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Disability histories at the places in our care

Oval framed photographic portrait of Henry, Airmyne and Charles Jenney, aged about 8, 9 and 10. They're shown bust-length, wearing summer clothing. It's signed on the lower right; 'Debenham G.?/Bournemouth/1929'
Photographic portrait of Airmyne Jenney with her brothers, Henry and Charles, by G.Denham, Calke Abbey, Derbyshire | © National Trust/David Midgelow

Many of the places and collections we care for tell the stories of disabled people throughout history. They reflect the experiences and challenges disabled people faced, and the individuals who supported them. Learn more about the people behind these connections.

Airmyne Jenney (1919–1999)

As a child, Airmyne Jenney visited Calke Abbey in Derbyshire regularly to see her grandparents. She eventually lived there when her brother Charles inherited the estate in 1949.

In the 1940s, Airmyne worked at the Army Remount Centre at Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. It was here that she was kicked by a horse, which left her unable to speak.

Over many years and with the support of her family and a speech therapy book, Airmyne learned to talk again. As part of her therapy, she was asked to write seven sentences to practice. These sentences reveal her warmth and sense of humour, and also show the value she placed on her relationship with her brother Henry – who she described phonetically in her book as ‘Hen-ry the lis-ner’.

Glass eyes individually separated in a wooden display case
Glass eyes in a wooden display case at the Back to Backs, Birmingham | © National Trust Images/Robert Morris

Herbert Oldfield (1818–1897)

Herbert Oldfield was a glassworker who specialised in making glass eyes during the late 1800s. It's likely that he created these prosthetics from a workshop in his home in the Birmingham Back to Backs.

At this time, Birmingham was going through an industrial boom, with a large​ percentage of its inner-city population working in factories. Accidents and casualties were common as there was an absence of health and safety laws and the NHS to support these people. Those who had lost eyes from injury or through illness would purchase glass replacements from Herbert.

Courtenay Morgan (1867–1934)

Tredegar House in Newport was home to Courtenay Morgan, who inherited the title Lord Tredegar in 1913. Over the years his eyesight worsened, so made adaptations around the house, which included adding handrails inside and outside his home. Courtenay also removed the glass cover from his watch so that he could feel the hands on the watch and tell the time.

Courtenay also made arrangements and adjustments for his employees and estate residents who had a range of disabilities. These changes helped them all to have active lives.

He supported the Cardiff Institute for the Blind and the Newport and Monmouthshire Blind Aid Society, and his uncle set up guided visits to the estate for blind visitors.

Overhead view of an octagonal table with the figure of Silenus, a drunken follower of Bacchu, in The Library at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire

Immerse yourself in history

Meet people from the centuries gone by, learn about the unique artworks in our care and understand more about historic traditions.

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National Trust research case studies 

Find out about Everywhere and Nowhere, a collaboration with the University of Leicester's Research Centre for Museums and Galleries that explores disability histories at the places in our care. The Everywhere and Nowhere film spotlights 10 stories, objects and sites with connections to histories of disability. You can also learn about some of our other research case studies, including how we're mapping coastal change in the UK and how we're protecting historic interiors from mould.

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Access for everyone 

We welcome disabled visitors, companions, carers and assistance dogs. Find out about our Essential Companion card for individuals and Links Pass for groups.   

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Our commitment to inclusion and diversity 

We're committed to meeting the needs and expectations of a diverse society. Find out what we're doing to create an inclusive, accessible and welcoming environment for our supporters, staff and volunteers.

Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury, also known as Bess of Hardwick' by Rowland Lockey. Hanging in the Long Gallery at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire

Remarkable women in history 

Learn about remarkable women in history linked to the places in our care, from the political player who helped make Charles II king to the archaeologist who helped discover a 7th-century Saxon ship burial.

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From landscape gardeners to LGBTQ+ campaigners and suffragettes to famous writers, many people have had their impact on the places we care for. Discover their stories and the lasting legacies they’ve left behind.