Do you know how people with leprosy were able to worship in the middle-ages? Who were the first people to get married by sign language? Who were the Guild of Brave Poor Things? Where Bedlam was? Or who invented the first dropped kerb?
You may never have wondered about these things before. Or maybe you have, but haven’t found the answers. Or like me, you may know a bit about disability history, but it’s limited to a few ghoulish tales about asylums.
However, this is about to change. Today, English Heritage launches Disability in Time and Place: a major new web resource. Working with disabled people and specialists in disability history, we demonstrate how disabled people have had a major influence on many well known, and less well known, buildings that we see every day. From medieval churches built with Lepers’ squints to meeting places for the first disabled self-help groups in the early 20th century, you can explore the history of hundreds of buildings telling the story of disabled people’s lives here:
In answer to the previous questions…you’ll need to explore the site yourself! But I can tell you that the first person to get married using sign language was the appropriately named Thomas Speller. When Thomas married Sara Earle in St Botolph, Aldgate, London in 1618, it was an unusual occasion. Thomas, a blacksmith, was a ‘dumbe person’ and he indicated his willingness to marry Sara by making ‘the best signes he could, to show that he was willing to be maried’.
The web resource is full of stories like this, and includes new research, stunning photographs from our Archive, an interactive timeline and entries from the National Heritage List for England. The content is also fully translated into British Sign Language on each page.
Disability in Time and Place demonstrates that disability history is integral to our understanding of the story of England and the buildings around us. We’d love to know what you think about the pages – you can get in touch with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rosie Sherrington – Disability in Time and Place Project Manager