To give a brief history: Langdon Down Centre once housed a Victorian Hospital complex, run by Dr John Langdon-Down who conducted research into what we now know as Down Syndrome. A theatre was built on site for the use of the patients as a recreational space, I believe outside theatre groups were also encouraged to use the theatre. The Normansfield theatre itself is beautiful, the stage is very intricately detailed with floral panels at the front and painted set-pieces. The Langdon Down Centre has an extensive photographic archive of the original backdrops and scenery which survived neglect following the theatre’s use as part of the hospital during the war.
The small museum features documents written by Dr Langdon Down concerning his assessment and treatment of residents. On display are models created by Langdon Down’s friend and patient at the local Royal Earlswood Asylum, James Henry Pullen, who clearly had a photographic memory and a great intellect. Pullen created models of real and imaginative ships from wood. Post-mortem diagnosis is generally not something that historians indulge in, but it is generally assumed that Pullen had savant syndrome which would allow this accurate recreation from memory.
However the museum itself is only a few years old and many of the items found in the Langdon Down centre concerning research into Down Syndrome are yet to be fully explored and archived – meaning that this is not fully developed but has potential for further historical exploration. Many of the documents found at the site have been moved to the London Metropolitan Archive, which hopefully I will be able to visit soon.
There are a few names I am going to have a look into. Tony Hudson, Dolly Freeman, Patricia Collen and Walter Ridpath were all residents in Normansfield.
I asked about the current research which is still being conducted and remains the focus of the Langdon Down Centre. They have several projects concerning getting those with Down syndrome into jobs or sport, to encourage their involvement and inclusion in the community and to create the feeling of belonging amongst those with Down syndrome. The whole surmise of the research is getting those with Down syndrome to be involved with and approve the research, meaning it is done with them rather than about them.
There are a few names I am going to have a look into. Tony Hudson, Dolly Freeman, Patricia Collen and Walter Ridpath were all residents in Normansfield. Although much has been discovered concerning their lives (displayed in the museum), I wondered if there was more to find out them or others connected with these people.