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.

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