Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: August 05, 2017
Webpage updated: August 19, 2020




The South Devon and Cornwall Blind Institution,
North Hill, Tavistock Road, Plymouth, circa 1907.
From a postcard.

Mr James Gale, who was himself blind, suggested the formation of the Institution to Mr Henry Luscombe towards the close of 1859.  Mr Luscombe instantly agreed to co-operate and assist in this endeavour and obtained the use of two rooms in the old Workhouse in Catherine Street.  A day school was opened on January 2nd 1860 and by the end of that year there were 15 blind people receiving instruction. In reading, arithmetic, mental arithmetic and Bible history.  The adults were additionally instructed in mat and basket making by Mr Thomas Creber, their blind teacher.

During May 1861 the classes were moved to larger premises in Cobourg Street, where there were soon 28 people on the books.  More than half of them were boarders.  The large number of applications for admission from all over Devon and Cornwall meant that even larger premises were soon required but not before six of the male inmates were boarded out of the house at a cost of more than 20 for the year.  At the same time the workshops were so crowded that there was barely enough room for the adults and no room left for the instruction of the children.

In 1862 the owner of the premises put them up for sale and there was a prospect that they might have to get out.  However, a Mr Edward Henley came to their rescue and bought the house on their behalf.  He then granted them a 21-year lease with the liberty for them to terminate it at any time by purchasing it themselves for the original price of 800.   Mr Henley died in 1864 and left the Trustees the sum of 800, which they used to secure the purchase of their premises.  A tablet was placed in the building to perpetuate the memory of their benefactor.

The Trustees were The Earl of Mount Edgcumbe; Sir Massey Lopes, Bart., MP; Colonel Bastard of Kitley House; and Messrs G W Soltau; W Harris; J W Grigg; W Luscombe; C Norrington; Caleb Trotter; C T Bewes; W Derry; J Hawker; J W Matthews and H Whiteford.   His Royal Highness, the Prince Albert, consented to become Patron until his death, when that position was taken by The Prince of Wales.   The vice-patron was the Right Honourable Lord Vivian, the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, while the president in 1868 was Mr J Carpenter-Garnier of Tavistock.

In 1864 the sale of goods made by the inmates fetched 562; in 1865 it was 592; in 1866, 591; and in 1867 it amounted to 609.

During the summer of 1867 the committee held a bazaar to raise funds for the purchase of an organ built by Mr Hunter of London.

The managing committee in 1868 consisted of Captain Puckford, RN; the Reverends C Wilson, J E Risk, F Courtney, and T Bennett; Major McKellar; and Messrs O C Arthur, C T Bewes, E R Brown, O de B Brock, C Fox, J Gale junior, R Hicks, H Luscombe, J W Matthews, J Parkyn, A Rooker, M Thompson, and J Windeatt.  The secretary was Mr J M Lyne and the treasurer was Mr J Trego.

A new building at North Hill, Tavistock Road, was designed by Mr H J Snell and erected in 1876 by Messrs Palk and Partridge.  It is alleged to have been built on the site of an earlier Maudlyn or Leper House.

In 1877/78 HRH The Prince of Wales was patron and the officers were: Dr James C Bulteel, honorary physician; Messrs J H & G H Eccles, honorary surgeons; Mr John Trego, honorary treasurer; Mr J W Matthews, honorary secretary; Mr W H Hockaday, superintendent & Mrs W H Hockaday, matron.

Although the building still stands at the top of North Hill, it has since around 1976 been used as an annex to Plymouth High School for Girls.