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Henshaws (Henshaw’s Society for Blind People) Archive

Date range: 1833–present

Medium: Archive

Records of Henshaws Society for Blind People, formerly known as Henshaw’s Blind Asylum, which was opened in Old Trafford, Manchester, in 1837 to provide education, employment and welfare for blind people.

Henshaws has gradually broadened the scope of its activities in relation to blindness, and since 1971 it has provided a service for the visually impaired as well as blind people. The ‘asylum’ was re-named Henshaw’s Institution for the Blind in the 1920s, became Henshaw’s Society for the Blind in 1971, Henshaw's Society for Blind People in 2000, and is now known simply as Henshaws. Today, Henshaws provides a wide range of services to support people living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities.

Records include the minutes and financial accounts of Henshaws and its precursors; a wide variety of committees are represented. Many minutes of individual committees include reports from other committees, relevant correspondence, and reports of joint meetings between committees, and many of the volumes are indexed.

In 2017, the Library took in a substantial accrual to the Henshaws Archive. This includes material relating to Henshaws in Manchester as well as the Manchester and Salford Blind Aid Society (which merged with Henshaws in 1980). Various other sites and institutions are also represented, including the Godfrey Ermen Memorial Home of Rest for the Blind in Southport; Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre in Knaresborough; Belmont Hotel in Llandudno, which provided subsidised holidays for blind people and their sighted companions; Henshaws College in Harrogate; and the Mary Ann Scott Home in Southport. Material represented includes:

  • Publications (including books by Isabel M. Heywood, founder of the Manchester and Salford Blind Aid Society, and Ben Purse, a piano tuner who trained at Henshaws and became the first General Secretary of the National League of the Blind);
  • Minute books;
  • Annual reports;
  • Internal and external newsletters;
  • Press cuttings;
  • Publicity material;
  • An extensive number of photographs: these cover a wide period and include some dating from as early as the 1920s, but the bulk date from the 1970s onwards;
  • Memoirs, including those of Karola Stiller, a German woman who taught at Henshaws in the 1940s; there are also letters and photographs relating to Stiller and her pupils;
  • Letters patent granting a coat of arms and accompanying device to Henshaw’s Society of the Blind incorporating the Manchester and Salford Blind Aid Society, dated 31 May 1989.

Further information:

  • Catalogue of the earlier part of the archive available online via ELGAR.
  • Catalogue of the 2017 accrual available via Special Collections reading rooms.


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