U3A Project 2014 | Long Stay Institutions for People with Learning Disabilities: Earlswood Asylum

A fascinating insight into the evolution and development of Royal Earlswood Asylum in Surrey

Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability


The genesis

Prompted by a parishioner, Mrs Plumbe, who had read an article by Samuel Gaskell (see below) and had a son who was admitted to the asylum in 1848, Rev. Andrew Reed founded the “Asylum for Idiots” charity in 1847. Reed had already founded three charities for orphans and also “The Royal Hospital for Incurables’ as well. He raised funds for building chapels and wrote hymns that became well known, such as “Spirit divine attend our prayers”.

Reed was also active politically, campaigning against slavery in America, helping the cause of native South Africans and supporting repeal of the corn laws.
Andrew visited asylums in France, Switzerland and Denmark. He became convinced that special and individual attention would help the idiot develop as far as possible, and he corresponded with the French doctors Itard and his pupil Seguin. Seguin experimented with methods of teaching idiot children, concentrating on sensory…

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