Our History

Henshaws is one of the oldest charities in the UK and, in 2022, we celebrated our 185th anniversary. During our 180th year in 2017 we had a special exhibition space in Manchester’s Central Library – find out about our history and how it all started.

Black and white image of an old fashioned Henshaws lorry

The legacy

In 1810, Oldham businessman Thomas Henshaw left £20,000 in his will to establish an ‘Asylum for the Indigent Blind’ in Manchester. In 1837, the original ‘blind asylum’ finally opened its doors in Old Trafford. By 1930, the school had 273 pupils, 194 workshop employees, 64 residents and 19 blind instructors.

Now approaching almost 200 years old, Henshaws is still growing today! We employ around 360 members of staff and 232 volunteers who support individuals, families and their carers who are living with sight loss as well as a range of other disabilities.

We have an archive of Henshaws Annual Reviews from across our 180-year history – if you are interested in reading any of these, contact [email protected] or call us (please be aware requests can take a few weeks to be responded to).

Henshaws history presentation board

180th Anniversary Exhibition

Throughout September and October 2017, we celebrated our 180th anniversary with an exhibition space in Manchester’s Central Library. Discover how the communities of Greater Manchester have worked alongside Henshaws to improve the lives of people with sight loss; you can even see a number of famous Manchester images through the eyes of someone with a common visual impairment!

Watch Henshaws 180th Anniversary Video

Henshaws graphic with pink and purple shapes

Learn how to get involved

From fundraising events to volunteering, there are plenty of ways to give to make a difference at Henshaws

Accreditations & Awards