Previous events 2017

The History of Normansfield’s Buildings

Saturday 25 February 2017 | 11am – 12pm

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.

Cost: Free.


In the Footsteps of Dr John Langdon Down

A Walk Around Normansfield

Saturday 22 April | 10.30am – 12.30pm

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.

Light refreshments. Cost: £10.


James Henry Pullen

The Genius of Earlswood Asylum

Saturday 13 May | 11.00am – 12.00pm

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. Cost: Free.

Normansfield – Protecting a Theatrical Past Joint Normansfield and V&A Conference

Saturday 20 May | 10.00am – 4.30pm

Normansfield – Protecting a Theatrical Past is an HLF project which we received funding for in July 2015 to improve our building’s drainage for the scenery storage area, thus ensuring that our vast collection of Victorian scenery is protected from adverse weather conditions, and then secondly to produce a photographic catalogue of all our pieces of scenery so that they could be displayed on a touch screen for all visitors to the theatre.  Part of the funding included the creation of a virtual theatre, enabling visitors to create their own stage scene using our Victorian scenery.

The project has also involved local visits and tours and finishes with this  joint conference on Saturday, 20 May 2017.

Speakers will include Ian Jones-Healey, Karen Thompson, David Wilmore, Dr Hilary Vernon Smith, Jane Pritchard, Dr Veronica Isaac, Raymond Walker and Alison Rae.

The conference will focus on the Normansfield collection of Victorian scenery, its conservation,  Victorian Set painting and costumes, the D’Oyle Carte, and the Visit Theatres historic theatre route through Europe.