David Lewis Epileptic Colony

Scope and Content

Annual reports of the Colony/Centre and related documents.

Administrative / Biographical History

Please note: the Library does not have custody of the archives of this organisation. Enquiries about these archives should be directed to David Lewis.

In the late nineteenth century there was no proper accommodation for epileptics, who were often housed in workhouses or asylums. In 1902 a large site near Alderley Edge was purchased by the David Lewis Trust (founded 1893) and the building of a purpose built colony for epileptics began. The colony was also built and furnished by the David Lewis Trust. It consisted of a series of detached villas. Each villa accommodated 24 patients, providing homes for 130 men, 130 women and 36 children. The colony also had large grounds suitable for various occupations. In 1904 the Colony was handed over to Manchester Corporation, to be run by a committee to promote welfare of people suffering from epilepsy. The full name was David Lewis Manchester Epileptic Colony, but patients came from all over the world. The Colony aimed to provide treatment, education and occupation for 'sane epileptics' and to promote the welfare of epileptics.

A charge made for colonists which varied depending on the type of accommodation, varying from dormitories to suites. Perhaps unusually, accommodation was provided for 'patients from middle-class homes as well as those from poorer surroundings'. As well as accommodation, the Colony also provided a residential school, for pupils of all classes. The rationale was that children would be happiest and most successful in an environment where fits were seen as normal. In 1911, children were moved to a new residential school at Schools for Epileptic Children at Soss Moss, run by Manchester Education Committee, a move which provided more space for adult colonists. However, in 1914 it was decided that the colony should have its own school. This was called the Colthurst School, children no longer attended the school in Soss Moss. There was also treatment in the form of occupational therapy, and colonists were paid for the work they did. This ranged from gardening to crafts and woodwork. There was a gradual increase in the numbers of colonists; by 1934, there were 441 admissions.

The Colony underwent various modernisations, including a new occupation therapy department opened in 1954. The 1950s saw rapid developments in medical understanding and treatment of epilepsy, such as the introduction of the new drug, mysoline, in 1951. However, the aims of the charity remained the same. The 1960s saw close collaboration with the Department of Social Administration of Manchester University, who undertook research into the problems affecting epilepsy. Around 1970 the name of the charity changed to The David Lewis Centre for Epilepsy, and new clinical and assessment units were opened in 1973. The Centre is still active treating people with severe forms of epilepsy, but now treats other conditions including autism. It is now known simply as David Lewis