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Action for Blind People

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2805
Held at: Action for Blind People
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Full title: Action for Blind People
Date(s): 1876-2003
Level of description: collection
Extent: Approximately 3 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Surrey Association for the General Welfare of the Blind | 1857-1910
London Association for the Blind | 1910-1999
Action for Blind People | 1990-


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Surrey Association for the General Welfare of the Blind was founded in 1857 to teach blind people to read their bibles at their own homes, supply them with books, teach trades free of cost and to give them remunerative employment.
In 1885, twenty-nine men and seven women were employed at the institution based at a workshop in Peckham Rd, London, with eight more women employed at home. They worked at making and repairing baskets, making and redressing mattresses, re-caning chairs, domestic woodwork, producing fish and poultry baskets, totalling over 6,800 items, as well as chopping 126,000 bundles of firewood.

In 1890 a Building Trust Fund and a Ladies Relief Committee were established by the Association. Around this time, the aims of the society were broadened to include general education and circulation of available literature and promotion of industry for blind peoples, as well as providing of social and physical support to ill and elderly blind people.

By 1912 the factory had also established a knitting department, which was expanded during World War 1 as a result of large orders from the Army and Navy. In 1915, new workshops were established in Westbourne Terrace, Toynbee Hall, and Rochester Row. By 1917, workers wages averaged 1 per week, and pensions were paid on retirement. However following the war, trade slumped, cost of raw materials increased dramatically and the Association struggled to pay high enough wages. However another new workshop was opened in Churton St, Westminster, and following the end of the war a number of blind soldiers were given apprenticeships.

The Association also operated a number of hostels and residences, frequently located on the same premises at their workshops. The first hostel for women was opened in 1919 in Bessborough St, Victoria.

In the early 1920s, the Association made clear that it was concerned not only for blind people who were 'productive' - able to produce wares at a rate that enabled them to live - but also those with mental and physical disabilities who would never be able to be self supporting. By this time, there were 104 workers, from all parts of England, and a number of deaf/blind people as well.

The factory operation continued to develop and in 1924 power machinery was installed at the factory for the manufacture of knitting needles. As the need for extra space increased, Cooper Lodge, Blickly was acquired in 1925 as accommodation as well as a workshop for women workers. Button making was introduced in the 1930s, and in the early 1940s, moulded plastic production was developed, producing items such as army cap badges and combs, as well as knitting needles.

The knitting factory itself was destroyed by a bomb in 1941, and the workshop was moved to the premises of the Barclay workshop which had recently amalgamated with the Association. The knitting and weaving workshops had large orders from the Army and the RAF. The machine knitting deparment merged with the Royal London Society for the Blind, under the name of Crawford-Salusbury Partnership in the mid 1950s, but eventually closed about 1968. The weaving department closed in 1957.

The Institution operated shops in different places, one in Kensington, between 1928 and 1944; one in Bognor Regis opened briefly during World War 2. The provision of holiday accommodation was also one of the Association's concerns, and in 1945, Canford Cliffs, Dorset, was purchased. Further guesthouses were developed over time, including The Lauriston, Weston -super-Mare, opened in 1964, and The Russell, Bognor Regis, 1968.

The Peckham factory was gradually expanded and in 1936 was rebuilt. In 1952 and new office was completed - Pelican House Peckham.

By the 1960s the Peckham factory employed blind men in the production of handmade baskets, the manufacture of casein and metal knitting needles, and injection moulded plastics. And the Association has residential homes for women at Crawford Street, London, as well as Cooper Lodge, Horley, and Croham Hurst Place, Sanderstead, both in Surrey; accommodation for men working in the factory at Adams House, Camberwell, and a hostel Dulwich; an estate of 57 self-contained flats - Swail House, Epsom, Surrey. There was also holiday accommodation for blind people at Weston-Super-Mare and Bognor Regis. The Association's welfare programme was responsible for the use of the Benevolent and Pensions Funds to assist blind and partially sighted people throughout the UK.

In 1972, the Greenwich Workshops for the Blind, (founded 1929) joined the Association's basket department. The factory moved from Peckham to Verney Rd in 1974, its main work then being production now consists of Injection mouldings, PVC welding and basket making. The offices also moved to Verney Rd, and Pelican House, Peckham was sold in 1976.

Factory production continued to change with the basket making department closing in 1978, and the injection moulding operation in 1985. Leaving only the plastic industry in operation.

In the 1990s the renamed Association for Blind People opened an Information and advice centre, and new training facilities in London and in Liverpool. The Association, while trading under the new name was still formally registered as London Association for the Blind until 1999.


Scope and content/abstract:

Archives of the Action for Blind People / London Association for the Blind (LAB), comprising:

minutes of LAB Directors' and Annual General Meetings, 1944-1972;

minutes of LAB Homes and Hostels / Buildings Sub-committee, 1928-1932; Buildings and Estates / General Purposes and Buildings Committee, 1932-1942; General Purposes and Trading subcommittee 1942-1946 and Building and Estates Sub committee, 1946-1948;

minutes of LAB Finance sub-committee, 1928-1930; 1930-1938; Finance and general purposes subcommittee, 1938-1952;

minutes of the LAB Ladies Committee of the Association, 1911-1917; and Sales sub-committee of the Ladies Committee, 1920;

LAB Memoranda and Articles of Association, 1910, 1962, 1978, 1985; List of officers and patrons of the Association, 1857-1965;

LAB Analysis of Balance sheets, 1857-1956; Audit notebook, 1924-1926; Annual statements of accounts 1931, 1934-1939; Account book (of donations?) 1961-1981; Bought ledger and Blind average books, 1928-1945; Managers (weekly) reports, 1886-1887;

scrap book containing press cuttings relating to the Association, 1937-1965; Scrap book containing Association publicity material including flyers for events and fundraising circulars, 1928-1954;

LAB Visitors Book, 1954-1978;

printed matter including Annual Reports 1876-77; 1879-1987; The Blind Record, 1914-1924, 1937-1938; News for LAB, Numbers 5, 7, 8 [1960s-1970s]; Re:Action 2001-2003;

printed catalogues [1920s-1930s]; 'Plastic mouldings by the Blind'; Brochures and leaflets relating to LAB Hostels, Cooper Lodge postcards; opening of Swail House, Epsom, 1952;

files relating to moulding shop development Reports and notes, 1954-1955; Welding lesson notes, 1988; correspondence relating to bequests, 1972-1983; papers and letters relating to the opening of the Russell Hotel, Bognor Regis, by Princes Alexandra, Jul 1968;

photographs 1920s-2003;

Hearth and Home, 1936, (renamed Alphega (Sportswear) Ltd, then Lafega) Hearth and Home share certificates, 1910-1926; Lafega Register of members, directors, managers, transfers and mortgages and charges, 1910-1971; Minutes of H& Board of directors of the Company, including register of shareholders, 1910-1926; minutes of H&H/ Lafega annual meetings and directors' meetings, 1925-1944; Lafega Annual statements of accounts, 1936-1972 (incomplete);

Wheyo Tool Company Ltd
minutes of Directors, 1964-1970; Register of shares, and company directors etc, 1949-1971; minutes of AGM 1971; Annual statement of accounts, 1964-1971;

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

By appointment only. Contact Mrs Sue Silvester, Action for Blind People. 14-16 Verney Rd, London SE16 3DZ. Tel:020 7635 4800

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies available

Finding aids:

The material is uncatalogued.

Archival Information

Archival history:


Immediate source of acquisition:

Created and retained in situ by the Association

Allied Materials

Related material:

Action for Blind People also holds records relating to the Barclay Institution.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Historical Manuscripts Commission's On-Line National Register of Archives; 'Action for Blind People - Chronology' 1998.
Compiled by Alison Field as part of the London Signpost Survey Project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
November 2003

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