Malcolm Rigby visited the scene of Somerset’s second coming, just a few miles to the west of Bridgwater.
Anyone visiting the sleepy little village of Spaxton today would be unlikely to guess that for a century it was home to a strange and notorious religious sect that challenged the laws of marriage, established a harem of beautiful and wealthy young women, and was ruled over by two different ‘Messiahs’ who both promised immortality. The Agapemone, literally Abode of Love, was set up in a mansion on the outskirts of Spaxton in the middle of the 19th century.
The main house has now been divided up and is used for private residential purposes. The front of the chapel has been boarded up and the remaining stained glass windows are in need of repair.
The Lamb Inn, next door, bears some witness to their former neighbours in the form of a few newspaper cuttings and pictures adorning the walls.
Just a handful of the village’s residents will remember the final days of the movement which was by this stage no more than a nursing home for ageing women. The last leading figure, Sister Ruther, died in 1956.
During the early 1950s Trudel Lederman and her family came to live in one of the Agapemonite cottages and she became one of the few outsiders permitted to attend Ruth’s funeral. Trudel, who now lives in Bridgwater said: ‘I certainly wouldn’t call her ordinary she was somewhat eccentric and obviously thought that she was born for better things. She dressed very peculiarly, I believe she had some kind of skin cancer on her nose and always wore a hat with a veil. She was always very friendly, very kind and quite interested in what we were doing to the cottage’.
That the Agapemonite community survived so long was due to the massive egos of two men and the gullibility of many other men and especially women.
This post was last updated: Jul. 10, 2010