Forthcoming talks, tours and events




Talk at 11am: The History of Normansfield’s Buildings

A talk about the development of the buildings at Normansfield from 1868 until 2016 using maps, architectural drawings and photographs.

Normansfield was the home and institution developed by the famous Victorian physician Dr John Langdon Down and his family where a revolutionary and enlightened approach was developed for the care, education and training of people with learning disabilities.

When he arrived in 1868 he bought the White House and over the coming years extended the building. The theatre John and Mary Langdon Down created has been restored and is still in use today with a large Victorian scenery collection.

On the 42 acre site, they set up a farm and workshops with a boat house on the Thames. In 1951 Normansfield became an NHS hospital with new residential buildings including a school, arts centre and hydrotherapy pool. Since its closure in 1997 much of the site has been converted to housing and part of the original building is now home to the Down’s Syndrome Association.

Free talk. Booking not required. Donations welcome.

Speaker: Ian Jones-Healey is archivist at the Langdon Down Museum, Normansfield Theatre and Down’s Syndrome Association. He is a member of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group at the Open University.

Tour of the museum and theatre at 12.30pm

The archivist will give a 40 minute tour around the museum and theatre. Max 15 of people. First come basis.




Talk at 11am: A Social History of Learning Disability

A talk about some of the great names and events in the social history of learning disability, from the early 19th Century to the present day. Those who brought improvements to the education, training, care and rights of those with learning disabilities.

In the communities set up by Dr John Langdon Down, Karl König (Camphill Movement), Jean Vanier (L’Arche) and the Rev Andrew Reed (Earlswood Asylum).

The new thinking and research of Wolf Wolfensberger, Édouard Séguin and Dr John Conolly. The campaigning of Brian Rix.

This talk is free. Booking not required. Donations welcome.

Talk at 2pm: ‘A proper person to be detained?’ The Fred Pilcher story

Fred Pilcher was admitted to what was then known as ‘Hangars Certified Institution’ near Radlett in Hertfordshire on October 25th, 1928. He was in a group of eight male patients, termed in the period as, a ‘high grade’ feeble-minded adult. All patients on admission were given a patient’s number. This was done in chronological order and Fred was number four. He was 19 years old.

In the words of Fred, “It was a Thursday, a lovely day and I remember we had soup and rice pudding for dinner”. Twenty-six years later in 1954, his IQ was tested and was found to be 120 (about average). Fred went on to live at the now renamed, Harperbury Hospital for another thirty-four years finally leaving in 1977, at the age of 69, he died a few years later.

Fred’s story is collected from numerous sources, including oral history accounts from ex-staff, local newspapers, and hospital publications but the majority of it has been from his medical case file. A source not always available for historians. While this presentation will be an opportunity to reflect on how an individual with an average IQ end up living at a long stay hospital for fifty years? It will also be looking at the wider story of the history of people with intellectual disabilities.  ​

Speaker: David O’Driscoll has been a psychoanalytic psychotherapist for the Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, Learning Disability service since 2000. He is a Visiting Research Fellow and Visiting Lecturer at the Centre for Learning Disability Research, Hertfordshire University. David has been a longstanding member of the Social History of Learning Disabilities group at the Open University and is the current chair of the Institute of Disability and Psychotherapy (IPD). 

This talk is free. Booking not required. Donations welcome.