Credit - Canterbury archives

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.

Statue of the sphinx surrounded by trees in Chiswich House Gardens

The gardens at Chiswick House

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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.

Boys in scout group stand in front of a union jack

Scout group at Churchill Credit: Bristol Archives BRO-39842-P-1(a)-[h]

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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 the monastery at maison dieu

Maison Dieu, showing the ground- and first-floors, with a key to historic building periods. Drawn sometime between 1953 – 1963 Courtesy of Historic England MP/MAD0015  Credit: MP/MAD0015 Ground and first floor plans of Maison Dieu c 1950s courtesy of Historic England

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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.

Woman in wheelchair in 70s kitchen

Maggie Davies in her kitchen at Grove Road

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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.

Guild members on holiday Credit: Courtesy of Bristol Archives ref BRO 39842-P-1(a) [b]

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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.

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. Credit: Langdon Down Centre

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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 holding exhibitions at three major museums in 2017 and 2018.

 

 

two people surrounded by notes and with a recording device

Learning to record

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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.

Maxine Clarke, volunteer researcher at Canterbury Archive

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Whether you’d like to volunteer, take part in our games or see the exhibition – sign up to our newsletter to stay in touch. There is more detail about how our project works and how you can join in here.