Full list of talks and tours

Below you will find a complete list of the talks and tours.

Many are held during the year as part of scheduled talks during monthly open days. Please see the forthcoming talks section in the menu to the left.

All talks and tours listed can be provided for groups upon request.

The History of Normansfield’s Buildings

1 hour talk

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.

The talk includes new research carried out through a recent U3A project.


In the Footsteps of Dr John Langdon Down

A Walk Around Normansfield

2 hour talk and walk

A talk using maps, architectural drawings and photographs to trace the development of the site. This is followed by a walk around the original Normansfield site locating the position of lost buildings and finding those that remain. The one hour walk is mostly along pavements but will also include some rough paths and grassed areas. The total distance is about one mile.

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Open House London

We are open to join this London-wide annual event in September.

You are welcome to look around on your own or join a talk or tour:

  • Talks at 12.30pm and 2.30pm.
  • Tours at 1.30pm and 3.30pm. Max 15 people at one time. Tickets on first come basis.

Normansfield Theatre

1½ hour talk and tour

A talk on the history of Normansfield’s Grade II* listed Victorian theatre that opened in 1879 and is a venue today for drama, concerts and opera. Your visit includes a walk around the theatre and back rooms. On view will be part of the scenery store of restored original Victorian side flats. Using our interactive touch screen catalogue you can view the 150 items of scenery stored in the building that include beautiful backcloths, side flats, top borders and props.


James Henry Pullen

The Genius of Earlswood Asylum

1 hour talk, short film and tour

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.

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Dr John Langdon Down and Normansfield

1 hour talk

A talk about the life and work of Dr John Langdon Down and his institution at Normansfield which brought a revolutionary and enlightened approach to the care of those with learning disabilities. Includes the history of Normansfield from 1868 until its closure as an NHS hospital in 1997.


People and Ideas in the Social History of Learning Disability

1 hour talk

A talk about some of the great names 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.


Creating the Langdon Down Museum

1 hour talk and tour

This talk explains how we developed the Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability.

In six years we have developed the archive, obtained artifacts, joined museum organisations, created new displays and successfully obtained grants. We have completed three U3A research projects and will start a fourth this year.

The museum now receives about 40 group visits a year and promotes it’s work through social media. Our team of four dedicated volunteers work on projects and greet visitors on open days.

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The Landscape of Normansfield

1½ hour talk and walk

A talk and walk around the grounds to see the landscape of Normansfield including the wide variety of trees, many planted when Dr John Langdon Down came first came here in 1868. He planted extensively to create a rich landscape at his new institution for those with learning disabilities. His view being that the outside environment of trees, shrubs, paths and seating was essential in offering residents the benefit of healthy walks and fresh air. The site includes long avenues of trees planted in the Victorian period.

The Work of the Down’s Syndrome Association

1 hour talk

A talk about the work of the Down’s Syndrome Association and the condition itself. Dr John Langdon Down first identified the condition in the 19th Century while he was working at the Royal Earlswood Asylum. This talk looks at the condition through history and the lives of those who have Down’s syndrome today. It will also consider the work of the DSA in terms of shifting people’s perspectives.

The Residents of Normansfield

1 hour talk

The stories of those who lived at Normansfield from the late Victorian period to the closure of the hospital in 1997.

The Staff of Normansfield

1 hour talk

This talk is based on research from a U3A Shared Learning Project conducted in 2017/2018. The project looked at the lives of the staff who worked at Normansfield between 1868 and 1997. Staff duties at Normansfield were wide-ranging according and included governesses, medical and care staff, farm workers, maintenance staff and teachers.