A mission to educate
Farncombe Estate Centre was launched as a weekend business to make best use of Cotswold Conference Centre’s weekday meeting and training facilities. The company runs leisure courses, study breaks and summer schools for adult students from all over the UK and abroad.
William Reddaway, who retired in 2011, was the original Head of Lifelong Learning and one of the founders of the programme. He remembers the 320-acre estate on Fish Hill, overlooking the Vale of Evesham, long before it was developed as a conference centre: “Many of the buildings we know today did not exist. Where we now have our modern reception and dining room was then a tin shed.
“Jørgen Philip-Sørensen, [Group 4’s founder, who died in 2010], loved the idea of lifelong learning. He particularly wanted people to come and enjoy the beauty of Farncombe Estate.”
In 2003, Farncombe Estate Centre launched with a mission to educate. Thousands of people have since enjoyed its varied study and activity programme. While many adult learning centres are being forced to close their doors through lack of funding, Farncombe has seen a series of financial investments, including the building of 32 extra bedrooms in 2011. Under the guidance of Programme Manager Mandy Morrison, Farncombe Estate continues to grow. Alongside the well-established subjects like History, Crafts and Music Appreciation.
“We aim to strengthen our programme with courses that appeal to a diverse audience,” says Mandy. “We have a loyal and faithful following who have been with us since our early days. But it is also very satisfying to see new customers enjoying subjects that they haven’t tried before. A varied programme, catering for all ages and tastes, is the best way to ensure that Farncombe Estate is still here in another 10 years time.”
Farncombe Courses is a member of ARCA, previously known as the Adult Residential Colleges Association. ARCA originated in the early 1980s, when a group of residential education colleges decided to formalise their status. The first colleges were often run by local authorities but soon other colleges from the private and charitable sector joined the movement.The concept of residential adult education was imported from Denmark in the 1930s but only took root after the Second World War. Residential colleges continue to be popular in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries.