The School of Philosophy and Economic Science.

Waterperry House and Gardens is wholly owned by the School of Philosophy and Economic Science (SPES), a registered educational charity*.

SPES bought the Waterperry Estate from Beatrix Havergal in 1971. The story goes that, when Beatrix was looking for an appropriate buyer, she visited one of the School’s existing properties, went straight to look in the garden shed and, upon discovering that the garden tools were all well oiled and looked after, decided on the spot to sell the estate to the School.

The SPES has now owned the estate for longer than Beatrix did and, during it’s custodianship, the gardens have grown and developed with visitor numbers increasing hugely.

The best way to understand what the Philosophy School is all about is to visit the house and do a Fresco tour . Tours are available on Wednesday and Friday afternoons at 2pm.

Waterperry House is used on weeks and weekends for study groups and retreats throughout the year.

Find out more about The School of Philosophy and Economic Science.

A Brief History of the School of Philosophy and Economic Science

The School of Philosophy and Economic Science has its origins in the 1930s, against the background of severe economic depression. Its founder, Leon MacLaren, was inspired by the work of the nineteenth century economist Henry George. George held that everyone owns what they create, but that everything found in nature, most importantly land, belongs equally to all humanity.

In 1937, MacLaren founded the Henry George School of Economics, the first public courses being held in the same year with the active support of his father, Andrew MacLaren MP. The school was renamed the School of Economic Science in 1942 and again in 2019 to The School of Philosophy and Economic Science as it is known today.

Leon MacLaren continued to develop the courses in economics, writing ‘The Nature of Society’ as a textbook. The last chapter of this book reflects his search for something not altogether accessible within the realm of economics. This lead to an interest in philosophy – ‘the love of wisdom’ – as a means of gaining deeper insights into the natural laws governing humanity, and the origin of those laws. After coming in contact with the Study Society in the early 50s, he discovered the teachings of Ouspensky and Gurdjieff. He was taken by the similarities between diagrams developed for the economics courses and those used by Ouspensky.

The first public courses in philosophy started in 1954, and within a few years philosophy became the central subject of study and practice within the School (economics courses have continued and there remains today a thriving economics faculty within the School).

The arrival of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in London in 1959 brought the next stage of development, meditation. This was soon taken up by longstanding students of the School and continues to be an important part of the teaching.

Maharaja Shri Shantananda Saraswati

In the mid-60s, the School made contact with a leading figure of the Vedantic tradition in India, Maharaja Shri Shantananda Saraswati, from whom it received invaluable guidance in the study and practice of philosophy for over 30 years. Through this connection, the School was introduced to the universal teaching known as Advaita, which means literally ‘universal’ or ‘devoid of duality’. Since the Maharaja’s death in 1997, similar guidance has been provided by his successor, Shri Vasudevananda Saraswati.

The School has expanded geographically so that courses in philosophy, and sometimes other subjects, are now available through more than 40 branch locations in the UK. A number of associated overseas schools have also been established. Each is legally independent, but shares a common interest and bond through the same philosophical teaching.

Leon MacLaren died in 1994 and was succeeded by Donald Lambie, a barrister.

The Charitable Objects of the SPES

1.To promote the study of the natural laws governing the relationships between people in society and all studies related thereto and to promote the study of the laws, customs and practices by which communities are governed.

2.To promote any art or science.

3.To establish a School for these purposes.

4.To promote the education of children in the United Kingdom.

How the School of Philosophy supports Waterperry Gardens Limited

The managing director and the board of Waterperry Gardens Limited are all currently members of the Philosophy School. Although Waterperry Gardens is a limited company, as the charity commission has strict rules about what trading activities can and cannot take place within a charity, the aim is that the ethos of the Philosophy School runs as much as possible through the business. In lean years the SPES supports Waterperry Gardens financially and in good years Waterperry Gardens can gift aid any profits to it’s parent charity.

More importantly it is hoped that visitors to the gardens and estate will pick up in the atmosphere a sense of the peace and happiness that can arise as a result of the many years of sincere spiritual practice through meditation and yoga that have taken place.

How Waterperry Gardens Limited supports the School of Philosophy

Waterperry Gardens has a growing reputation as a fine herbaceous and colour garden building on the fine work of Beatrix Havergal, Mary Spiller, Valerie Finnis, Bernard Saunders and many others and passing the baton to the wonderful garden team of today. In many ways the Gardens are a show-piece for the Philosophy School and it’s charitable object of ‘promoting any art or science’ to the world.

The gardens provide the School with a wonderful setting for retreat weekends and weeks and the teashop often caters for groups of students on retreat in the house.

How Waterperry Gardens and the School of Philosophy and Economic Science supports our visitors and guests.

All be happy. That is the strap line of the estate. Not some: all. You only visit this wonderful estate for that reason essentially. That is the aim: happiness.

Find out more about the history of the School by watching this short video.

*Registered charity numbers 313115 and SC039950.