Our History

In 1837, Oldham businessman Thomas Henshaw left £20,000 in his will to establish an ‘Asylum for the Indigent Blind’ in Manchester. He had made his wealth in the local hatting industry, but despite this success, he battled with depression until his death in 1810.

That may explain why his second wife Sarah contested his generous legacy on the grounds that he had made the will “whilst mentally unbalanced”. The case went to the Court of Chancery and it was 23 years before the verdict was given in favour of the terms of his original will.

So in 1837, the original ‘blind asylum’ finally opened its doors in Old Trafford. By 1930, the school had 273 pupils, 194 workshop employees, 64 residents and 19 blind instructors.

In 2012 we celebrated our 175th anniversary with an exhibition entitled, Thomas Henshaw: One Man’s Vision. The exhibition explored our history and the history of visual impairment and was open for three months at Gallery Oldham. In 2014 the exhibition will tour to Leeds and Salford, for more information visit www.onemansvision.org.uk

Henshaws Today

175 logoIn a 175 year tribute to our founder, Henshaws is still growing today!

We now work in three regions across the north of England, with centres in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Newcastle, Harrogate and Knaresborough.

We employ over 400 members of staff who last year helped to support hundreds of blind and visually impaired people and their families.

Positive about disabled people logo Big Lottery Fund logo BBC Children in Need logo Fundraising Standards Board logo UK Vision Strategy logo Investor in People logo

Our services rely on the generous support from voluntary donations.

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