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The Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary

The UK’s healing jewel in the crown

by Sue Farrow

Anyone who has visited Burrows Lea, the world-renowned Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary, will know that from the moment you turn into its long driveway you are met with a view so beautiful that it takes your breath away. Parking my car about twenty metres in, I stared out across the Surrey Hills from my high vantage point and stood for a moment absorbing the 
absolute stillness.

It’s easy to see why in 1946 the legendary healer chose Burrows Lea as his home and workplace. It’s a setting so serene and remarkable that I felt moved to phone a friend and try to describe it before going into the house to do the interview I’d come for.


Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary 2009-NEW

Harry Edwards’ beautiful home, Burrows Lea, which is still home to the Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary.


I was there to meet Toni Jode, the Healing Services Manager, a trained nurse who first arrived at the Sanctuary as a volunteer in 2003, initially working just one day a week. She became full-time in 2005 and took on her present role in 2007. I began by asking about her first encounter with spiritual healing.

“It was when I was fourteen years old,” she explains. “A neighbour was taking a friend with eye problems to see a man in Brighton and I went along for the ride. His name was Chuter, and he was a Methodist. I really didn’t know what was going on, but he said to me, ‘I think you would be good for this work’. He was wearing a dog-collar, and the Church and I were not exactly getting on at that time. I was a rebellious teenager and a bit defensive. But I do remember that after he had given this person healing I felt quite emotional.”

It seems Mr Chuter was spot-on in sensing that Toni would make a good healer. But how did the rebellious and slightly sceptical teenager discover her gift?

“I started nursing when I was eighteen,” she says. “Later I had my palm read and was told about having healing hands, but I thought that was because I was a nurse. There’s a lot of superstition in nursing because you are working with death and dying, and I was surrounded by people who read tarot cards and were interested in mediumship.

“When I was twenty-four I had my first son, who was born with congenital heart failure and sadly died at the age of five months. Afterwards, somebody gave me a book by Doris Stokes and there were things in it that resonated with me. She had been a nurse herself and had a child who died of cot death, so I could identify with a lot of what she said. I also became very open at that time and this healing thing kept coming up. I then went on to have more children and that took over for a while.

Healing toni jode
  Toni Jode demonstrates healing at the Sanctuary.

“Then in 1998 I saw an advert in my local paper for a course on healing and thought perhaps I should look into it. I did my training with the National Federation of Spiritual Healers and the rest is history.”

As so often happens when the spirit world has its collective eye on somebody, things fell smoothly into place for Toni.

“I happened to visit Burrows Lea because my partner had been given a reading by a medium who had told him to go. I remember going up the drive and feeling a wonderful blanket of peace wrapping me up. I was quite impressed by that, but never imagined I would work here. It was only through a series of ‘coincidences’ that I was invited, so I consider myself very lucky – very led.”

Now in charge of the Sanctuary’s healing services, Toni has overall responsibility for the contact and distant healing traditionally offered at Burrows Lea. But her role is considerably wider than that, especially since an extensive and ambitious refurbishment programme was undertaken in 2005.

“We needed to look at how we were delivering our service to the public,” she says. “Prior to the refurbishment, healing was only available in the Sanctuary two afternoons a week. But the world has moved on, so part of the refurbishment was about creating special healing rooms, which are lovely.”

I can vouch for that, having been given a guided tour by Toni. The rooms are decorated in soft pastels, and CD players are on hand to provide soft background music if required. The overall atmosphere is one of great peace, enhanced by the gentle bubbling of a fountain, and spectacular scenery beyond the windows.

Since 2009 Burrows Lea has had its own healer training programme. I asked Toni how that had come about.

“When Harry Edwards created his charity it was for the promotion of public health through the development and delivery of healing, but also through the training of healers,” she told me. “So it has always been very much on the agenda to try and bring in our own healing programme, and the opportunity came in 2008.

“At the time of our refurbishments, the political situation relating to healing was a bit unsettled, with the issue of regulation in the air. But we thought that if we were going to have students in the future we would need residential accommodation. The building itself needed bringing up to date in terms of fire regulations, disability access, etc, and we wanted to modernise the healing facilities.

“In 2008 everything fell into place. We had someone who was able to put the course together, so it was written and then accredited by UK Healers. It was educationally accredited as well. We started a pilot group in May 2009 and they have now completed the course, so the College has developed out of that.

“We looked at the educational needs of the healers coming through and asked ourselves what we wanted Harry Edwards Healers to know, to understand, to be; how we wanted them to be taught, to represent the Sanctuary and the whole healing movement. It was a slow process but we actually named the College and gave it its own identity last year. It’s guided by our principal trustee, Sheila Riddell.

“It’s a two-year course, and we take students through as a group from start to finish, so they develop as a group and have continuity and support throughout. They have one-to-one tutorials and group sharing days, plus six weekends here at the Sanctuary. At the end, they sit a panel and talk about their motivations, hopes and aspirations as healers. We go through the very important 
code of conduct and they demonstrate the healing act. We have put together our own specific healing act so that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.”

harry edwards animal healing
Animal healing also takes place at the Sanctuary.  

For healers who have done some training with other organisations but want to become registered Harry Edwards Healers, there is a specially created Bridging Course.

“We do get people who have been students for many years and are trying to make that leap to accreditation, but for one reason or another don’t want to do so where they have been doing it,” says Toni. “We tell them that if they want that opportunity they need to finish their training properly so we offer them a bridging course.

“With regard to healers who want to volunteer here, our criterion is that they must belong to an organisation affiliated to UK Healers and have accreditation to Level 4.

“As of next year every healer who comes to the Sanctuary will have to fulfil our criteria and be registered as a Harry Edwards Healer. That is about public expectation and accountability, because everybody is representing the Sanctuary as a whole. We don’t take our heritage and tradition lightly. We know it’s a big responsibility.”

In 2008 Burrows Lea opened a dedicated facility for the support of cancer patients, with the help of a start-up grant from the Macmillan cancer charity. It’s called the Bluebells Cancer Support Centre and I asked Toni how it had come into being and what services it offered.

“We had a cancer patient who was here for healing and asked, ‘Why don’t you start a support group?’ About fifty per cent of our patients are affected by cancer in one way or another, so it seemed like a natural thing to do. We are very lucky to have Angela Savage, who is a healing administrator here and has a specific interest in cancer support. So we created 
a dedicated room and Angela oversees our cancer support. It is very much her project.

“We hold two support groups a week, open to people who have got cancer, but they don’t have to be receiving healing here in order to come. Quite often, people come to the group first and then discover healing, which is lovely. We also offer them free sessions of 
complementary therapies like reflexology and aromatherapy.

Toni Jode
Toni Jode

“The therapists all work on a voluntary basis, as does Dr Dhiren Rathod, a medical doctor. He doesn’t prescribe when he’s here, but sometimes people have things that are troubling them and they want to discuss them with somebody medically qualified. We are really lucky to have some amazing people volunteering for us.

“It is not about having cancer, it’s about surviving it and going forward. Those who come for healing during their treatments find it very supportive in helping them cope. It’s half-an-hour a week where they can just lie on a couch without being prodded and poked and having needles stuck in them. It’s very gentle and nurturing and can really help. Even after their hospital treatments are finished the healing can continue, and they can still come to the groups and talk.”

The Sanctuary’s distant healing programme is known all over the world and it’s often been said that Harry Edwards and his team replied to each and every letter they received. These days, requests also come in via email, phone and fax. I asked Toni if in today’s busy world the tradition of a reply to every person still continues.

“Every letter and email receives a reply, and we take pride in that. For some people that will be the only letter they receive and we know we are a lifeline for many. They say, ‘I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t there.’ We also know people recognise that the distant healing is helping them. Over the years we have done surveys, going right back to Harry Edwards’ time, and it has always been 80 per cent who will say they have benefited from spiritual healing. It doesn’t mean cure. It means benefit.“The letters, emails and phone messages are taken down into the Sanctuary chapel and the healers will go through them. They are already in attunement for healing, and as they read they ask for individual help to be with each person who has requested it.”


Bluebells Room1
Inside the Bluebells Cancer Support Centre.


The Sanctuary’s traditional healing minute takes place at 10.00am and 10.00pm each day.

“The healers form a prayerful circle where they ask for healing to be with all who have contacted us,” Toni explains. “They also pray for world peace and those affected by disasters.”

In recent years the Sanctuary’s healers have gone out into local communities to bring spiritual healing to the attention of a wider public.

“We visit mind, body and spirit fairs, and other events, talking about healing and allowing people to experience it for themselves. Locally, people have a wonderful 
resource on their doorstep. A place where they can come every day of the week, walk around the grounds or sit on a bench looking at the stunning views, and have ten minutes’ peace away from everything. And it’s all absolutely free!

harry edwards col

World-famous healer
Harry Edwards

“It never ceases to surprise me how many of the people who come to our stand have never tried healing. They may have paid hundreds of pounds for some therapy or other but they have never tried anything so simple as spiritual healing. I just say, ‘Come and lie down on the couch, it’s a nice relaxing experience.’ I’ve never had anybody get off the couch and say ‘I hated that’. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever known anybody who has not enjoyed healing. Not from us, anyway!”

From what Toni has told me, it seems that the Sanctuary has developed and expanded its work enormously in recent years. But what about the 
future? Are there yet more exciting plans? 

“We have already started regional healing days in different areas of the country,” says Toni. “For instance, we hire a room in Winscombe, Somerset, and healers from the Sanctuary go there for two days and give healing to people in the area who have prev
iously received distant healing from 
us. Anybody else who is interested can come along too. It’s done by appoint
ment so we know that our day is filled. 
We’ve also done a similar thing in 
Manchester and next month we are going to Southport Spiritualist Church. In May we will go to a hotel in Beaulieu.

“In time, as things become more established, we hope to make this direct healing even more accessible. It’s about raising the profile and getting healing seen, not hidden away. It’s important to do that. Healers are very good at being quiet – it’s an innate shyness. Everybody just wants to get on and give.

“The heritage that Harry Edwards left us is something we don’t take lightly. There is an expectation of us from both the public and the healing community. I make no apologies for the standards we uphold. We like to feel that we are giving a good service to the public and flying the flag for healing.”

• To find out more about the Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary, visit: www.sanctuary-burrowslea.org.uk.

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