Leaving Earlswood

The improvement in Earlswood established for it a world-wide reputation. The medical journal The Lancet was high in its praises of the new regime. Langdon Down in the meantime had been active with his research and had published many papers in medical journals on his various observations. His salary had been increased from £400 to £700 a year. In relative terms that was a substantial salary, almost equal to that of the Secretary of the Commissioners in Lunacy. Relations with the Board became difficult when they stood back from giving him financial support to exhibit craftwork from the Asylum at an exhibition in Paris. He resigned in 1868 on a matter of principle. His wife Mary had undertaken the supervision of a number of disabled children who were lodged in the homes of employees and other local houses. The Board objected although she was not on the payroll. Langdon Down wrote to say that she had as much right to earn her living in the provision of a training programme for the disabled, for which there was a demand in the market place, as to make her living as a writer. His resignation was accepted.

Suddenly everything changed. The Langdon Downs had to look to living on their savings until his newly established practice in Welbeck Street would begin to support them. With great courage they bought the White House on Kingston Road in Hampton Wick and proceeded to extend it so as to accommodate residents in a new training institution which was to develop around their home. Norman Wilkinson his solicitor helped them to find mortgage facilities. They renamed their house Normansfield in commemoration of his advice and assistance. Their youngest son Percival was born within two weeks of moving into Normansfield. They developed the five acres attached to the house and over the next 20 years acquired all the land and properties between Normansfield Road and Holmesdale Road and between Kingston Road and Broom Road, together with the river field running down to the Thames totalling over 40 acres. Normansfield was to supply a need for residential training and care for the learning disabled of the upper classes. The children of bankers and doctors and clergymen rubbed shoulders with the children of senior army officers and heirs to titles and estates. In 1868, 19 residents were admitted. Ten years later there were 106 and when Langdon Down died in 1896 there were 160.