Credit - Mural by Mick Jones

History of Place

Eight places, 800 years in the lives of deaf and disabled people

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It’s estimated that today there are around one billion disabled people in the world

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But it’s still unusual to find stories of deaf and disabled people in the UK’s museums and stately homes.

Two sphinxes in the grounds of Chiswick House, with cedar trees above and two people walking away Jan 1962 – May 1964.Courtesy of Historic England AA064110

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Guild of the Brave Poor Things

A Scout group at the Bristol-based Guild Credit – Bristol Record Office: BRO: 39842/P/1b

The History of Place project visits eight locations across the country, over eight hundred years to rediscover the lives, pictures and stories of some of these people.

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Our journey begins in 1234 at a monastery in Faversham known as Maison Dieu (‘House of God’), where disabled people worked as monks and nuns or lived as patients.

A plan of what remains of Maison Dieu

Labelled sheet of plans of the Maison Dieu, showing the ground- and first-floors, with a key to historic building periods. Drawn sometime between 1953 – 1963 MP/MAD0015 Crown Copyright. Historic England

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Maggie Davis in the house she designed herself at Grove Road

Maggie Davis in the house she designed herself at Grove Road

It ends in 1970s Nottinghamshire, where Ken and Maggie Davis designed and built their own housing, so they did not have to live in an institution.

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Ken and Maggie were told time and time again by ‘the professionals’ that they couldn’t do it and it wouldn’t work.  It was a hard won battle to prove them wrong.

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On the journey we uncover surprising people and stories, including the blind 18th century anti-slavery campaigner Edward Rushton, and how he created the first School for Blind people in Liverpool….

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To a Guild in Bristol, which brought together disabled people as a social group – from this pack of Scouts to people experiencing the now-forgotten disease of Sleepy Sickness, and soldiers wounded in the First World War.

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Guild scouts in the countrysideTo be confirmed

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Men and women in Victorian dress on a frozen lake, alongside a building with a wooden balconyLan

Skaters outside Langdon Down’s boathouse, which was designed by Rowland Plumbe, who also designed its theatre. Courtesy of Langdon Down Centre

Here are the grounds at Normansfield in London where John Langdon Down was the first person to develop a place for people with Down’s Syndrome to live. These buildings are now home to the Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability.

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Dr Langdon Down believed art, music and good food were really important for people with learning disabilities that lived with him at Normansfield.  ‘He should be surrounded by… both of art and nature… to make his life joyous.’

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Our team of volunteers is working in archives across the country to rediscover these histories. We will also be running an exhibition in 2018.

A lady and a man laughing together while sitting at a desk covered with papers

Participants at our oral history training day in Liverpool

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The 14th century manuscript on vellum was slightly more magical than the dull late 20th century thank-you letters and anniversary cards! Although we have no idea of its relevance as it was pure, incomprehensible Latin.A volunteer in Canterbury Archive

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