From the very beginning the Thomas Pocklington Trust has been dedicated to improving the lives of people who are blind or partially sighted. Today we aim to count the number of people who we help and support in the thousands and as our history will show, whilst we started small, as our funds, knowledge and understanding has grown, so have our ambitions.
Thomas Pocklington’s bequest
The Gift of Thomas Pocklington did not come into being until more than two decades after the death of its founder. Thomas Pocklington donated a large proportion of land from his estate towards a “suitable institution for the care, welfare and instruction of the blind”, but stipulated that his assets should be left to accumulate for a further 21 years after his death before establishing the charity. This clause proved shrewd as property prices skyrocketed, and by the time the charity was established in 1958 as The Gift of Thomas Pocklington, the fund had swelled to around £850,000.
For more on Thomas Pocklington himself, visit the Our Founder page
Taking Root: Pocklington House
The new trustees resolved that their first act should be to build a facility specifically designed to provide care and accommodation for around 30 elderly people with sight loss. Setting their sights on a three-acre plot of land in Northwood, Middlesex, they negotiated purchase of the site and built the lodgings in little more than two years. Pocklington House was officially opened on 19 December, 1962 as one of the first purpose-built homes for elderly people with sight loss in Britain.
A Second Home: Pocklington Court
The early success of Pocklington House provided a blueprint for expansion, and it wasn’t long before the trustees drew up plans for a second accommodation facility. Pocklington Court opened in Roehampton, South West London on 13 February, 1964, offering 53 single flats and 11 double rooms for retirees with sight loss who were able to live independently.
Bridging a new gap: Pocklington Lodge
With two facilities going strong, Pocklington turned its attention to supporting working age people with sight loss. The trustees identified that while there were plenty of employment opportunities available to workers with a vision impairment in London, the same could not be said for the capital’s stock of suitable, affordable housing. To address this gap, they opened Pocklington Lodge, an assisted living facility of 42 studio units in Shepherd’s Bush, West London on 28 October, 1968.
National expansion: Pocklington Place and Pocklington Rise
By the 1970s, Pocklington was looking to establish itself further afield. Pocklington Place in Birmingham was the charity’s first venture outside Greater London; a facility of self-contained flats for retired people who would remain on the site in familiar surroundings as they grew older and required more support. Pocklington Place opened in 1972 to widespread acclaim within the sector, and was replicated as Pocklington Rise in Plymouth three years later.
With five accommodation facilities under its wing, Pocklington turned its attention to building a property portfolio of individual flats and houses to provide independent living options for people with sight loss. From just a handful of properties in the early 1990s, the scheme has grown to include some 20 flats and houses across London, Berkshire and Wolverhampton.
Broadening the scope: A new name
Pocklington was now providing assisted accommodation for up to 300 people with various degrees of sight loss, but it became clear to the Pocklington trustees that more could be done. The charity entered the 21st century with scope to provide services outside its homes and enter into joint ventures with other organisations. A renewed sense of purpose required a fresh identity, and the charity was renamed the Thomas Pocklington Trust in 2000.
The trust was quick to capitalise on its new freedoms, joining forces with Dudley Social Services to open a specialist day service for people with sight loss in Stourbridge, West Midlands. A partnership with Wandsworth Social Services quickly followed, and together they founded a community hub for people with sight loss in the Pocklington Resource Centre in Balham, South London.
However accommodation remained at the heart of Pocklington’s services, and in 2005, the charity opened a groundbreaking housing facility in Wolverhampton. Built by Midland Heart housing association and managed by Pocklington, the Lord Street Project featured 14 purpose-built two-bedroom flats for younger people with sensory and other physical disabilities. The facility combined independent accommodation with the practical advantages of 24-hour care when required.
Alongside accommodation services the charity had also been making contributions to medical and bio medical research into common eye conditions. A report presented to the board in 2000 however recommended that the trust’s endowment could be better used to commission social research with a direct link to the work of the charity. Our first piece of social research was commissioned in 2001 and since then we have been investing circa £500,000 commissioning between 8-10 pieces of research per annum. There is a growing list of these insightful research publications available for further reading on this site.
50th Anniversary: Strategic Review
With the 50th anniversary of the trust being celebrated in 2008 the Board of Trustees embarked on a full review of the charities activities. It was becoming increasingly clear that the world in which the trust was operating was changing – blind and partially sighted people no longer wanted to live in specialist accommodation but rather wanted to remain in the community with their sighted peers. Advances in technology has enabled many to maintain their independence and, in some cases, remain in employment. With cuts in local authority budgets becoming increasingly likely and the number of people living with sight loss forecast to double over the coming decades putting extra pressure on an already stretched health service, the trustees determined that a new approach was needed if the charity was to continue to fulfil the intent of Thomas Pocklington’s bequest.
As a result we embarked on a journey which included work on Vision Strategies, initially across all 32 London Boroughs and more recently, as part of a nationwide roll-out programme, which has added considerably to our knowledge and understanding of the needs and aspirations of those living with a visual impairment. This new found knowledge and understanding has underpinned our decision to adopt a new strategy whilst broadening the scope of our activities in partnership with Pocklington Family organisations and others active in the sight loss sector e.g. RNIB, Guide Dogs.
We now have a new vision and set of values which underpin our strategy and determination to improve the lives of those living with a visual impairment. Our strategy, which we launched in February 2016, has three broad strategic aims ‘Understanding Needs’, ‘Meeting Needs’ and Managing Our Resources’. More information about our future plans can be found in the Vision, Values and Strategy section where you can also listen to our CEO explaining the new strategy at the recent staff conference.
View the video ‘Our Journey’ by Peter Corbett below.