On 1st January 2017, the Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC) and Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) joined together to create a leading charity in England & Wales dedicated to making sure that no child will grow up to be poor or lonely just because they are blind.
For almost two centuries before joining together, both charities have worked with blind and partially sighted people to live life beyond sight loss. Find out more about their respective journey’s from their foundation to where they are today.
History of RLSB (1838 – 2016)
The Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) started its journey on 12 January 1838 when Thomas Lucas established The London Society for Teaching the Blind to Read in the city of London, where he introduced his Lucas Type – an early Braille-like embossed text.
Over the years the school slowly expanded, moving to locations across London, before heading to Aylesbury during World War II and eventually Seal in Kent. A college and nursery were later established to allow RLSB to reach out to more young people. To help vision impaired people gain employment, RLSB also ran a home workers scheme and workshops through the 1900s to allow people to learn a trade and find work.
Since then RLSB continued to evolve and expand to meet the needs of vision impaired young people, attracting the support of generous volunteers and donors, including the Royal family, playwright J. B. Priestley, actor Lawrence Olivier and even Charlie Chaplin. RLSB’s alumni include Paralympians, writers, musicians and successful business people.
History of RSBC, formerly the Royal Blind Society (1884 – 2016)
RSBC’s expertise began over 150 years ago when Thomas Pocock created The Protestant Blind Society, a charity to give small grants of money to blind and partially sighted people who were in dire straits.
In 1884 the charity was renamed to The Royal Blind Pension Society, and three years later, in her Golden Jubilee Year, Queen Victoria became patron of the Society and the word “Royal” was added to the title.
The charity’s history has also included running over 19,000 specialist holidays for blind and partially sighted people. We continued to give small grants to those in need right up to the 1960s.
In 2000 the charity then changed our name to the Royal Blind Society for the UK to reflect the wider scope of its work, and since merging with the Eyeless Trust in 2013 the charity focussed on supporting children with vision impairments, and their families, through its national Family Support Service.
Throughout RLSB’s history, it amassed a wonderful collection of archives, which paint a vivid picture of life for vision impaired young people across the decades. This digital exhibition features unique photographs, articles and artefacts, as well as audio and video recordings.