Next Museum & Theatre Open Days

10am-5pm on Saturdays:

16 March

13 April

18 May

Museum displays

A new arrangement of displays that include the social history of learning disability, paintings by James Henry Pullen and items from the Earlswood Asylum.


Artists in Residence and the Birds of Normansfield Theatre

Outreach Learners with Learning Difficulties or Disabilities (LLDD) Art class at Normansfield Theatre

The students have been creating mixed media pieces inspired by the wild birds on the decorated door panels on either side of the Normansfield Theatre stage.

The artwork can be seen here: Birds of the Theatre


Research Project: Daily Life as seen in the bills and receipts of the 19th and 20th centuries

Research currently being conducted by members of the University of the Third Age (U3A) from September 2018 to early 2019.

The museum archive has a large collection of bills and receipts for Normansfield that cover a period from the late 19th to early 20th century.

Part of the collection is on permanent loan from local historian Ken Howe whose article can be read here:

From these bills and receipts a picture of daily life will be formed as they contain everything needed to run a large long stay institution.

Next open day with talks Saturday 16 March

James Henry Pullen and his pictorial autobiography

The Genius of Earlswood Asylum

11.00am – 12.00pm Saturday 16 March 2019

A talk about the life of James Henry Pullen, (1835-1916), a resident of the Royal Earlswood Asylum near Redhill. In his lifetime he was said to have the condition of savant syndrome though today he may have been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Condition. Pullen created model ships including Brunel’s Great Eastern and the warship, Princess Alexandra. Also on display are his pictorial autobiography, imaginary ships, paintings and models along with a short film about his life.

Free talk. Booking not required. Donations welcome.

Lucy: A Story from the Normansfield Archives

2pm – 3.30pm Saturday 16 March 2019

Archives might be considered the stalwart caretakers of many forgotten and ‘fragile’ histories – histories which can only be discovered and exposed through patient research and considered interpretation.

This presentation is based upon research carried out in the Normansfield Archive Collection (located at the London Metropolitan Archives). Much of the early material contained within the Archive Collection consists of correspondence received by the institution.

Lucy, the subject of this presentation, was admitted to Normansfield in 1879 at the age of 5. Her case is unusual because her grandmother, mother and father each wrote separately to the Langdon Downs, thus providing multiple perspectives on her case. The presentation makes use of their letters, allowing her story to unfold through the words of the three writers.

During the mass industrialisation of the Victorian period, the history of people with learning disabilities is inextricably connected to the history of the institutions they were made to inhabit. Lucy’s story demonstrates how archival documents can be used to rediscover a person, and reconstruct a story, both of which have been entirely lost over time.

Speaker: Sarah Hayward. Sarah joined Kingston University in 2012, and completed the taught MA in Museum and Gallery Studies the following year. Having felt that year fly by impossibly quickly, she applied to continue in higher education with a PhD. Sarah is conducting practice-based research into Normansfield Hospital, a former Victorian residential institution which was founded exclusively for the treatment of patients with learning disabilities. She is producing three creative pieces to accompany her Thesis for submission, the purpose of which is to explore how archival material might be interpreted and applied within a museum setting.

Free talk. Booking not required. Donations welcome.

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