Photo © Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Normansfield Hospital was originally a private home named the "White House" which was extended to accommodate patients as a hospital, and opened in 1868 as a private facility that cared for those with developmental disabilities and psychiatric problems who came from families with a good social standing. The hospital was named "Normansfield Training Institution for Imbeciles" after Norman Wilkinson, the founder's financial adviser, and later on it was known as "Normansfield Hospital." 19 patients were admitted in 1868, and rose to 160 in 1896. The facility was clean, opulent, and gave a high regard to skilled work and entertainment as therapy. A elaborate theater was built which also doubled as a chapel on Sundays.
It's founder, John Langdon-Down, was a pioneer in the education and training of the handicapped, and studied the characteristics of the conditions of his patients in both physical and mental terms. His "classes" of these conditions were on par with the popular theories and lingo at the time, but would most likely be considered racial and offensive these days even though Normansfield Hospital was run under the rules that imprisonment and teasing were forbidden. He measured, photographed, and catalogued everything he studied, and performed scientific investigations into the little-researched realm of learning disabilities, including performing autopsies and studying brain matter. In 1866, Langdon Down classified a specific group of patients having oriental characteristics that he describes as "Mongolian", and the term "Mongolian Idiot" came into use. In 1965, the World Health Organization renamed the term to "Down's Syndrome" at the request of international experts as well as the People's Republic of Mongolia. Langdon Down's own grandson, born nine years after his death, had Down's Syndrome.
The hospital closed it's doors in 1997, and the land was sold to Laign Homes for housing in 1999; 198 homes and a 49-bed hotel were planned, but it seems as if the hotel fell through, and some of the main hospital building remains vacant.
For more information about the hospital, check out The Langdon Down Centre Trust and Miriam May's website, a woman who worked at the hospital in the early 1990's.