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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. They became friends and this one act of kindness saw many more people coming to Leonard for help, people who were keen to share a home with others and all chip in together.

Aerial view of the Le Court estateAlmost without him having to try, by the summer of 1949 his home of Le Court, in Hampshire, had 24 residents with complex needs, illnesses and impairments. As word spread, referrals came from the new NHS hospitals already struggling to cope with waiting lists of people needing urgent care.

Disabled people were at the very bottom of the list of NHS priorities at the time, often left to manage on their own, or rely on others to help them get through each day. As Le Court became established, people from different parts of the UK and then the world began to rally in response to local need for similar homes in their communities. The charity now known as Leonard Cheshire had begun.

Le Court residentsBy 1955, there were five homes in the UK and the first overseas project had begun outside Mumbai in India. The 1960s saw rapid expansion and by 1970 there were over 50 services in the UK, five in India and activities in 21 other countries around the world. Now well established as a pioneering provider of care services, Leonard Cheshire began to diversify and the early 1970s saw it trialling a care in the community project on the UK south coast.

A wealth of source from our charity’s history and the life of our founder are stored at the Leonard Cheshire archive.