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There’s no place like a Cheshire Home? Redefining the role of disabled residents in residential care at Le Court 1948–1975

posted on 21.07.2020, 10:46 authored by Laura Crawford
This original study explores the geographies of disability, home and care of Le Court Cheshire Home, 1948–1975. Le Court was the first Cheshire Home created by Leonard Cheshire, a UK charity who offer a diverse portfolio of support services for disabled people. When the charity started in 1948 it exclusively ran homes. The word ‘home’ symbolised the type of environments the charity sought to create, as opposed to the ‘institutional’ settings many residents were living in previously. The date range is chosen to address a key gap in the literature. In 1948 the National Assistance Act brought an official end to the Poor Law which shaped pre-NHS welfare provision, and in 1975 disabled activists generated a radical new agenda designed to address segregation and to confront society’s role in creating disability. This presented a direct challenge to the Cheshire Homes, who despite claiming to be novel and progressive, maintained a network of residential homes often in isolated locations. There is very little research about where disabled people were living between 1948 and 1975, and how these experiences were instrumental to the formation of the disability movement. This study addresses these gaps by excavating this ‘hidden history’, and in doing so, contributes to key debates in social, cultural and historical geography. The thesis argues that the residents’ efforts to redefine their place in the Le Court home was a precursor to broader considerations about the place of disabled people in society.
The research project utilised archival fieldwork to analyse a rich data set housed in the Leonard Cheshire Archive, based at Newlands House, Netherseal, Derbyshire. The empirical data includes magazines, photographs, and written documents as well as audio-visual material. These sources are analysed as texts with the material used to critically examine the meaning and significance of Le Court as a home and the role of residents in care. Overall, the thesis explores geographical themes across four empirical chapters that examine the place of the homes in the broader health and care landscape, the meaning of the home, the role of the residents in the home, and the mobilities, networks and flows which the home was embedded within. Taken collectively, these themes offer different perspectives on the home and ultimately demonstrate the complexity of Le Court, a space which sat at the intersection of home and institution. The thesis prompts new considerations about the factors which foster or hinder a homely atmosphere in the context of residential care, contributing to debates on disability, care and home in social, cultural and historical geography and wider inter-disciplinary studies.


Loughborough University, Graduate School (Ph.D. studentship)



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment


Loughborough University

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© Laura Crawford

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A doctoral thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.




Sarah Mills ; Louise Holt

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