Grace’s parents were called Henry and Emily. Her dad was a Major in the Army. Her mum was upper class and religious. Around 1861 they moved to Brighton from London. They lived at 12 Norfolk Terrace. They had 12 children. Grace was the eleventh child in their family.
In 1877, Henry became a Guardian of the Poor of the Parish. This meant he helped provide support for the poor. The family helped charity and Church activities.
This is their house today.
This is a photo of Grace Eyre in the 1870s. She was about 10 years old here.
Brighton High School was new. It had modern ideas about girls’ education. Grace’s parents were forward-thinking. They sent their daughters to school when most wealthy girls were educated at home at the time.
Today the school is called Brighton Girls School. It is on Montpelier Road. This is a picture of it.
Grace went to Lady Margaret Hall. This was the first women’s college in Oxford. This was rare in the 1880s – lots of people did not want women to study back then. Women couldn’t get a degree until the 1920s.
Grace’s sister Hilda went to Lady Margaret Hall too. Grace and Hilda stayed in touch with their old college. They went to Lady Margaret Hall’s 50th anniversary in 1928.
Can you spot Grace and Hilda in their College photo below?
This photograph shared by the kind permission of the Principal and Fellows of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.
Grace is on the left and Hilda is on the right.
She said “institutions should be regarded as the last option of care”.
She wanted people to leave the asylums and live in “bright and healthy surroundings”. She wanted people to feel useful and confident. She wanted them to have “a place in the sun”.
Here is a picture of Grace. This picture was very kindly shared with us by the Hickey family. They are related to Grace’s sister Clementina.
The children stayed in Heathfield House. Heathfield House was Grace’s family’s second home. The house was in the countryside. Grace asked her friends to let children stay at their homes.
The children had nice holidays in the countryside. They had a break from the asylums. The children enjoyed visiting the seaside. Some of them had never seen the sea before.
These are some old postcards from the late 1800s.
Lots of people asked Grace if children could leave hospitals for good. Grace and her friends helped find homes for the children to stay. This was called Guardianship back then.
This was the start of Shared Lives. Shared Lives is a scheme where people live in a carer’s home. People still live in Shared Lives homes today.
She moved in with her sister Hilda and her brother Henry. Her brother was a Reverend. This means he was involved with the church.
She also had a country home in Waldron, at Old Lane, Foxhunt Green. She and her family had close links to the Heathfield area.
On 10th June 1913, Grace set up a meeting. Her sister Amy was there too. Dr Helen Boyle came to the meeting. She was one of the first UK women doctors.
They helped disabled people to live in the community. Disabled people went to live with families. Disabled people were supported to get jobs. They were given medical support. Regular reports were sent to the Board of Control. They named their group the Guardianship Society.
Miss Kirby was in the Victorian welfare group. She spoke at Grace’s meeting in 1913. She said disabled people living in society was dangerous.
The Guardianship Society began on 1st October, 1913. This was the start of what is now the Grace Eyre Foundation.
The day centre was at 4 Richmond Terrace. Their office was there too.
Children and adults did training classes here. The training courses were the first classes not in asylums.
Brighton Council and the Board of Control gave Grace money. This helped Grace run the day centre.
Men and women went to different classes. Men learnt woodwork and leather work. Women learnt knitting, sewing, and cleaning. People also learnt how to weave, make baskets, and paint. Children had their own classes.
Grace said the Day Centre was “…the means of giving occupation and pleasure to those who otherwise would receive no training.”
This photo shows Grace, staff and service users. They are on the steps of Richmond Terrace. This photo was taken in 1915. Grace is at the back. She is second right.
In 1918 they moved again, this time to 82 Grand Parade (this is no longer there). They stayed there for 10 years. A generous donor helped them buy the building.
In 1928 they were working from 2 Old Steine briefly. Then they moved again to 8 Grand Parade. They stayed there until 1937.
2 Old Steine (1928)
8 Grand Parade (1928-1937)
After the war, more people wanted to attend the day centre. This meant the Guardianship Society needed more money.
People helped raise money by selling art. They decided to have a sale. People with learning disabilities sold their art there.
Some of these sales were reported in local newspapers. This clipping describes an art sale. It was held at the YMCA in the Old Steine. They wanted to raise £40 for the day centre and Dungates Farm. £40 back then is the same as £2,300 today.
People with learning disabilities still sell their art at Grace Eyre today. They take part in Brighton’s Open Art House every year.
Dungates Cottage Farm was bought in 1923. It was in Waldron, near Heathfield.
In 1927 they also bought Tubwell Farm in Rotherfield, near Crowborough.
Tubwell Farm, Rotherfield, 1930s
Young men were sent to live and work there. They learned farming and gardening skills. The Society helped the young men find jobs at local farms.
Tubwell Farm, Rotherfield, 1930s
Families and staff had picnics there. Here are some pictures from the 1930s.
A Picnic of residents, family and friends at Dungate Farm, 1938
A Picnic of residents, family and friends at Tubwell Farm, 1935
To find out more about what working on the farm might be like, listen to Gillian’s story.
Muriel Hart remembers going to Tubwell Farm in the early 1930s. She is the daughter of one of the Finance staff at the time.
She said Grace was there. She was a quiet but ‘formidable presence’. Grace stayed in the background. She was a “rather thin lady… always in grey”.
With kind permission of Miss Muriel Hart
Grace argued with the Board of Control. This was a government group in charge of people with learning disabilities. They did not want boys and girls to mix at the day centre.
The Board sent a letter to Grace. It said only ‘decent’, ‘willing and docile’ disabled people should live in the community. They wanted disabled people who drank alcohol, begged or did crimes to be kept away from society.
Grace’s charity did not agree. They worked with the Board of Control to find a solution.
People around the world wrote to Grace for advice. People wrote from America, Canada and Australia. Some of them visited Grace. They wanted to know how to support people with learning disabilities in the community.
Charles Mayer wrote to Grace. He ran a hospital in Starcross, near Exeter. He wrote to Grace in October 1925. Grace replied. She told him how the day centre worked. She also told him how they found carers and what carers were paid.
Helen and Grace were good friends. They set up a mental health clinic. The clinic was at 82 Grand Parade. The hospital head visited weekly. They helped people with early stages of mental health problems.
Helen was on the Society’s Committee for many years. She started a hospital in Brighton for women with mental health problems.
Dr Helen Boyle, January 1909 (Library of Congress)
The Society talked to local people. They explained the needs of people with learning disabilities. They also wanted to find new volunteers and carers.
Local people complained about people with learning disabilities. They did not want them in Brighton. They called disabled people a “grave menace”.
In 1932, Brighton Council said too many disabled people lived in Brighton. They wanted the Guardianship to only support people from the Brighton area. Grace didn’t give their addresses to the Council. The Council complained to the Board of Control. The Board of Control ignored this complaint.
In October 1934 the Guardianship and the Council met to talk about the problems. The Guardianship invited Council members to join their committees so they could see how it worked. Things improved after that.
In 1919 there were 3 classes a week at the Guardianship offices in 8 Grand Parade. There were classes for boys, girls and infants.
Classes included sewing, weaving, boot-repairing, drill, singing and simple woodwork.
Brighton Council and the Board of Control in London supported the Training Classes. They gave them funding. The Board of Control said other UK Councils should open Training Centres too.
A second Training Centre opened in St Barnabas Church Hall in Sackville Road, Hove in 1920.
In 1931 new Training Centres opened in Peacehaven and Heathfield. A class was set up in the Mental Hospital in Haywards Heath.
In 1935 the Guardianship moved the Centre in Brighton to Richmond Buildings on Richmond Place. There was space for more people. It was open five days a week. That year, 44 boys, 45 girls and 29 infants went to the Centre.
In 1935, Grace had a heart attack. She moved to Lees nursing home on Dyke Road. Grace died on 5th April, 1936. She was 72 years old.
Grace gave around £10,000 in her will to the Guardianship Society. She wanted her funeral to be “as plain as possible”. The Sussex Daily News wrote about her funeral. The Mayor and Council members went to the funeral. Grace’s loved ones went to the funeral.
Grace was buried at Woodvale Cemetery in Brighton. She was buried with her family.
Councillor Friend-James worked with Grace. He visited Grace shortly before she died. He said
“She was a sweet, gracious lady to the last. Her kindness will long be remembered”.
The Guardianship Society trustees praised “her enthusiasm, her deep sympathy with the afflicted, and her calm determination”.
Here are some of the tributes to Grace. These are from local newspapers.
The Guardianship’s ‘Boarding Out’ scheme grew fast in its first 25 years. Today, this is called Shared Lives. The charity employed local doctors to visit all the families. They made sure everyone was well and happy.
In 1913 the Guardianship mostly worked around Brighton and Heathfield. They started working in Kent, London and Essex.
By 1938, nearly 100 doctors worked for the Guardianship. Some of them lived in Blackpool, Yorkshire and Bristol.
These maps show how much the Boarding Out scheme grew over the years.
The Guardianship owned the two farms since the 1920s. They were called Dungates farm and Tubwell farm. Many young men lived and worked on them. Here is a map of where the farms were.
In July 1948, the NHS started. This is short for the National Health Service. From 1948, the NHS became responsible for the farms. The NHS checked that everyone was properly looked after. People from the NHS went to Guardianship meetings.
The Guardianship continued to manage the farms on a day to day basis. They employed the farm managers. They found people to live there. Young men with learning disabilities continued to go to the farms to learn farming skills.
With kind permission of Muriel Hart.
In 1959, the NHS took over the farms. The Guardianship were no longer involved with the farms. They continued to recruit carers in farming communities.
In 1950, the Guardianship bought a disused Methodist Church. It was on Old Shoreham Road. They bought it for £6,500.
The new Centre was redecorated and rebuilt. It opened in October. It was named the ‘Grace Eyre Woodhead Memorial’ building.
1950 Grace Eyre Woodhead Dedication Plaque
There was more space for activities in the new building.
In June 1953, people celebrated the Queen being crowned. They are outside of the day centre.
The Guardianship had regular Sales of Work to raise money. This poster from 1953 called people with learning disabilities ‘patients’. We do not use this language today.
This photo shows the transport children used to go to the Centre. This photo was taken in 1954.
Here are photos of the classes in the large hall downstairs. This is now the Angel Cafe. It looks very different.
In 1963, the Guardianship celebrated 50 years.
The Guardianship Society were worried about the law changing. This is because they thought there would be fewer people using their services. There were reports in the newspapers about this.
Brighton & Hove Herald, 7th June 1958
Brighton & Hove Gazette, 31st May 1958
Some people said the Guardianship was stuck in the past. The local council were not happy with them. Local families with disabled children were not happy with them either. They wanted the council to support their children. They didn’t want to use the Guardianship Society.
In 1979 the Queen Mother visited Hastings. A group from the Centre joined the parade. They decorated this float.
In 1968, The Special Olympics started. The first games were in Chicago, USA.
In 1983, Nicola Marchant won two gold medals in the Special Olympics. She won the 100 metre and 400 metre races. Nicola, Mario and Keith competed in Louisiana, USA.
In 1989, they took a successful team to the Leicester Games. Patrick Coles was in the newspapers. He won lots of medals!
The Guardianship asked a consultant to look at how it worked. The consultant wrote a report. The report said they needed to change. This was a very bad report. The Guardianship was struggling. They were not supporting people properly.
The Guardianship made changes over the next few years. There was a lot to do. You can read more about the report below.
The report said that:
Carers should support people living with them to become more independent.
The Training Centres needed better facilities.
The Guardianship needed to learn from other organisations. It had not kept up to date with new ideas.
The Society needed more trained staff. Staff needed better training.
The Guardianship needed more managers. In 1983, only one person managed everything.
There was poor communication between the Committee and staff.
They also had bad relationships with local councils.
They changed the name as ‘Guardianship’ was an out of date idea. They chose Grace’s name in her memory.
The anniversary was also marked in the local newspaper by other charities and friends.
Peter Cutts ran some of the classes. He showed people how to make pottery. These are the teaching materials he made.
In 2001, Grace Eyre was given money by the Lottery. They used it to buy a house in Walsingham Road. They turned this house into a day centre. This was a quieter day centre for older people and people with sensory issues. This building was sold in 2019.
In 2009, Grace Eyre started a new service. It is called ‘Choices’. It offers supported living. Choices supports people with learning disabilities to feel confident in their community and to live more freely.
Choices staff help people manage money, learn skills, look after their home and meet new friends. They also help people to understand health and wellbeing.
In 2011, Grace Eyre started a new service. It is called Grace Eyre Housing. This helps people find quality housing that meets their needs.
Grace Eyre Housing supports tenants once they have moved into their new home. They support tenants to develop the skills required to manage their homes.
Becky and Toby, Grace Eyre Housing’s first tenants
In 2015, Shared Lives started in London. Shared Lives is a scheme where people live in a carer’s home. Their office was in Brixton. They started working in Lambeth. They later worked in Kensington, Hammersmith and Fulham.
In 2003, Grace Eyre took part in Brighton’s Open Art House for the first time. Grace Eyre has taken part every year since. Grace Eyre won Best Open House in 2017. This is a fantastic recognition of the talent of artists with learning disabilities!
In 2013, the Purple Playhouse started. They create and perform plays in Grace Eyre’s theatre. Some of these plays are performed in the Brighton Fringe festival. This also provides bar and front of house work for people with learning disabilities.
In 2013, Grace Eyre won money from Sports England. They used this money for their Sports for All project. The project helped more people with learning disabilities to play more sports.
They ran lots of sessions like badminton, basketball bowling and boccia. They also ran cricket, cycling, dance, football, golf, swimming, table tennis and trampolining sessions!
In 2014, Grace Eyre Friendship started. This is a social group for people with learning disabilities and/or autism. It is a safe environment to meet new people, try new things and become confident.
In 2015, Grace Eyre opened an Art Studio. It is in the Open Market. It is run by people with learning disabilities. People make art here and put on exhibitions. People also learn customer service skills by working in a shop with the public.
In 2016, The Purple Club House was launched. It was started by the Ambassadors and the Purple Club House Committee. This is a club night ran by people with learning disabilities. They are held in the Purple Playhouse.
Grace Eyre, Montefiore Road, Hove. Photography by Paul Demuth, Demuth Photography 2017
In 2017, Grace Eyre took part in Brighton’s Pride parade for the first time.
Photo by Skye Brackpool/Brighton Togs www.brightontogs.com 01273 275162 / 07973 677017 20150317 Launch of the Grace Eyre’s buddy Scheme, with Brighton and Hove Buses. The scheme will enable adults with learning disabilities to travel around Brighton and Hove safely on the buses. ‘Catch the bus, Meet friends, Be safe, get to where you want to go’.
In 2011, Grace Eyre ran an event. They wanted to help people learn more about voting in the local elections. Candidates came to answer questions about issues which matter to people. Members from all the main political parties came along.
Grace Eyre asked who wanted to vote. They wrote to their carers. This meant their carers could help them register to vote. Since then Grace Eyre holds an Election Hustings whenever there is an election.
In 2010, Grace Eyre got some money. They used the money to pay an employment support worker. They offer training, work experience, mentoring and employment support. This helps people with learning disabilities and autism find jobs they like.
In 2006, Grace Eyre made their first person-centred charter. The charter is about people living their lives the way they want, getting good support from kind and friendly people.
In 2011, Grace Eyre employed its first Service User Involvement Worker. She set up some groups. People with learning disabilities came to the groups. They talked about what they wanted to happen at Grace Eyre. Groups were held in Hove, Brighton and Worthing.
This helped Grace Eyre become more led by the people they support.
In 2015, Grace Eyre set up a group. This was called service user involvement. This was a group of people with learning disabilities and/or autism. The group was created to help lead and advise Grace Eyre. In 2016, the group changed its name to Our Voices.
Our Voices talk to people about Grace Eyre. They talk to Grace Eyre staff, carers and people who use their services. They also talk to councillors and MPs about lots of issues. They talk about plans, fundraising, campaigns, and community safety. They also train staff, volunteers and new Ambassadors.
In 2017, Kirsty and Chris became Grace Eyre trustees. They are the first trustees to have a learning disability.
Grace Eyre set up a history display. This told people about Grace Eyre Woodhead’s life and work. They ran some sessions. People looked at old photos in the sessions.
They also had an exhibition at the Corn Exchange. This was at People’s Day in June 2013. This was a good way to remind people about Grace Eyre!
People’s Day Leaflet about our Exhibition on 15th June 2013
Jackie Reeve with the People’s Day Exhibition in the Corn Exchange in Brighton, 15th June 2013
Running a session to look at Grace Eyre’s old photographs
People with learning disabilities were given do not resuscitate orders. This meant that if they were very ill with Covid, hospitals would not save their lives. Many people were angry about this. MENCAP spoke against it.
Grace Eyre’s support workers still supported people in the lockdown.
Grace Eyre had to close its day centres in March. Lots of day centre activities went online. They used Zoom to talk to each other. Some people got used to Zoom. Some people found talking online harder.
Carinder wrote to his MP. He helped other people with learning disabilities get their vaccines early. This is because he wrote to his MP.