Oral histories

4 December 2017

Hydon Hill residents watching oral histories

Our heritage project ‘Rewind 7 decades of stories from Leonard Cheshire Disability’ has been running since 2015.

It's involved making our archive material available online and holding workshops and exhibitions to share our history with more people.

Another important part of the project has been the recording of oral history interviews with current residents, staff and volunteers at six services in the South East, as well as people involved with our first service Le Court.

Rewind volunteers conducted 49 interviews with people who live, work and volunteer at Sobell Lodge, Chipstead Lake, Heatherley, St Cecilia’s, Hydon Hill and Alder House.

The oral history interviews are being preserved in the archive for the future and extracts from the interviews are available on the Rewind website.


Different themes emerged from the oral history interviews about how life in these six homes has changed over the years.

Assistive technology

‘When my mother was in a wheelchair, somebody pushed you. I can go anywhere. It’s really quite incredible.’

—resident Carol  on the changes in assistive technology

Other people had a less positive experience with assistive technology.

Archive image of a resident using a computer

‘We never used to have any hoists when I first came’, remembers Barry, who feels that being transferred using a hoist ‘is taking away part of your independence’. 


Having privacy and your own room might seem like a given today but Ranjana remembers that this wasn’t always the case.

‘When you came here first, you had to share a room. So you kind of lived in half a room. It forced you to get to know somebody quickly!’ 

Volunteering is key

Volunteering was key to the establishment of many early Cheshire homes, which were run by management committees of local volunteers.

Alder House resident looking at a photo album with a volunteer

Daphne helped to raise the funds to build Chipstead Lake in Kent in the 1970s and has noticed how the demographic of volunteers has changed over the years:

‘It's a change in society, because most women are working now, and the time when we started there was a pool of ladies whose families were grown up, who hadn't got jobs and were prepared to do voluntary service’.

Many of the early homes were set up in large old buildings, posing challenges for accessibility.

‘There was a ghost called the Grey Lady down the back stairs and you would hear things: bed pans falling off from the bed pan holders!’

— Cynthia, staff member

Volunteers outside Chipstead Lake

Compassion and love

Although life in Cheshire homes has changed over the years, former staff member Sue believes that:

‘Things have changed but people don’t change. Their compassion and love and giving, it’s all still there.’

Discover more at rewind.leonardcheshire.org. Rewind is kindly supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Heritage Lottery Fund

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