As Trump’s America plays its own potentially-catastrophic global war game, we would do well to remember a forgotten English philosopher and writer – C.E.M. Joad (1891-1953) – whose work is exhibited at the Arundel Museum this week (‘The Joadian Way’ Exhibition – April 7-14).
67 years ago, in June 1950 at the start of the Cold War, Joad won an Oxford Union Debate against Randolph Churchill – chaired by Robin Day [an Oxford ‘stringer’ for Time magazine which later covered the debate under the heading “Heading for Hell?”]:
“That this House regrets the influence exercised by the U.S. as the dominant power among the democratic nations”.
Described as “possibly the most beautiful short walk in the South Downs National Park”, the Joadian Way Ramblette took place the weekend before Easter – Saturday April 8 – to mark the 64th Anniversary of South Downs philosopher and writer C.E.M. Joad (1891-1953), who became famous in the wartime Brains Trust.
Starting from Amberley Station at 11am, the short walk passes through North Stoke near the South Downs Way (with its unique red Telephone Box/Information Point), and then on to South Stoke where Joad wrote many of his 100+ books in the 1940’s.
Distance : 5.3m (8.5k) – 2 hour walk (round-trip).
Terrain : Grass footpath and track (muddy and slippery in parts). Good walking boots strongly advised. A few hills.
Where to park : Amberley Station (off the B 2139)
1. Start from the Heritage Trail sign on the wall at Amberley Station, with the Amberley Working Museum opposite. This small village, called Houghton Bridge, is located on the banks of the river Arun and is home to, rather confusingly, both Amberley museum and train station.
2. Head out of the Amberley Station and immediately cross the busy road – with care. Walk left towards Houghton Bridge [a walk right would go Amberley Village – a good walk from the station].
Don’t miss the small signpost of the Chichester-Horsham Literary Trail to the right [Ref: “West Sussex Literary Trail” by Peter Anderson & Keith McKenna – Per-Rambulations 2007].
Here it is best to do a little ‘imagineering’ and go back in time to 1814 – over 200 years ago. Imagine no trains, no cars and no restaurants – just boats and a bridge over the river. The only means of crossing the river was the bridge – thus the Toll House to charge for crossing it.
Houghton Bridge was built in 1813, with John Davis being the first Toll “Keeper”. He started work on April 1 1814 and received eight shillings per week.
Turnpike tolls raised £70 to £80 per year. The charge of two shillings was made “for every 4-wheeled Wagon, Wain, Cart drawn by 8 horses”; two shillings for “Coach, Chariot, Landau, Berlin chaise, Curricule, Calah, Hearse or other such carriage drawn by six horses or other beasts”; and “for every drove of calves, swine, sheep or lambs sum of 10d [pence] per score”.
“For any use on a Sunday – Double Toll”.
The bridge itself was rebuilt in 1875 by landowners which included the Duke of Norfolk (Arundel Castle) and Lord Leconfield (Petworth House).
4. Carefully go half-way across the bridge, and cross the road at the footpath signpost on the other side. Then follow the path to the river.
5. Follow the grass path along the river – “The Riverbank Walk”. Keep a look out for the different varieties of wildlife which frequent the River Arun throughout the year – as well as the occasional fisherman
After going over a stile, immediately turn left over another stile (by the small lock). Walk to the end of this narrow, hedged footpath which is often very muddy and slippery. Take extra care here. The road will finally be reached
Then come back the same way, and just after the red telephone box take the signposted footpath to the right.
9. The narrow footpath brings you out on to the grand vista of the South Downs.
Go straight across the field to the wooded area (any cows, sheep or horses therein are likely to be very curious).
10. Follow the footpath through the woods and cross over the Gurkha Bridge
11. Keep along the path, noticing the Knobbled Tree on the left (easily missed!)
Continue walking until the river is reached. Turn left after the turnstile, and walk along the river towards the the white bridge
South Stoke Farm and St Leonard’s Church can be seen on the other side of the Arun.
12. Cross over the Bridge
And follow the track into South Stoke Village.
13. Pass the Old Rectory and St Leonard’s Church
In the cemetery, look out for “The Still Point” inscription by TS Eliot on the gravestone of John and Joanna Haggarty.
This author came to understand a little more about “The Still Point” at the Knobbled Tree (see Point 11.).
Walk on to the Chapel Barn and South Stoke Farm [from where CEM Joad wrote many of his 100+ books, and is the farm in his posthumous work of fiction “Folly Farm”].
14. Return to Amberley Station/Houghton Bridge by walking back to North Stoke. At its Telephone Box/Information Point turn right, then keep walking along the road running parallel with the railway line towards the station.
15. Pass the Chalkpit tunnel (from where scenes of the James Bond film “A View to a Kill” were shot – starring Roger Moore and Grace Jones)
Pass the Old School House to the right
and the Old Cannon to the left (down by the river)
60th anniversary of South Downs philosopher at Stedham
Photo: CEM Joad in his Brains Trust heyday
Wednesday 10 April 2013
Stedham Exhibition of Philosophy and Brains Trust Evening on Sunday, April 7 will mark the 60th anniversary of the death of the South Downs philosopher ‘Professor’ CEM Joad, who lived at Stedham and died there in 1953, aged 61.
It was at his Stedham home that he wrote his last major work, The Recovery of Belief – A Restatement of Christian Philosophy.
Described as the ‘Patrick Moore of philosophy of his day’, he brought the subject down to earth for millions in his many books.
Organiser of the exhibition, Richard William Symonds, said: “His 50th anniversary in 2003 was held at South Stoke Farm, the South Stoke Festival of Thought, a beautiful hamlet nestled in the South Downs, but which had yet to achieve national park status at that time. “Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad – CEMJ – played no small part in helping to set up certain national parks in the late 1940s, but did not succeed with the South Downs, an area he deeply treasured and loved. If he was alive today, he would be absolutely delighted with its national park status.”
Mr Symonds said everyone was welcome to attend the event, which will be held in Stedham Village Memorial Hall. It starts at midday and will go on until 10pm.
The Rev Roger Williamson, vicar of St James, Stedham, has volunteered to act as question master in an informal, friendly re-enactment of the wartime programme The Brains Trust which was first broadcast on radio, before the advent of television, in January, 1941 and in which the ‘Professor’ became a national celebrity with his catch-phrase ‘It all depends what you mean by…’.
“He became what I would call the Patrick Moore of philosophy in his day, popularising the subject for millions and writing more than 100 books on the subject. “The Brains Trust was the pioneering forerunner to what we now know today as Question Time and Any Questions.”
The day will begin with a welcome by Ruth Joad, granddaughter of CEM Joad. There will be a short walk, the Joadian Trail, at 3pm which will take in Meadow Hills, Joad’s Stedham home. Choral Evensong takes place at St James’ Church at 6pm when the Rev Williamson’s sermon will be based around Recovery of Belief. The re-enactment of The Brains Trust evening will be from 7.30pm-9pm.
Described as “probably the most beautiful short walk in the South Downs National Park”, the Joadian Way Ramblette will take place the weekend before Easter – Saturday April 8 – to mark the 64th Anniversary of South Downs philosopher and writer C.E.M. Joad (1891-1953), who became famous in the wartime Brains Trust.
Starting from Amberley Station at 11am, the short walk will pass through North Stoke near the South Downs Way (with its unique red telephone box/information point), and then on to South Stoke where Joad wrote many of his 100+ books in the 1940s.
On arrival back at Amberley Station by 12.30pm (approx), there will be an option for lunch at the Riverside Restaurant by Houghton Bridge.
All are warmly welcome. Good walking boots are strongly recommended as it is likely to be muddy in places.
CEM Joad, after whom The Joadian Way is named, was a 20th century philosopher and intellectual who frequently visited West Sussex. Clare Toole-Mackson finds out more about him and the eponymous walk.
ALTHOUGH I am an enthusiastic and reasonably knowledgeable Sussex rambler, The Joadian Way rang no bells. The South Downs Way, The Monarch’s Way – yes, but this – no. I discovered it to be an approximately 5 mile circular walk between the hamlet of South Stoke, just north of Arundel, and Amberley station, through delightful riverside and Downland scenery.
But who was this Joad, who gave the trail its name? He was a colourful and controversial intellectual figure of the 1940’s. More mature readers may remember ‘The Brains Trust, a ground-breaking BBC radio programme which began on January 1, 1941, in an attempt to improve morale in wartime Britain. Its panel, which included Julian Huxley, answered questions, frequently of a philosophical nature, sent in by listeners. C.E.M. Joad, ‘The Professor’ as he was affectionately known, was one of the original panel members. The Brains Trust became so popular that at its height the audience figures exceeded those of ‘ITMA’, the well-loved wartime comedy programme. Through the medium of the programme Joad popularised philosophy, believing that it should not be merely an academic discipline but a power in everyday life. He endeared himself to his listeners by his business-like and unpedantic style of speaking and by his fund of anecdotes and mild humour. His answers invariably began with the catchphrase “It all depends on what you mean by…” and he rapidly became a celebrity figure, as well-known in his time as George Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell.
A welcome escape from the pressures of life in London was provided by Joad’s regular stays at South Stoke farmhouse and at Meadow Hills, near Stedham.
He walked and grew to love the Sussex landscape and campaigned passionately to preserve the English countryside against industrial exploitation and ribbon development – an environmentalist ahead of his time. A month after his death he was quoted in The Observer in ‘Sayings Of Our Times’ – “It will be said of this generation that it found England a land of beauty and left it a land of beauty spots”. In another local connection, Joad was a regular visitor to ‘Humphrey’s’ at Greatham, the country home of the hugely hospitable Meynell family – he even played for their family cricket team.
A brief outline of Joad’s life : he was born in Durham in 1891 and had a very strict Christian upbringing. He excelled at school and Oxford University where he joined the Fabian Society, a group of socialists whose aim was to establish a democratic socialist state in Britain. His commitment to socialism was, not surprisingly, accompanied by strong pacifism and agnosticism. It was he who proposed – and won – the motion for the famous 1933 Oxford Union debate – “That this House will in no circumstances fight for its King and country”. He did however renounce his pacifism in 1940 on realising the full horror of Nazism. After University he became a Civil Servant, hoping to infuse the Service with the socialist ethos. Sixteen years later he retired and was appointed Head of the Department of Philosophy and Psychology at Birkbeck College, University of London, a post he held for 23 years. (ie from 1930 until his death in 1953 – Ed)
An amazingly prolific author, Joad wrote, introduced or edited over 100 books, pamphlets, articles and essays. Much of his writing was done during his rural seclusion at South Stoke and Stedham. As a philosopher he cannot be said to have developed an original system of thought but dedicated his books to exploring and understanding the ideas of others, as well as arguing his own, sometimes unpopular, views and opinions on subjects such as religion, politics and warfare.
[National Gallery portrait of C.E.M. Joad]
He was the author of ‘Teach Yourself Philosophy’ in that well-known and popular series of instruction manuals.
It has probably become evident that C.E.M. Joad was a multi-faceted and complex personality and inevitably there was a dark side. He did marry in 1915 and had three children but separated from his wife 6 years later. His attitude to women strikes us today as particularly perverse and unacceptable. He believed that female minds lacked objectivity and had no interest in talking to women who would not go to bed with him. He was in fact expelled from a Fabian Society summer school because of sexual misconduct!
An extraordinary and, as it proved, fatal flaw was Joad’s boast “I cheat the railway company whenever I can”. He was eventually caught travelling without a valid ticket, convicted and fined. This public humiliation had a severe effect on him and dramatically altered the course of his life. Because of his celebrity the incident made front page headlines. He was dismissed from the BBC and all his hopes for a peerage vanished.
His health deteriorated rapidly and he died of cancer in 1953, aged 61, incidentally renouncing during his illness his agnostic ways and returning to the Christianity of the Church of England.
In spite of the scandal of his latter days, C.E.M. Joad should be remembered because he made philosophy intelligible and entertainingly accessible, teaching millions of wartime BBC ‘students’ to courageously think, write and speak for themselves when confronted by abuse and misuse of power. Known familiarly as ‘The Professor’ he was never actually accorded that honour – perhaps because of a certain amount of jealousy on the part of the academic elite. He was also instrumental in causing Stephen Potter to write his book ‘Gamesmanship’ (subtitle ‘The Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating’!); the idea arising during a doubles tennis match. Without the foundations laid by the Brains Trust in 1940 there might not exist today such cradles of lively debate as Question Time and Any Questions.
Richard Symonds, a Founder Member of the Joad Society in West Sussex, has worked hard to re-establish C.E.M. Joad’s name and reputation in the public eye. In April 2003 he was instrumental in organising the South Stoke Festival of Thought to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Joad’s death and in 2013 at Stedham an Exhibition of Philosophy and a Brains Trust evening. I understand that plans are already in hand for the 70th anniversary in 2023. Arundel Museum has a significant Joad archive.
Many thanks to Richard Symonds and to Arundel Museum for information on which this article is based. For details of the Joadian Way, click on the link