Our history

On 22 May 1948, former RAF pilot Leonard Cheshire took a dying man, who had nowhere else to go, into his home.

With no money, Leonard nursed the man himself in his home of Le Court in Hampshire. They became friends and this act of kindness prompted more people to go to Leonard for help. People were keen to share a home with others and support each other.

By the summer of 1949, his home had 24 residents with complex needs, illnesses and impairments. As awareness of Leonard's work spread he started to receive referrals. 

NHS waiting lists for urgent care

New NHS hospitals struggled to cope with waiting lists of people needing urgent care. Disabled people were at the bottom of the list of NHS priorities at the time. People were often left to manage on their own, or to rely on others to help them get through each day. 

The growth of services for people with disabilities

As Le Court became established, people started to champion the need for similar homes in their communities. Interest in these services was not limited to the UK. International communities also sought these services. The establishment of Leonard Cheshire as a charity had begun.

By 1955, there were five homes in the UK. The first overseas project began outside Mumbai, India. 

The 1960s saw rapid expansion. By 1970 there were:

  • Over 50 services in the UK. 
  • Five services in India.
  • Activities in 21 other countries around the world. 

Care in the community

By the 1970s, we were established as a pioneering provider of care services. We began to diversify and a trial for care in the community was launched in the UK south coast.

Leonard Cheshire archive

The Leonard Cheshire archive was set up in the late 1980s as one of the last personal projects of our charity's founder.

At the end of 2003, Leonard Cheshire's trustees decided to ensure the continued and appropriate development of the archive by providing it with a purpose designed and built home.

This exciting development project was completed in the spring of 2005 and the new Leonard Cheshire Archive Centre opened for business in April, to continue its archiving and outreach work.

Here, researchers can have access to a whole range of records which chart the global development of one of the leading providers of services to disabled people.

If you want to know more or plan a visit, please contact our archivist Stephanie Nield on 01283 763 951 or email archivecentre@leonardcheshire.org

Rewind website

Learn more about the history of Leonard Cheshire and disability in years gone by, through films, photographs and journals.

Visit the Rewind website