Fairfield House is much more than a building. The Italianate c19th villa on the outskirts of the City of Bath World Heritage Site is a gracious personal gift from an African Emperor. His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, with a lineage dating back 3000 years, he is the most globally famous and influential person ever to have lived in Bath. His legacy is a key part of Bath's intangible cultural heritage, precious to all of us and sacred to many. The life of the house today includes exemplary day care for the elderly and a uniquely vivacious and welcoming community hub.
MISSION & HISTORY.
Fairfield House Bath CIC is set up to preserve and celebrate Emperor Haile Selassie's unique legacy: a personal gift to the city in appreciation of the warm welcome and hospitality he had received from the people of Bath. The mission is to take responsibility for Fairfield House from Bath & NE Somerset Council with a long lease; to preserve and develop the life of the house and garden on a sustainable basis; to ensure the Elders continue to feel at home in Fairfield House; and make it place where Ethiopians, Rastafari and local people of Bath work together to make people of all faiths cultures and ethnicities feel welcome to learn and celebrate.
History of the building
Fairfield House, former home of Mrs Campbell - White, was identified by Emperor Haile Selassie I a few months after arriving in Britain as an appropriate property for His family, government advisors, staff and a number of Ethiopian refugees to settle whilst they continued the political fight for the Independence of Ethiopia in September of 1936. The total area at that time was 2.2 acres and included a cottage, a garage and a garden. His Imperial Majesty purchased Fairfield House with his private funds for £3500 and once refurbished, His Majesty invited the Empress and other family members to join him and they moved in around October 9th 1936.
Whilst settling into life in exile, continuing with the protocol of a head of state and government now in exile, and dealing with the horrors that continued to be inflicted on His faraway nation, the Emperor experienced even more hardships but still would not give up the fight for His nation.
In 1940 the tables began to turn for Emperor Haile Selassie I as Benito Mussolini of Italy aligned himself with Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Overnight, Britain allied herself with Ethiopia and the liberation of Ethiopia and defeat of Italian forces was seen with strategic importance. After a long 6 year fight from the Ethiopian Patriots, the Emperor returning to His country in 1941 with international support, boosted Ethiopian morale further and had a crushing effect on the Italian occupation. His Imperial Majesty returned to His capital Addis Ababa triumphantly on May 5th 1941. 5 years to the day from when he was forced to leave Ethiopia.
Fairfield continued to be occupied for a number of years by members of the Ethiopian Royal family and Ethiopian Orthodox priesthood who then eventually returned to Ethiopia or Jerusalem once it was safe and appropriate to do so. In 1943 Fairfield was used as a home for babies evacuated from Chippenham but was then vacant for a number of years before it was announced that His Imperial Majesty would be returning on a state visit of Britain as a celebrated visitor in 1954.
Fairfield House was refurbished especially for the occasion and His Imperial Majesty stayed once again on His visit to Bath where he received the Freedom of the City from the Lord Mayor and reconnected with the people of Bath who had been so welcoming and supporting of him those years previously.
In 1958 Emperor Haile Selassie I “in appreciation of the warm welcome extended to Him by the people of Bath has graciously offered to donate said freehold and leasehold properties to the Corporation [of Bath] for use as a home for aged people”
Fairfield House was used as a residential care home until 1993, when new room size requirements made it unsuitable for such use. From then it has been used as a day centre by a number of groups including the Bath Ethnic Minority Senior Citizens' Association (Bemsca) who have been resident at Fairfield House since 1993.
Today, Fairfield House is used as a day care centre by Bemsca in direct harmony with His Imperial Majesty’s wish. Fairfield is also a community hub for all the local people of Bath, for the Rastafari Community, for the Ethiopian Community in the UK and the worldwide African diaspora.
COMMUNITY INTEREST COMPANY.
Fairfield House Bath CIC is a not-for-profit community interest company (#11901221: see listing at UK Companies House with all details).
The diverse groups involved with Fairfield House all want to see Haile Selassie's legacy to our community preserved and celebrated in accordance with His Imperial Majesty's wishes and principles. Friends of Fairfield House determined that the best way to do that would be to take a long lease from the owner Bath & NE Somerset Council (B&NES) so Fairfield House is in the hands of a properly established and diverse group dedicated to that purpose. The reason the Friends of Fairfield House established a CIC is that under its community asset transfer (CAT) policy B&NES can only offer a lease to a properly established legal entity with a sustainable business plan.
The next steps on that CAT journey are that B&NES attends to essential dilapidations and puts Fairfield House into a basically tenantable condition. From that point the CIC can operate Fairfield House sustainably while it works to secure significant external investment needed to fulfil the site's full potential for the communities.
His Imperial Majesty gave Fairfield House to Bath as a home for the aged. Therefore the work of Bemsca (see below) caring for the Elders is morally and practically central to the life of the house. Fairfield House also has special meaning in distinct ways for Ethiopians and other people of African descent, to Rastafari and all devout followers of Emperor Haile Selassie I, and to the people of Bath. These are the communities Fairfield House Bath CIC is formally bound to serve. We do not put any community above any other; we work together to respect His Majesty's wishes and always ensure that the Elders feel at home at Fairfield House.
As a CIC Fairfield House Bath CIC
- must report annually to the CIC Regulator what it has done to serve these communities
- is "asset locked"meaning it cannot dispose of assets other than to a charity of other asset-locked entity
- is legally bound to be transparent and to serve its defined communities.
Fairfield House Bath CIC is "limited by guarantee" which means there are no shares in the company. Loans to the CIC are very helpful - particularly long-term - and attract tax relief. As a not-for-profit it must return any surplus to benefit its defined communities. The law allows for CIC directors to be paid but all Fairfield House Bath CIC directors are part-time unpaid volunteers.
Bath Ethnic Minorities Senior Citizens Association was established in September 1993 to provide a weekly luncheon club service for over 200 older members of the Caribbean, Asian and Chinese communities within Bath and North East Somerset. Based at Fairfield House, they offer space where elders from these communities can meet, socialise, celebrate their cultural identify, and make new and lasting friendships. Staff provide advice and information on a broad range of health, housing and welfare issues which can be a lifeline to communities who do not speak English as their first language.
Staff, trustees, and volunteers reflect the ethnic mix of the membership.
In addition to the work at the Fairfield House, BEMSCA offers an outreach programme helping members at home who are unable to attend the weekly lunch club because of their health or disability. Through their dedicated team of staff and volunteers, they work with representatives across a broad range of health and welfare services to ensure members can make informed decisions about issues that affect their quality of life.
They also run social and recreational activities at Fairfield House and in the wider community to celebrate cultural diversity.
During the COVID pandemic, BEMSCA has continued to support members and their families through weekly telephone and FaceTime calls, or home visits when safe to do so. Support comes in several ways.
Supporting members to use iPads to maintain contact with family and friends and access a range of online resources for shopping, leisure, and advice.
Providing freshly prepared meals and food parcels to members who are unable to cook or shop for themselves.
Taking an active role in the Affordable Food Network, a coalition of 20 local food providers working together to prevent food poverty across Bath and North East Somerset. Through our participation, we have raised awareness about BEMSCA and encouraged food growers to take an interest in growing “ethnic” food locally.
Running online and one to one fitness classes to keep members healthy in body and mind.
Working with homeless visitors to Fairfield House to ensure they have adequate bedding, food, and personal health care, before sign posting them to local housing support services.
Developing partnerships with the local probation service, courts, and police service to ensure that members of the Black and Ethnic Minority communities suffering mental health challenges are appropriately represented and supported.
BEMSCA is supported by several funders including Virgin Care. Quartet Community Foundation, Voice for Change England, Phoenix Fund, St John’s Foundation, Nationwide Foundation, the Boule Charitable Trust, plus membership fees and donations.
BEMSCA is proud to continue the legacy of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I to provide a space for all older people at Fairfield House, and work in a close relationship with Fairfield House Bath CIC to develop the many services now and in the future
For more information about their work and ideas about how you can them, please click here.
IMPERIAL VOICE RADIO.
Imperial Voice Radio is a community internet radio station founded at Fairfield House in 2019. It takes its name from the Emperor’s title ‘’His Imperial Majesty’’.
At ImperialVoice.com you will find a wide variety of programming including music, talk radio and documentary with presenters drawn from supporters of the Emperor’s legacy, across different ethnic, faith and interest communities.
In a significant step towards proving a sustainable future Fairfield House Bath is delighted to have as its first partner Bath Spa University, one of the UK's leading creative universities. Under a multi-year partnership agreement Fairfield House welcomes Bath Spa student placements and researchers into the life of the house to work on culture, media, museum curation and marketing. This also supports Bath Spa's innovative partnership with Addis Ababa University (itself sited in another former residence of HIM).
Fairfield House Bath CIC is keen to secure complementary partnerships with other Universities: contact us.
It works closely with many other organisations including B&NES Council, the Embassy of Ethiopia and a wide range of local charities, Ethiopian and Rastafari organisations.