Henshaw's Institute for the Blind

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 MMC/9/39
  • Former Reference
      GB 133 J b 35
  • Dates of Creation
  • Physical Description
      4 items

Scope and Content

Annual reports 1873-1875 and 1935, centenary pamphlet and cutting.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Henshaw died in 1810 leaving a legacy of £20,000 for the establishment of an asylum for the indigent blind. A delay followed due to the will being contested, but in 1833 it was agreed to erect a Blind Asylum. In 1835 the proposed Asylum was named Henshaw's Blind Asylum. A site at Old Trafford was purchased, adjoining the site purchased for Manchester Institute for the Deaf and Dumb. However, the will provided that the money should not be spent on buildings and so Henshaw's Blind Asylum was built by public subscription. The Asylum opened in 1837 and aimed to provide education, employment and welfare for the blind. There was controversy in the mid-nineteenth century, with a battle between Anglicans and dissenters, each vying for management of the charity. After public allegations of corruption and incompetence the Board of Management resigned in 1867. There were originally 37 inmates, but this figure grew and the accommodation gradually became inadequate. With a legacy from John Pendlebury, a new building to increase accommodation was opened in 1887. This was followed by the erection of further extensions and a number of residential homes. In 1887 Henshaw's opened workshops in Salford, these were to small and expensive so moved to Deansgate in 1891. Eventually a large warehouse was purchased in Stretford. A Sales Shop for articles made under the scheme was provided in Oxford Road. Blind craftspeople were paid a wage augmented by the Charity. Henshaw's Asylum also included an elementary school for blind children aged 5 to 16 and a technical college for students from 16 to 21. Students were trained into an occupation such as music or craftwork. Following the Elementary Education (Blind and Deaf Children) Act, 1893, Henshaw's expanded its school service. The Blind Person's Act required education to be given to over 16s, and Henshaw's again increased its accommodation to enable this. Financial support in the form of grants supported these expansions. The Asylum was re-named Henshaw's Institution for the Blind in the 1920s and by 1937 the Institution was the largest of its kind in England and Wales. 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 the blind. The Asylum also The Charity also provided homes for the elderly and infirm in Gresham and Birch Avenue. The Institution changed its name in 1971 to Henshaw's Society for the Blind and again in 2000 to Henshaw's Society for Blind People. Today the Society provides a wide range of services for the blind and visually impaired across the Northern England and Wales.

Related Material

UML has custody of the early records of Henshaw's Society, see http://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb133-hen HEN .


Peter Shapely, 'Henshaw's Blind Asylum and the Charity Market', Manchester Region History Review, Summer 1994.