RNIB’s Manor House


At the moment, my mother and I are clearing out and cleaning up the house in preparation to put it on the market. It’s a process which has led to inevitable reminiscing and recollections about the past, one interesting example being a chat we had while I was cleaning the windows recently. It’s a very brief story, but I thought it might be interesting to anyone who remembers the place mentioned in the title.

The RNIB used to have a rehabilitation and training centre for the visually impaired down in Torquay, called Manor House. It closed in 2004 due to lack of funds, but my mother still has very fond memories of it, because it helped her to find work, and it’s where she met the man who became her husband and my father. They actually lived fairly near to each other in London at the time, and had travelled down on the same train without realising it, so they first met at Manor House itself. They both enjoyed their time there, and both got a lasting relationship and career out of it.

My mother still has a special souvenir of her time there, which is what triggered our conversation. It’s a stool, which she made herself while she was there. The wooden legs were made by someone else who was doing woodwork, but the weaved blue and red patterned seat was all my mother’s handiwork. It’s very impressive, certainly to me anyway, and it’s still in good condition today. A bit dirty, sure, but otherwise fine. It’s been sat on and stood on countless times over the past few decades (including when I was doing the windows a couple of days ago), but it’s still holding up well and fit for purpose, and my mother’s rightly proud of it. She didn’t go into that kind of thing as a line of work in the end, but it was one of many things she was good at while she was going through the training.

Small, square, flat stool with wooden legs. Seat has alternating blue and red pattern. From each edge, triangular arrow shapes of alternating colour and increasing size work towards the centre, which is a red X shape joining all the corners.

So that simple little stool has great significance and triggers a lot of fond memories, because it’s handmade and unique, and is a reminder of a very special time and place. Clearly the training and support my parents received at Manor House was very beneficial, and I can understand that it must have been incredibly helpful to many others. So I’m not surprised that people were protesting about its closure in 2004. I don’t know what the equivalent places are to Manor House today – the news reports about its closure say its services were moving to Taunton, but as that was over 10 years ago, I don’t know what the current state of play is, especially if funding for training continues to be difficult.

But in any case, my family are very grateful for the services Manor House provided back then. If anybody else has memories of that place, or if you’ve built something significant and long-lasting that you’re proud of, feel free to share it in the comments. 🙂

Author: Glen

Vsually impaired, with Aniridia & Nystagmus. I'm a fan of Doctor Who, classic sitcoms, Queen and 60s-80s rock & pop. I like to blog about my experiences as a disabled person, and about the things I enjoy in general.

6 thoughts on “RNIB’s Manor House”

  1. Spooky coming across this post as it’s 20 years this month since I was down at the manor house in torquay. I remember it well as this was the first time I was away from home and how frightening it was. Turned out the staff and residents were lovely and supoortive. I helped out in the little tuck shop and enjoyed going on the trips at the weekend. I’m no longer in touch with anyone that were there in 1996/7 but certainly have fond memories and was gutted when I found out it closed over 10 years ago. It would be great to go down to Torquay for a visit one day.

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    1. Thanks so much Ben, it’s lovely to see from someone else who was there. From what I’ve heard about it, it does sound like it was a great place with lots of very useful support. It is a shame it’s gone. Torquay is still a lovely place to visit in any case, especially during the summer when the weather’s nice. Always looks beautiful. 🙂

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  2. Glen, I was searching for RNIB Manor House when I came across your post. As a child, I remember we had a stool just like yours that my mother had made while a student there. It was at Manor House that she met my father, who was a mobility instructor for the newly blind. That must have been in the early 1960s, because they married in 1963. How strange that we have such similar backgrounds! I wonder if our parents overlapped at all?

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    1. Thanks for commenting Gareth, that’s an interesting coincidence indeed! It’s good to hear someone else who remembers that place. My parents got married a decade after yours, so it’s unlikely they crossed paths. Still, it makes you wonder how many stools and other student-built items from Manor House are still in people’s houses these days. Our stool’s been very robust, it’s survived the years well! Things like that are a lovely souvenir of that time and place, especially if it means something special, as it evidently does for our respective families. 🙂

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      1. Indeed it does Glen. Our stool was I think lost in one of my mother’s house moves. However, my wife and I have in our lounge a standard lamp that my father made in wood-turning classes at Manor House in the 1950s, when he was a student there, before he became an instructor. After my parents married he became the RNIB Appeals Organiser for Glamorgan. The general view seems to be that it’s a pity the RNIB closed Manor House down in 2004. Apparently it’s retirement flats now.
        Best wishes
        Gareth

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