South Devon and Cornwall Institution for the Blind

South Devon and Cornwall Institution for the Blind

General Information


We are a Charitable organisation founded in 1860 by Mr James Gale of Crabtree, who was the son of a Coal Merchant. His interest in the blind came from the fact that he himself was losing his sight as a result of an accident, and indeed many Institutions were formed throughout the UK between 1840 - 1860, with the first on record being established in Liverpool in 1791.

In those times there was no provision to educate blind people or indeed provide work for them, and in the early days of the Institution, which started in Cobourg Street, a Classroom was established in conjunction with basic work opportunities, and such was the interest in blind people within the area of Plymouth, that new premises were built in 1876, and to this date the building still stands at the top of North hill and is now used by Plymouth High School for Girls.

In 1964 smaller premises were needed as there was not the requirement for hostelling facilities, which had been provided on site, and this purpose built building was opened as a factory for blind people producing mats, baskets, woven chairs and sock making facilities. 

The next milestone came in 1978, with an influx of mats from India and basket wear from Poland, making us uncompetitive. In addition there was a reduction in the amount of blind people requiring employment due to improved educational facilities provided by the Education Authority, and people moved on to other work typical at this time, as telephonist etc.

The Management Committee, in order to protect those existing blind people employed here, opened the factory up to include the employment of people with other significant disabilities producing a range of Medical Products for the Private and the Public Sector.

Unfortunately due to Government funding cut-backs and the need for the NHS to purchase more competitively the Workshop was forced to close in December 2007.

The Charity still exists and the organisation is administered by an independent Committee. The Charitable Funds are used solely for the benefit of blind people residing in South Devon and Cornwall, where we provide funds for educational facilities - computers and soft wear etc, a Christmas Party, and general hardship cases where there is no statutory provision. Additionally, the Charity works with other Charities in an endeavour to purchase high expense items to create improvements in the lifestyles of the Registered Blind recipients and help their independence. 

Registered Charity No. 202125