Fairfield House is a diverse community hub
Find out more about our communities and how they interrelate with Fairfield House (photo: Paul Clarke).
We know that differences of race, of culture, of language and tradition are no insurmountable obstacles to the coming together of peoples -
Emperor Haile Selassie I.
His Imperial Majesty gifted Fairfield House as a home for the aged and today - thanks to the exemplary work of Bemsca - care for the Elders is always at the heart of the house.
At the same time Fairfield House reflects HIM's wider legacy for several communities: for Ethiopians and all people of African descent, its unique and sacred quality for Rastafari, and its transformative potential for the people of Bath and the heritage identity of the city.
Bath is a city where the heritage legacy reflects an often unhappy relationship with people of African descent. Fairfield House provides a unique and transformative meeting point between different cultures, traditions and interest groups with immense healing power.
Local people of Bath
The heartbeat of Fairfield House, Bath Ethnic Minority Senior Citizens Association (Bemsca) offers a day-centre service for the local elderly of Bath. Bemsca promotes active ageing, volunteering, creative activities such as needlework and dance and provides culturally appropriate food and entertainment. Bemsca's work fulfils His Imperial Majesty's original wish in gifting Fairfield House as a home for the aged.
Bemsca is a long-established charity separate from but working closely with Fairfield House Bath CIC. Bemsca manager Pauline Swaby participates in all Fairfield House board meetings. Bemsca currently rents space from B&NES; it is planned this arrangement would transfer uninterrupted to renting from Fairfield House Bath CIC on completion of community asset transfer.
The Rastafari community
To the local people of Bath Fairfield House offers a surprising and largely unknown narrative. It shows once again there is always something new to learn about our heritage and identity.
Fairfield House tells the story of an African Emperor received with warmth and kindness by local people in his hour of greatest need. Invaded by Italian fascists, Ethiopia was ignored by the League of Nations. Forced into exile, HIM was shunned by national governments including Britain when he came here as an exile and war refugee.
The story of how the people, civic authorities and local businesses of Bath received and welcomed HIM and his family, made his time here a little more tolerable, and how he in return made the generous personal gift to us of Fairfield House, is an inspiring contemporary lesson about war, refugees, race human rights, and international institutions. It has transformative potential for Bath's culture and identity.
While Bath's Unesco world heritage listing cites the influential and famous people drawn to Bath for the spa, it focuses solely on Roman and Georgian heritage. It ignores other time periods and in the case of Fairfield House that is a glaring omission. It's time that the city's heritage community recognise that there has never been any resident of Bath as globally famous and influential as HIM Haile Selassie I. Fairfield House is a personal gift from a head of state. It's high time we applied an appropriate level of attention and resource to preserving and celebrating it. Not to do so is bad history, bad for community relations and bad manners.
For the Rastafari community, Fairfield House is the most sacred ground in the UK, and a place of spiritual and historical importance as the place where their God and King, the returned messiah himself, Conquering Lion of Judah in the book of revelation, His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I lived and worked as the living pages of history unfolded and revealed themselves around him.
The Rastafari community in the UK and Worldwide have supported Fairfield House for decades in all aspects of community life, often travelling from near and far for celebrations of holy days / observances in the Rastafari and Ethiopian Calendar. In the time of His Imperial Majesty at Fairfield House, colourful celebrations were said to have taken place in the garden for the Emperor's birthday and other special days that would be a great boost to his spirit, these uplifting celebrations in the name of Emperor Haile Selassie I continue today thanks to the Rastafari community.
Though Rastafari, have different mansions and traditions just as with other faith groups, Fairfield House has forever been a special place of unity and harmony in the personal residence of Emperor Haile Selassie I and in the spirit of His great example.
The Ethiopian community
Former home of the last Emperor of Ethiopia, Fairfield House is considered to be a 'home from home' for the Ethiopian community of the UK and is a place of welcome for all Ethiopians.
A landmark of historic importance, it was from here in this distant land from Ethiopia, that Emperor Haile Selassie I continued fighting politically in the struggle for Ethiopian Independence. During those difficult days for the Emperor, the Ethiopian Royal family and other refugees, His Majesty sought for the Ethiopians to be able to pray and practise their faith within their own Ethiopian Orthodox tradition and the greenhouse at Fairfield was converted into an Orthodox Chapel with priests and a sacred tabot sent from Jerusalem. Thus Fairfield House is the original site of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian faith in the UK.
Since the time of the Emperor, many generations of the Ethiopian Community have visited Fairfield House for traditional celebrations, family days and other events. For Ethiopian children visiting on these days, Fairfield is a unique place outside of Ethiopia where they are able to connect with their homeland, these visits include children from Ethiopia adopted into British families, which is especially wonderful for those children to learn Ethiopian traditions and make friends with other children at the event. Most recently, in February and March 2021 the Ethiopian Community organised an online fundraising event in collaboration with Imperial Voice Media called the #RaceToAdwa. The event was a fantastic success with participants collectively running the distance from Addis Ababa to Adwa and back in the lead up to a really enjoyable evening of virtual Adwa victory celebrations. Over £2000 being raised in support of Fairfield house, a huge thankyou to everyone involved.
Worldwide African diaspora
Fairfield House is a place of interest and welcome for the global African diaspora. This is very fitting with the legacy of His Imperial Majesty, who whilst fighting for Ethiopia's freedom sent His emissary Dr Malaku Bayen to the USA in 1937 to found the Ethiopian World Federation with the goal of unifying the African diaspora under the banner of Ethiopia.
The Emperor gave special thanks in his Autobiography for the support he had received amongst the African diaspora, particularly on the continent of America. His defiant stand for freedom with the patriots of Ethiopia made an overwhelming impression across the world and reports of the Emperor's visits to the Jamaica and Harlem in particular are testimony of this special relationship.
The New Times and Ethiopia News, a Pan African Newspaper published by Sylvia Pankhurst in frequent correspondence with His Imperial Majesty during his time of exile, also played an instrumental role in mobilising support for Ethiopia in the 1930s and inspiring liberation movements throughout Africa and the Caribbean, with His Imperial Majesty and the Ethiopian patriots and their defiant stand always a feature.
For His Majesty's Pan African efforts In the 1960s founding the O.A.U in his capital Addis Ababa he was awarded the title "Father of Africa".
This magnificent foundation in history connected to Fairfield house continues today in spirit with the "warm Caribbean welcome" so often reported by visitors thanks to Pauline and the Bemsca team. Black Poetry, Art, History, Music and Fashion have all been celebrated at Fairfield house in recent years along with Windrush day and other community events. Within the Fairfield Community, resources such as Bath Black Families play an important role supporting the local community and we hope to build more significant relationships so that Fairfield House can continue to build upon this rich heritage and always be a place of welcome and support for the local and international African diaspora.
All those interested in the legacy of His Majesty
A visit to Fairfield House today is an opportunity to walk "In the Footsteps of the Emperor".
Visitors today are struck by the warmth of the welcome at Fairfield House and the light that radiates today from this important landmark in world history, His Imperial Majesty's pivotal fight against fascism and for the restoration of Ethiopia's freedom.