biodynamic Agricultural Foundation of Great Britain, today called the Biodynamic Agriculture Association. She was the editor of Stars and Furrows, the newsletter of the Biodynamic Foundation from 1935 until 1951.
Her friend and lifelong co-worker, Hannah Clark, died in 1934, and tombstone is in the churchyard of the parish church of All Saints'. Miss Cross continued to run the school management together with a Miss Burton, who had joined them in 1915. Vera Compton-Burnett and her sister Juliet, sisters of the writer Ivy Compton-Burnett and daughters of the well-known homeopathic physician Dr James Compton-Burnett, were amongst the teachers at the school. The full conversion to Steiner education achieved its final step when the Rudolf Steiner New School moved into the Priory House site next door, gradually incorporating the old Priory and becoming the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley. Margaret Cross died in 1962 under the care of her friend and colleague Miss Burton.
Anthroposophy is a philosophy founded in the early 20th century by the 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.
Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect, economist, esotericist, and claimed clairvoyant. 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.
Kings Langley is a historic village and civil parish in Hertfordshire, England, 21 miles (34 km) northwest of central London to the south of the Chiltern Hills and now part of the London commuter belt. The village is divided between two local government districts by the River Gade with the larger western portion in the Borough of Dacorum and smaller part, to the east of the river, in Three Rivers District.
Biodynamic agriculture is a form of alternative agriculture very similar to organic farming, but it includes various esoteric concepts drawn from the ideas of Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925). Initially developed in 1924, it was the first of the organic agriculture movements. It treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives.
Traditional farming was the original type of agriculture, and has been practiced for thousands of years. All traditional farming is now considered to be "organic farming" although at the time there were no known inorganic methods. For example, forest gardening, a fully organic food production system which dates from prehistoric times, is thought to be the world's oldest and most resilient agroecosystem. After the industrial revolution had introduced inorganic methods, most of which were not well developed and had serious side effects. An organic movement began in the 1940s as a reaction to agriculture's growing reliance on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The history of this modern revival of organic farming dates back to the first half of the 20th century at a time when there was a growing reliance on these new synthetic, non-organic methods.
Ehrenfried Pfeiffer was a German scientist, soil scientist, leading advocate of biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophist and student of Rudolf Steiner.
This article on the History of Waldorf schools includes descriptions of the schools' historical foundations, geographical distribution and internal governance structures.
Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley was a Steiner School located in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, England, formed in 1949.
Elisabeth Vreede was a Dutch mathematician, astronomer and Anthroposophist.
Marjorie Spock was an environmentalist, author and poet, best known for her influence on Rachel Carson when the latter was writing Silent Spring. Spock was also a noted Waldorf teacher, eurythmist, biodynamic gardener and anthroposophist.
Peter Selg is a German psychiatrist. He was born in Stuttgart and studied medicine in Witten-Herdecke, Zurich, and Berlin. Until 2000, he worked as the head physician of the juvenile psychiatry department of Herdecke hospital in Germany. Selg is director of the Ita Wegman Institute for Basic Research into Anthroposophy and professor of medicine at the Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences (Germany). He lectures extensively and is the author of numerous books.
Francis Edmunds was an educator and Anthroposophist and the founder of Emerson College, Forest Row.
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John Davy was a British journalist and science editor for The Observer, lecturer, vice-principal of Emerson College and Anthroposophist.
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Hawkwood College is a registered charity and independent centre for education in a 19th-century Grade II listed building on 42 acres of grounds, including gardens, pastures, woodland and a natural spring overlooking the Stroud Valley.
Eleanor Merry, was an English poet, artist, musician and anthroposophist with a strong Celtic impulse and interest in esoteric wisdom. She studied in Vienna and met Rudolf Steiner in 1922 after becoming interested in his teachings. She went on to organize Summer Schools at which Steiner gave important lectures, and was secretary for the World Conference on Spiritual Science in London in 1928.
Violetta Elsa Plincke was a Waldorf teacher and lecturer on education who contributed much to the establishment of Steiner education in Britain.
Sunfield is an Independent special school, Children's Home and charity on the border of Worcestershire and the West Midlands in England. It was founded in 1930 and now supports boys and girls, aged 6 – 19 years, with complex learning needs, including autism.