Accentuate, a national programme supporting and promoting the talents of deaf and disabled people in the cultural sector, is looking for volunteers with enquiring minds to help research and archive its History of Place project.
Funded by the National Lottery, History of Place is a social history project aimed at charting the lives of deaf and disabled people from the Middle Ages until the late 20th century. It will explore and animate eight built heritage sites, unveiling the stories of the people who inhabited or designed these places. The sites include:
- Maison Dieu, Faversham, Kent. The last remaining building from a medieval almshouse and hospital, on the pilgrimage route to Canterbury, where records of a skeleton of a disabled man aged 35-45 have recently been uncovered.
- The Liverpool School for the Indigent Blind, established in 1791 by the abolitionist Edward Rushton, was the first specialist school for blind children in the country, second in the world after Paris.
- The Royal School for Deaf Children, Margate, (previously the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb) was the UK’s first public school for deaf children, founded in 1792.
- Chiswick House. This stately home has a hidden history of being a private asylum for the rich and famous during the late 1890s.
- Normansfield Hospital and Theatre, Teddington, was the home and institution developed by Dr John Langdon Down where he built a beautiful Victorian theatre (now a Grade II-listed building) and encouraged disabled people to study music and drama as part of their education.
- St Saviour’s Deaf Church, Acton, was the first church specifically designed by deaf people in the 1920s with unique architectural features such as raked seating.
- The Guild of the Brave Poor Things, Bristol, opened in 1913 and was the first building designed for disabled people to come together socially, as well as providing apprenticeship schemes and training.
- Grove Road Housing Scheme, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. In 1976 Ken and Maggie Davis were the first disabled couple to commission an architect to design and build an accessible housing scheme for disabled people to live independently outside of institutions. Their story is fundamentally important in the history of the disability rights movement.
If you have some spare time and are interested in doing some detective work, telephone 01303 259777, email email@example.com or visit the History of Place website to find out more and register your interest. Apart from the locations listed there is also a requirement for people to research online archives from their own home.