6th U3A Shared Learning Project

A new research project began in September 2019. This is called: Normansfield and the Written Word: Correspondence and Newspapers.

Volunteer researchers will look at the following: Suffragettes, Bill House, Eugenics, Interior Design and architect Rowland Plumbe.

The project is due to finish in Spring 2020.

DSA: Celebrating our 50th anniversary

Item uploaded 2019

In the last 50 years, people with Down’s syndrome have made amazing strides forward. That’s why we want to make 2020, the DSA’s 50th anniversary, a year of celebration. We’ll be celebrating the stories of people with Down’s syndrome who have lived, thrived and succeeded through the last 50 years. We’ll also be celebrating the role that the Down’s Syndrome Association has played, and continues to play, in radically changing the landscape for people with Down’s syndrome … in education, health, employment and awareness, and understanding in society as a whole.

Do you know someone with Down’s syndrome in their 50s or over? We want to hear their story! 

Please get in touch with us if you know a person with Down’s syndrome who is aged fifty or over.

We would like them to tell their stories or for you to share them with us… we want to know:

  • About their lives now and how they got there;
  • What they love;
  • Their achievements and the challenges they may have faced and overcome;
  • The important people in their lives; and
  • What matters to them most.

If you know someone who has got a story to tell or would simply like to talk about their life over the past 50 years or so, email and tell us a bit about them.

Opening up the Archives

Disability History and Heritage Conference to Mark the Opening of the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability Archive Service

4 October 2019

This conference marks the official opening of the RHN Archive Service.

The Langdon Down Museum archivist will be giving a talk about the Royal Earlswood Asylum as part of this conference.

A programme of talks will explore aspects of disability history, with a particular focus on Victorian state and philanthropic response to long-term disability and the understanding and experience of ‘incurability’ in the 19th century.

There will be speakers, including historians, archivists and medical professionals who will be presenting on 19th century disabled identities; medical and public conceptions of ‘incurability’; treatment and care of people with disabilities in workhouses, asylums and voluntary hospitals, and the history and heritage collections of the RHN.

Attendees will have an opportunity to explore the history of the RHN for themselves through afternoon activities including heritage talks, archive handling sessions and guided tours.

The conference is co-sponsored by the RHN Archive Service and the Wellcome Trust-funded Surgery & Emotion project, based at the University of Roehampton.

This conference is open to everyone.

Local suppliers to Normansfield – 1868 to the 1930s

The recent U3A Shared Learning Project research from 2018/19 can now be seen here.

June 2019

BBC Breakfast special broadcast at the Langdon Down Centre

We were delighted to welcome BBC Breakfast to Normansfield Theatre at the Langdon Down Centre on Wednesday 19 December 2018. The broadcast marked the end of their year focussing on SEND and learning disabilities. During the programme, families and advocates shared their own experiences and we highlighted our serious concerns regarding social care.

Our Chief Executive Carol Boys spoke about the findings of our It’s My Life Report, the need for social care budgets to be ring fenced and stressed the importance of rigorous needs assessments.

We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been in touch with us since the broadcast and to the BBC Breakfast team for highlighting our It’s My Life Report. To have over three hours of prime-time television dedicated to SEND and learning disabilities is unprecedented.

London Metropolitan Archives 

Express Yourself!

The 4th LMA Disability History Conference

Fri 23 November 2018 | 10:30 – 15:30


London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London, EC1R 0HB


LMA’s Disability History Conferences brings to together heritage organisations, academics and grassroots groups to discuss themes in disability history. The Focus for this year is access to heritage and links cultural and creative expression.

How Disabled People Have Shaped Buildings From London’s Past And Are Designing Radical Modern Spaces

The Londonist website

Disabled people have been shaping building design since at least the late 18th century. Once this was the exception rather than the rule, but in modern times, insights from disabled commissioners and architects are helping offer solutions that create more human-centred cities, working for a much broader population

London is home both to buildings created by visionary architects and thinkers of the past, and to cutting edge modern architecture which goes well beyond ramps and loos to offer space age new innovations. Kate Smith from History of Place, explores.

12 October 2018


Research project: The Staff who worked at Normansfield, 1868 – 1997

Research conducted by members of the University of the Third Age (U3A) from September 2017 to April 2018.

This project researched a series of life stories of staff who worked at Normansfield. Staff duties were very wide-ranging and included chaplains, governesses, medical/care staff, farm workers, maintenance staff and teachers.

Employment at Normansfield or do you have the attributes to be employed at Normansfield?

The Laundry and Linen

Frances Mary Palling, Governess

Early Chaplains at Normansfield

Staff and the First World War

William Henry Briggs: Engineer, Furnace Stoker and Stationary Engineer

Normansfield Theatre and the staff

Memories of Normansfield, Summer 1977

Friends of Hampton Wick Library

An exhibition about Normansfield’s history from 1868 to the present day organised by the Friends of Hampton Wick Library.

July to November 2018. This exhibition has now finished.

Hampton Wick Library

Bennet Close, Hampton Wick, KT1 4AT

James Henry Pullen Inmate – Inventor – Genius

19 June 2018 – 28 October 2018 Watts Gallery

The Watts Gallery says:

This exhibition, the first ever gallery show devoted to Pullen’s work, highlights a frequently unseen part of the nineteenth and early twentieth-century art world. Drawing on Pullen’s newly transcribed psychiatric case notes and in-depth research into his biographical and psychiatric context, it explores the life and imagination of an artist who became the archetype of the ‘savant’, a category with continuing resonance in how we conceptualise artists today. At the same time, it seeks to prompt a reassessment of Pullen himself, emphasising his status not as a mechanical copyist but as an innovative artist of imagination and wit.

It will be accompanied by a specially commissioned film, directed by Gilly Booth of HiJack Films. Displayed in the exhibition space, the film will allow visitors to get a close look at these intricate and detailed small-scale pieces, in particular showcasing two kinetic works in motion. The film will also offer a privileged insight into the process of conserving Pullen’s ‘Rotary Barge’, a design for a ship that would never capsize. Having been in a significant state of disrepair for several years, the ‘Rotary Barge’ will be specially repaired and restored for this exhibition by the experienced modelmaker Henry Milner.

As well as enriching the exhibition’s interpretation, the film will reflect this exhibition’s collaborative ethos and its firm location in the heart of Surrey by showcasing the physical spaces associated with Pullen: Earlswood itself, in Redhill, the Langdon Down Centre, Teddington and the Surrey History Centre, in Woking.

Watts Gallery, Down Lane, Compton, Surrey, GU3 1DQ

Without Walls

Disability and Innovation in Building Design

This exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London includes two photographs from the Langdon Down Museum.

Other images in the exhibition include original architectural drawings of the main building and boathouse by Rowland Plumbe.

Exhibition at the V&A on now until 21 October 2018. Rooms 128a & 127.

Normansfield – Protecting a Theatrical Past

The scenery stored at Normansfield is unique, it’s as remarkable as the theatre itself.

The Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) received £85,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its exciting project: ‘Normansfield – Protecting a Theatrical Past’ in July 2015.