Tales of Normansfield – The Langdon Down Legacy


Tales of Normansfield charts the remarkable history of a unique hospital for learning disabled children and adults. Founded by the pioneering Dr John Langdon Down in 1868, his ground breaking use of educative ideas, drama and music therapy is a story of enlightenment, dedication and vision. The hospital gained an international reputation in its treatment of ‘idiots and imbeciles’ and is a testament to the extraordinary foresight of Langdon Down. The book also describes the role of John Langdon Down’s wife, Mary, in the administration of the hospital, her involvement with the exquisite theatre where staff and patients put on shows.

Following the death of John Langdon Down, his work was continued by various members of the Langdon Down family dynasty for over a century. Tragically, conditions at Normansfield deteriorated following the hospital’s transfer to the National Health Service and a particularly turbulent period led to an unprecedented strike by nurses, in a protest against the incompetent and autocratic Dr Terence Lawlor in 1976.

Personal accounts by patients, letters and photographs from the Langdon Down archive, reminiscences from nurses, interviews with staff members and contributions from relatives provide a fascinating insight into life at Normansfield until its closure in 1997.