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The Timeline includes a lot of information which we found out about.

We had lots of help with the design from Andy at Consea.  

Just click on this link to take you to the full timeline…

Here are some of the key dates from the Timeline:
Finding out about the history Lots of information we found out about The timeline will be online Working together on the research Andy's design ideas A helping hand! The 1913 Mental Deficiency Act labelled people with learning disabilities Involuntary Sterilisation Tatchbury Mount 'mental deficiency colony' opened in 1931 Nazi Germany learning disability sterilisations Children with learning disabilities did not have the right to education A mother, Judy Fryd, starts the organisation that becomes Mencap Group bath time Mencap show that homely environments are better It takes 50 years for the big hospitals to close The Queen Mother opened the 1st Mencap hostel Lots of people lived together in the big hospitals Children with learning disabilities get the right to education Ann Shearer writes about welfare & education for people with learning disabilities United Nations Declaration of Human Rights include more rights for people with learning disabilities 1971 White Paper 'Better Services' Occupational Therapy is introduced in adult training centres The first locally based hospital units open Coldharbour Hospital begins to close The Silent Minority documentary on TV showed people with learning disabilities being badly treated The 1st People First group was set up in London Narissa Bowes Lyon, The Queens Cousin, died.  Locally based hospital units had up to 25 people living in them. Disability Discrimination Act 1995 Forestview Day Centre starts to close, 4 smaller day centres open. A Mencap report shows people with learning disabilities were not being treated properly by the NHS 2009 Autism Act The Royal Earlswood Hospital Council cuts close 3 day centres in Bournemouth Bethlem was the 1st asylum to open Downs syndrome was named after John Langdon Down, who worked at Normansfield Hospital Mary Dendy opened the 1st colony the children with learning disabilities The Eugenics Education Society took Charles Darwin's ideas on evolution to suit their own ideas about learning disabilities Coldeast Colony for people with learning disabilities opened Self advocacy begins in Sweden Coldharbour is nearly empty.  Wards are knocked down as they are emptied. Campaigning against bullying Abuse is found at Winterbourne View in Bristol People with learning disabilities begin to get more rights People didn't have their own belongings The Nazis killed people with disabilities Coldharbour Colony becomes a hospital for people with learning disabilities Smaller locally based hospital units are thought to be better than big hospitals Fire at Coldharbour kills 30 patients Memorial stone for those killed in fire at Coldharbour Self Advocacy starts in the UK Children with learning disabilities didn't need to live in hospitals Campaigning for rights for learning disabilities What's On Gallery Links About Us Our Project Contact Us

1377  Bedlam Asylum                              

Bethlem (Bedlam) lunatic asylum opened in London.

People with learning disabilities and mental health needs were locked up together.                             

Did you know?  Bethlem was thought of as a tourist attraction in London by “the well dressed” and wealthy.

1868  John Langdon Down                                                                            

John Langdon Down founded the Normansfield      

Hospital for people with learning disabilities.  

He had previously worked at ‘The Earlswood Asylum for Idiots’ for 10 years.  John Landon Down was forward thinking for his time, and improved the way that people lived in the hospital, and the way they were looked after.                                                                            

The Langdon Down family sold the hospital in the 1950s, but it stayed open and by the late 1970s the hospital was investigated because of poor conditions.                                                                      

Did you know?  Down’s Syndrome was named after Langdon Down in 1965, following the research he did.                         

1901  Feeble minded                  

Mary Dendy wrote about what she called ‘The importance of permanence’.  She said that people she called ‘feeble minded’ should be locked away from the rest of society.  

She made society aware of the differences between  people with learning disabilities and people with mental health needs.  Tragically she believed that it  was better for the rest of society that these groups of disabled people should be locked away from each other and society, for the rest of their lives.                     

In 1902 Mary Dendy’s Sandlebridge colony opened.  

It was the 1st large hospital caring just for children labelled as “feeble minded”. It closed in 1989, over 80 years later.  

1907 Eugenics                                                 

A Eugenics Education Society was  formed - the Eugenics movement took Charles Darwin’s ideas on evolution and made them suit their own ideas about people with learning disabilities labelled ‘feeble minded’.  

They said that being “feebled minded” (having a learning disability) was a disease that you got from your parents.     

A law was made in Indiana, America, which allowed involuntary sterilizations to be carried out.  

This meant that people with learning disabilities were made to have operations so they could not have children.  At the time they thought they could stop learning disabilities being passed onto future generations.                                  

By 1910, Winston Churchill wanted this to happen in the UK too.

1913 Mental Deficiency Act                   

Mental Deficiency Act - used terms such as “idiot, imbecile, feeble minded and moral defective” to describe learning disabilities.  

In 1927 there was an amendment to the Act and ‘moral defective’ was replaced with ‘moral idiot’.                                                                            

The terms which were used then to describe someone with learning disabilities would now be considered offensive - like using racist language to describe people who are black.                                                                           

Did you know?  Unmarried mothers were also institutionalised under this act, until the 1930s as were homosexuals until the 1950s.

1928 Coldeast Colony                 

An institution for people labelled as having a “Mental Deficiency” opened near Southampton called Coldeast.                        

In 1925 Hampshire County Council bought Coldeast and about 170 acres was developed as a Mental Deficiency Institution for up to 1000 patients, men, women and children.           

Patients were graded - high, medium or low - depending on their abilities,and separated into different “villas”.  Over time extra “villas” were built.  By 1938 Coldeast Colony had 10 villas each for 50 patients.

1930 Involuntary Sterilisation                                                                  

There was a National Campaign in the UK to have people with learning disabilities sterilized against their will so they couldn’t have children, but thankfully the campaign failed and it didn’t become law in England.                                                                            

Did you know?  Between 1928 and 1969 in Canada, nearly 3,000 people with learning disabilities had involuntary sterilisations.  These decisions were made by only 4 people. Between 1935 and 1965 63,000 people  were forced to be sterilised in Sweden.  

1931 Mental Deficiency Colony   

Tatchbury Mount an institution in Southampton, opens as a ‘Mental Deficiency Colony’.                                                            

People were sent there from Hampshire, Southampton and Bournemouth.  Tatchbury Mount and Coldeast Colonies are both managed by the Joint Mental Health Institutes Committee which also managed Knowle Mental Hospital, and Park Prewett Mental Hospital near Basingstoke.                                                                         

At this time patients didn’t have a choice about living there (they were detained formally).  There were 50  staff to 400 patients.

1933 Nazi Germany                                                                           

There is a law in Nazi Germany that said anyone with a hereditary disease (a disease or illness which can be passed onto children by their parents) would be forced to be sterilised (an operation to stop them having children).                                                                          

The law said that hereditary diseases were: feeblemindedness (someone with a learning disability); manic depression; schizophrenia; physical deformities; blindness or deafness.                                                                            

In 1934 in the UK the Brook report said that this type of sterilisation should happen in Britain.  The law does not get passed.

1937 War                                            

Hitler says he plans to go to war, by 1939 Britain is at war.                                      

In 1939 the Nazi T4 programme begins, German children and adults who were disabled are killed. The war gives Hitler his reason for killing those he thought of as ‘useless eaters’.                

Between 1937 and 1941 about 70,000 disabled people were killed because of T4.                                                                             

Did you know?  The Nuremberg war crimes trials (in 1945) found evidence that about 275,000 people were killed under T4.     


1944 Education Act                                                                            

Education Act introduced a selection process for those considered ‘educable’.  Children with Down’s Syndrome and other learning disabilities were thought to be ‘ineducable’ and were not given an education.                    

Did you know?  This did not change till the 1971 Education Act which gave children with learning disabilities the legal right to education.  

1946 Mencap                                         

National Association of Parents of Backwards Children was founded (it was renamed the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, and is now known as Mencap), and local societies were started.                                          

The National Association for Mental Health     (now MIND) starts for people with mental health needs.

This shows a shift in direction and thinking with people coming together to share experiences and knowledge.

1948 NHS                                                                           

National Health Service (NHS) started and “inmates” became “patients”.      

The newly formed NHS takes over Coldharbour Hospital and it becomes a hospital for people with learning disabilities to live in.                                                                            

It had originally been built in 1941 as an orthopaedic hospital for the forces, especially the Royal Navy.

1950 Tatchbury                                                                            

Up to 60 people lived in each villa at Tatchbury. Dysentery, scabies, crab lice and head lice were worries for the staff.                      

Bath time was very regimented and there was little if any privacy.                                      

How would you feel? if you had to bath or shower in front of lots of other people?

1958 Mencap                                                                    

National Society for the mentally Handicapped Children (became Mencap) launched a ground breaking experiment called the Brooklands experiment.                     

Children with learning disabilities living in hospital were compared to those living in small family environments.                                                                            

The children living in family environments made better progress.  The success of the project was published world wide.

1959 Mental Health Act                                                                       

Mental Health Act replaced the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act.                                      

It said patients should only be admitted on a voluntary basis unless seen as a danger to themselves or others.                  

‘Subnormal ‘ and ‘severely subnormal’ were the terms used. They would be considered offensive now.  The labels changed but patients weren’t re-diagnosed.  

It took another 50 years for the hospitals to close.

1961 Enoch Powell                                                                            

Enoch Powell, Minister of Health says that ‘mental hospitals’ should close in 15 years but it takes a lot longer for this to happen.  Locally, Dr Albert Kushlick, a psychologist, was asked to find out more about the problem in Wessex of not having enough beds in the long stay hospitals.  He thought it would be best to introduce Locally Based Hospital Units in areas near to where patients had originally came from.  At the time this  seemed an improvement on the huge hospitals people had lived in.                                                                          

However, they were still quite big and it took around 50 years for these to all close and for people to move into their own homes with the support they need.

1963 The Queen Mother                                                                           

The Queen Mother opened a hostel and workshop for the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children (in 1969 it became Mencap).  It was the 1st training centre for adults with learning disabilities.                                                                          

Despite this,the Queen Mother had not seen or visited her nieces who had learning disabilities for 20 years.  They had been living at the Royal Earlswood, a big long stay hospital.

1950 - 1960 Long stay hospitals

In the 1950s and 1960s learning disability hospitals     were starved of resources and money.  

Did you know?  There were about 60,000 people living in Long stay hospitals, with several thousand  more on waiting lists.                                                                                       

How would you feel?   Patients didn’t always know where they were going when they moved into a    hospital, and they didn’t always know they were going there to live.

 1969 Self Advocacy Movement                                                                          

The self advocacy movement started in Sweden.  It was another change in direction and thinking as people with learning disabilities started to speak up for themselves.                                                                          

It takes another 15 years or more to reach the UK.

1970 Education                                                                           

Education Handicapped Children Act said that all children despite their disability would be educated.                                                                         

In 1978 it was suggested that disabled children should be included in mainstream schools.                                                                           

It was made law by the 1981 Education Act.  

1970s Normalisation                     

The British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD) and Wolf Wolfensburger wrote books on the idea of normalisation.                     

They believed that people with learning disabilities did not need to live separately from other people in society, and that people with learning disabilities should be given the same rights and choices as everyone else.

1970 Ann Shearer                                                                            

Ann Shearer, a journalist from ‘The Guardian’ visited Coldharbour Hospital and wrote an article called ‘To break the nursing barrier’.         

She wrote about a new emphasis on welfare and education of people with learning disabilities.

1971 Declaration of Human Rights         

The original United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was written in 1948 after World War II.                                                                         

In 1971 it was changed to include the rights of persons labelled at the time as ‘mentally retarded’.                                                                             

The declaration says that people with learning disabilities have the same rights as everyone else.                                                                           

This includes:  education, physical therapy, money, living arrangements, being involved in community life, and the right to protection from abuse and degrading treatment.

1971 The White Paper                                                                          

The White paper called ‘Better Services for the Mentally Handicapped’ was meant to make services for people with learning disabilities better.                                                                         

30 years later The White Paper Valuing People (2001) repeats the promise to make things better based on four key principles of rights, independence, choice, and inclusion.                                                                            

This is followed by Valuing People Now (2009) a 3 year plan to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities.

1972 Coldharbour                                                      

In 1972, a fire at Coldharbour Hospital kills 30 patients.  At the time the hospital had 350 beds.                                                                            

The fire broke out in a ward which had been refurbished. Staff were on a tea break at the time.  Unbelievably 2  out of the 4 doors to the ward were locked, tapping  people inside.  Staff tried to help, they rescued 6  patients, but couldn’t free everyone before they died.                                                                            

As a result automatic fire alarm systems were put in all  the big long stay hospitals.  More staff were put on  duty especially at night.                                                                          

Did you know?  A memorial service was held in Sherborne, in 2012, 40 years after the fire, to  remember those who died.

1972  Bournemouth Adult Training Centre                                                                            

Bournemouth Adult Training Centre for adults with learning disabilities opened on an industrial estate near Wallisdown. Up to 120 people attended each day, and were bussed in from all over the area.                                                                         

It later changed it’s name to Forestview and became a Social and Educational Centre.  At the time industrial and packing work had been done at the Adult Training Centre, so people who attended were given a wage of 10p a day, paid on a Friday

Did you know?  The 10p a day wages continued up until about 2000.

1972  People First                                                                          

A group called ‘Campaign for Mentally Handicapped People’ held their 1st event ‘Our Life’.  It bought together residents from long stay hospitals to talk about where they would like to live in the future.                                             

At this conference the “People First” name came about for the Self Advocacy movement.  A delegate said “We are people first and handicapped second.”                   

‘Campaign for Mentally Handicapped People’  had their 2nd event called ’Listen’. People talked about relationships, choices and independence. The report was the 1st in the UK to be made up of comments just from people with learning disabilities.

1975 Fairmile House                                                                          

Fairmile House in Christchurch, and Castle Hill House (for children) in Poole opened (with 25 beds in each).  They were the 1st social model of care and it was a breakaway from the medical model.                                                                          

The social model of disability says that everyone is unique and that it is society that disables people. This values people much more than the medical model of disability which says that disability is something to be cured or controlled.                                                                            

Nurses were needed less for daily care, and  ‘house parents’ were used instead.  At the time, this was seen as an improvement on the big hospitals.      

How would you feel?  If you had to live with 24 other people?

1978 Coldharbour closed.                                                                           

Coldharbour Hospital in Sherborne began to close.

1978 NHS             

In 1978 the NHS said that children didn’t need to be living in long stay hospitals.                                                                            

Greenwood, a ward at Tatchbury, had 40 children living there who needed to move out, by 1983 there were no longer any children living there.

1981 Silent Minority        

‘Silent Minority’ a documentary was shown on ITV, showing appalling conditions of people with learning disabilities in long stay hospitals in Surrey.

1984 People First                                                                          

The 1st Independent Self Advocacy group run for and by people with learning disabilities was set up, People First, London and Thames.  

1986 The Queen Mother.                                                                            

The Queen Mother became Patron to Mencap.  Her nieces Narissa and Katherine had lived at the Royal Earlswood for 44 years, with no contact from any family member.  In January 1986, Narissa Bowes Lyon fell ill  and died.  There were only staff at her funeral and no family attended, other than Katherine.  Narissa had a paupers grave.  The following year in 1987, the  story of the Bowes Lyon sisters, and their cousins, the  Fane sisters   was leaked to the press.  The Royal Family did and said nothing.

1987 Coldharbour.                                                                         

By 1987 there were only 50 beds left at Coldharbour Hospital.  

Did you know?  The rest of the site was sold and became a new housing estate and industrial units. The White  House Resource Centre stayed on the site near the   Albany Unit.

How would you feel if it had taken 20 years for you to move house?

1990 Local Hospitals.                           

Smaller, Locally Based Hospital Units opened throughout Dorset.  They were much smaller than the big hospitals, but some were still up to 25 beds.  People did not always have any choice about where they lived or who they lived with. Did you know?  Private sector residential homes grew from nearly 19,000 in 1975 to nearly 120,000 in 1990.

1995 Disability Discrimination Act.               

This act made it illegal to treat disabled people differently when they get services.  Information must be clear and easy to understand. Later, the 2005 Act  said that changes called ‘reasonable adjustments’ have to be made so that society is accessible to people.  For example, wheelchair access into buildings.

2000 Local Forums                         

Dorset Self Advocacy split into different forums for Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset, each run for and by people with learning disabilities, all campaigning for their rights and choices.                                                                           

By 2004 they had all become independent and are now known as Bournemouth People First, Poole Forum and People First Dorset.  By 2012 Bournemouth People First had grown to 500 members and had got funding for their project ‘Struggle for Equality’.

2000-2003 Forestview.     

Forestview Social and Educational Centre for adults with Learning Disabilities starts to close.                                                                             

4 smaller centres for adults with learning disabilities open across Bournemouth - Darracott Centre in Southbourne, Horizons Day Service in Kinson, Malvern Centre in Moordown and Wallisdown Heights Centre.                                                                           

Council cuts mean that by 2012 only 1 of these day centres is still open.

2005 Mental Capacity Act                                                                          

This act says that someone has mental capacity (can make their own decisions) if they understand information in a way which is relevant to them. You have to prove that someone with a Learning Disability is not able to make decisions (rather than assuming they can’t).

2006 - 2007 Moving On.                                                                             

Campus Reprovision ‘Moving On’ starts in Dorset. The NHS residential units in Dorset, Poole and Bournemouth will all be closed as people move into their own homes.                                                                           

Did you know?  The NHS locally based hospital units were due to close as people move into their own homes.  The last unit finally closes at the end of 2011.

2007 Death by Indifference.          

Mencap wrote a report called ‘Death by Indifference, 74 Deaths and Counting’.  It showed 6 people had died because they had not been treated properly by the NHS. In 2012 another report by Mencap called ‘Death by Indifference, 74 Deaths and Counting’, finds this is still happening in the NHS.

 2008 Bullied to Death.                                                                          

A mother kills herself and her disabled daughter after 13 years of bullying and harassment from a local gang, in Leicester.  A 38 year old mother, Fiona Pilkington   killed herself and her disabled daughter, 18 year old Francesca Hardwick (known as Frankie) after more then 10 years of bullying and harassment from a local gang in Leicestershire. She called ‘999’ 33 times.  There is still a lot of prejudice about people with learning disabilities in the wider community.  With the right support independent living works well, and people can be part of their communities.  

2009 Autism Act                      

The Autism Act is the 1st ever law in the UK just about this disability.                                                                           

The Act includes a 2010 plan to increase awareness about autism and to give people with autism and to give people with autism more choice about how they live.

2010 Tormented to Death                                                                          

A 64 year old man, David Askew, with learning difficulties was ‘tormented to death’ during 17 years of abuse by local bullies.                                                                          

He had a suspected heart attack whilst standing up to them in  Greater Manchester.  The following year in 2011, Mencap’s ‘Stand by Me’ campaign says that disabled people are being failed by police and left to suffer abuse.  In 2011 The  Equality and Human Rights Commission produce the ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’ report which is about disability hate crime.

2011 85th Birthday.                                                                          

The Queen and her cousin Katherine Bowes Lyon both turn 85.                                                                           

Katherine is the only member of the family to live long enough to move out of the Royal Earlswood hospital.  The Bowes Lyon family got a headstone for Narissa’s grave; it is said to be deep enough for 2 people to be buried there. The Bowes Lyon family are kept informed on Katherine  by her carers and “remain grateful”.

2011 Undercover                                                                            

‘Undercover care’ a BBC Panorama programme shows people with learning disabilities being physically and psychologically abused by staff at Winterbourne View near Bristol.

6 of the 11 Care Workers were jailed after admitting to 38 charges of neglect.                                                                          

Ringleader Wayne Rogers, who admitted 9 counts of ill-treating patients, was jailed for 2 years.


5 others were given suspended sentences and have to do community service.                                                                                            

1 Care Worker said his behaviour was "disgusting, vile and inexcusable".


The Care Quality Commission carried out an inspection in 2012 of 150 private and social care services.  Half of these did not meet government standards.

2011 Cuts                                                                           

Three of the four day centres for people with learning disabilities in Bournemouth close due to council cuts.                                                                          

Did you know?  Bournemouth People First continue to campaign on behalf of their members for their rights and choices.

2011 Terms.                                                                          

A reminder of terms used in the past which are now very offensive…

Imbecile, Idiot, Mentally retarded, Moron, Lunatic,          

Subnormal, Feeble minded, Retard, Mentally defective, Spastic, Mongol, Mental handicap.

To use these words today is a form of hate crime.

In 2012 the term which should be used is:‘A person with a learning disability.’

2011  Equality.              

Bournemouth People First are awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a research project about the history of people with learning disabilities ‘Struggle for Equality’.

Amanda, an Assistant Manager with learning disabilities commented: “ We hope it will lead to greater understanding  of what we can do so we are seen as people first.  We hope that it will teach others how life has been for people with learning disabilities.Things have improved, we need to make sure they continue to do so…”

Anthony, a staff member with learning disabilities said: “Things are much better.  People are able to get out a bit more than when in large homes, and can use their local community. Things are better now. People have got their freedom. More people are speaking up!”

2012 Community Living.                                                                                  

The last hospital unit in Bournemouth closed. People move house - into their own homes with individual care providers.                                                                            

The last 4 patients living at Tatchbury Mount, and the last three patients living at Coldeast Hospital both near Southampton are due to move into community living.                                                                           

Did you know? Bournemouth People First have a Citizen Checkers project which has visited people locally who have moved out of hospital living. Overall it has changed people’s lives and they are enjoying their new homes with their individual support.

2012 Reform.                                                                           

The 2012 Welfare Reform Bill is now a law.  Cuts have affected people’s day to day lives, cutting the services that people need and rely on.  The cuts have affected many Bournemouth People First members and other people.


2012 Welfare Reform Bill Terms which are offensive Community Living for people with learning disabilities Terms which are acceptable