Records of Henshaw's Society for the Blind

Scope and Content

The records deposited in the Library consist of the minutes and financial accounts of Henshaw's Society for the Blind and its precursors, including a wide variety of committees, departments and meetings. Many of the minutes of individual committees include reports from other committees, relevant correspondence, and joint meetings between committees, and many of the volumes are indexed. As a result of the merger in 1980, some committees were abolished, whilst others were merged or remained as before.

The material comprises Bound volumes, including folders; many volumes guarded with extra leaves appended; some loose material within volumes.

Administrative / Biographical History

The origins of Henshaw's can be traced to the will of the Manchester businessman and philanthropist Thomas Henshaw (1731- 1810), who left £20,000 towards the foundation of a blind asylum in Manchester "to maintain and afford such instruction to the indigent blind of both sexes capable of employment as will enable them to provide, either wholly or in part, for their own subsistence and to afford asylum to the impotent and aged blind". The will was contested by Henshaw's widow for 23 years on the grounds of his mental condition, but in 1833 a committee of Manchester gentlemen was formed to put it into effect, and Henshaw's Blind Asylum was opened in Old Trafford in 1837, providing education, employment and welfare for the blind.

Henshaw's has gradually broadened the scope of its activities in relation to blindness and the assistance of blind people and their families, and since 1971 it has provided a service for the visually impaired as well as the blind. The Asylum was re-named Henshaw's Institution for the Blind in the 1920s, and in 1971 it became Henshaw's Society for the Blind. The Society was amalgamated with a parallel organisation, the Manchester and Salford Blind Aid Society, in 1980, since when its full name has been Henshaw's Society for the Blind incorporating the Manchester and Salford Blind Aid Society.


The physical arrangement of the collection at the time of deposit was rather confused in places, probably because of disruption in transit to the Library, and the collection is now arranged according to the administrative structure and practices under which they were created.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

This finding aid may contain personal or sensitive personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) has the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PP.

Custodial History

The collection was deposited at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, Deansgate, on 22 February 1995. It had previously been held by Henshaw's Society for the Blind and its predecessor institutions. The annual reports are still held by the Society.

Related Material

Further material relating to Henshaw's, especially during the nineteenth century, may be found at Manchester Archives and Local Studies.

Geographical Names