Our history

Henshaws is one of the oldest charities in the UK and in 2017 we celebrated our 180th anniversary with a special exhibition space in Manchester's Central Library - find out about our history and how it all started.

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 a full archive of Henshaws Annual Reviews from across our 180-year history if you are interested in reading any of these contact kat.parry@henshaws.org.uk or call 0300 222 5555.

Check out the top 10 things you may not know about Henshaws

180th Anniversary Exhibition

Throughout September and October last year, 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!

You can download audio descriptions of all six panels from the 180th Anniversary Exhibition below. Or click the button further down to download the full exhibition design

Download audio versions of all six panels here

Watch Henshaws 180th Anniversary Video