Craig Fes

"A brief (rough) history of the Caldecott / Community / Association website",

Caldecott Association Newsletter, March 2023


Later this year we will be updating the software system which underpins the Association’s website. These database-driven Content Management Systems (CMS) regularly need upgrading, like any computer operating system; and that time has come again. It should be straightforward, and hopefully people will not even notice when we flip the switch. But every upgrade is a landmark of sorts; and this one, for some reason, feels different. It has led me to think back about the history of the website, and the many changes and people it has involved. Because of all those changes, and the fact that some key people, like Bob Lawton, are no longer with us, the full history probably can’t be recovered; but let’s see what rough approximation we can come up with.


The roots of the story are in the Planned Environment Therapy Trust Archive and Study Centre, which began life in 1989 and went online in 1996. It may be hard to remember when the Internet was not a part of everyday life, but there was a time when people were happily analogue, and if not oblivious to it, were happily unconvinced and sceptical about the new online world slowly about to explode on them. And actually, back then it was not all that easy to go online or to create your own website: For the Archive to get its first account we had to visit what we would now call the Internet Service Provider in person, on a farm above Cheltenham, to discuss the ins and outs and decide on a domain name (we shaved the final “e” from pettarchiv to become, because memory was so precious back then); one of their technicians – a Goth geek, caring and knowledgable – came down to the Archive in person to install the necessary software, and train me in the code and routine to access the Internet (no ‘click click you’re in’!). Then we went up to the University of Liverpool to learn html, the language of the webpage, and HoTMetaL, the programme to write webpages in. These were the days when our computer was hand built for us through a friend, and the installation of the operating system involved dozens of floppy disks and hours of putting them in and out in the right sequence, some being used multiple times, and woe betide if you lost track. It was not a world where even large organisations had built the expertise to create websites (our small charity archive was online before the Society of Archivists’ was), much less smaller ones. Because we were a community-building, service-oriented, tech-Tiggerish, excited-to-be-creative-and-make-mistakes Archive, we found a role for ourself in rolling out websites for groups and organisations the Archive became involved with (and who wanted them! such as the Association of Therapeutic Communities, and the Cassel Hospital).


This is how, in 2000, the Caldecott Community appeared in our in-tray (not the Association; that would come later). The Community, as it was then, was a member of The Charterhouse Group of Therapeutic Communities, whose website we designed in 2000 and hosted as a subfolder on the pettarchiv server before moving it in 2003 to its own server with its own domain name. The Community had two pages in the Directory of Members, which can still be seen on the Internet Archive (details at the end).


The Archive and Study Centre and the Caldecott Association found each other in 2007, thanks largely to Robert Clark; and thanks to the Association members, whose enthusiasm and care for Caldecott history meant they had saved and gathered a lot of precious archival material which needed a home. The Archive was fortunate enough to become that home, and in the Autumn of 2007 a group of Caldecottians visited to help us pilot the first Caldecott “Archive Weekend” – two or three or more days, which could take place anywhere in the week, when members of a community could come together, live on site, share meals, record memories, and work on their archives. They were so successful that we applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project called “Therapeutic Living With Other People’s Children: an oral history of residential therapeutic child care c. 1930 to c. 1980”, which would mean we could roll out Archive Weekends and other events to five former children’s communities, including Caldecott. Our bid was successful, and this is when the Association’s first website was born. The Therapeutic Living project began in 2010, and from the start each community had its own website, developed by its community members, and populated with content created during their Archive Weekends. I’ve always thought it notable that while we budgeted for two Archive Weekends for each of the communities during the two years 2010-2011 that the project ran – one per year, basically - Caldecott somehow managed to get itself three.


That first Caldecott website went live in 2010, was in an early version of a CMS, and can still be seen on the Internet Archive (link below). It had a public showcase area, and a password-protected private area for community members to discuss and share memories, and it thrived. When the project ended in 2011 we kept the Therapeutic Living websites live and they continued to grow. But we didn’t update them quickly enough when the CMS needed upgrading, leaving them vulnerable to hacking; and in March 2012 they were subject to a savage malware attack; so savage that the Internet Service Provider took the sites off line, and Planned Environment Therapy Trust trustee John Moorhouse had to spend two weeks and many hours tracking down 20,0000 (!) malware-infected files, cleaning them, and clearing out problem apps. Some functionality was lost, but John brought them safely back online, and we upgraded the CMS. The websites were subjected to constant spamming for a while, but the upgrades held. What we neglected to do – I don’t know why - was to upgrade the PETT website at the same time, so we paid the price, and late in the following year the PETT website was attacked. We had to take it offline while John Moorhouse and the ISP cleaned everything up again; and for safety’s sake – because they were all on the same server and vulnerable - we took the Therapeutic Living websites offline at the same time.


In the meantime, a Caldecott revolution had begun. In early 2013 Bob Lawton, who began his Caldecott life at Hyde House in 1942, was in touch through the PETT website. He joined the Caldecott Archive Weekend that July, and before it was over he had agreed to take on the challenge of creating an all new Association website from scratch. Bob was an engineer by training, and immensely patient, and using manuals and websites taught himself how to use the CMS. The PETT website was nearing the limit of its allotted memory, so we created a folder called “caldecott2” inside the website of the Child Care History Network (which the Archive had also created and managed), where Bob set to work. Amazingly, less than a fortnight after the Archive Weekend, and with support and encouragement from Barry Northam, Robert Clark, Gill Cook and others - Bob had worked through all the problems the CMS could throw at him (and boy there were a lot!) and had a test site ready to show off. Unfortunately this was not saved by the Internet Archive; but by September the new site was ready to be unveiled to the public, so we moved it from CCHN to an all-new Communities section of the expanded PETT website, at . It went live just in time for the hack that took all the PETT-based websites down. There is the merest tantalising whisper of the existence of this site saved on the Internet Archive (see below).


Then, in the Spring of 2014, Bob took the website one revolutionary step further, moving it out of the PETT website and onto a server of its own. Ten years after it was formed in 2004, the Caldecott Association finally had its own stand-alone website. The site was supported technically by the Archive when and if Bob needed help solving a problem, but it was independent, and had its own domain name. And it grew and grew, with much input from Barry Northam and others. The website – – is well represented in the Internet Archive. Then Bob died suddenly, on September 21, 2017. 


Through this catastrophe the Archive and the Planned Environment Therapy Trust took on a fuller responsibility for managing and maintaining the website on behalf of the Association, and in late 2018 John Moorhouse had to step in once again to save and restore the website after another hack. But the Archive itself was about to change. At the end of December 2018 the Planned Environment Therapy Trust transferred all its assets including the Archive to the Mulberry Bush Organisation, who maintained things as they were while they settled in; but in June 2019 the Association was asked to take its website back. By this time the site had been hacked and damaged again, so the Association took the opportunity to close it down entirely, save what could be saved, move it to a new Internet Service Provider, and create a new site with a new domain name, reflecting a new sense of identity and direction. The new site – – went live at the beginning of February 2020; and continues to evolve and grow.


It’s 2023, and it’s hard to believe that the website is only a baker’s dozen years old! It has travelled so far, had so many adventures and misadventures, and moved and changed and adapted so many times (like the Community itself!) that it surely must be older. It has had at least four different Internet Service Providers, several resting places, and five domains - from to to to to today’s


But however old or however young, in its different forms it has connected us with so many Community members, from all over the world - former children and staff, and family members - who have shared their stories or just been re-connected with people they knew, and memories. It has also shared the Community’s life and history with thousands and thousands of people around the world. And that is what the website is there for: to build community and connection, to gather and share the Caldecott history, and to help us all understand the past and the possibilities of the future better. If you’ve not seen it or shared your memories on it yet, have a look. Comment. Help us change it. What works and what doesn’t? What’s missing? Or just enjoy it. There is a lot of care and history there.


Caldecott captures on the Internet Archive and UK Web Archive:

1) The Caldecott Community in the Charterhouse Group Directory, 2003:


2) The Caldecott website inside the ‘Therapeutic Living With Other People’s Children’ project in 2013:


(Explanation: The video/digital stories were uploaded to the Internet in swf format, which is no longer supported, and won’t play. The oral histories with Ley Melrose and Barry Northam, on the other hand, are in mp3 and will still play, and are very much worth listening to).


3) The whisper of there having been a Communities section within PETT, and the Caldecott website there, 2013:



4) The earliest capture of, the Association’s first stand alone website, was in 2017, when the site was already three years old: