Thomas Pocklington was a jewellery-turned-property developer who, after a period of temporary sight loss, used his considerable fortune to found the Thomas Pocklington Trust.
Born in Sheffield in 1860, Thomas was raised in Whittlesey by his grandmother and uncle, a watchmaker.
Thomas spent his early professional life in the family trade, working in London as a watchmaker and jeweller, most likely as an apprentice to his great grandfather.
He married, and by 1891 was operating a successful watchmaking business from his home in Shepherds Bush.
But Thomas had long harboured ambitions to move up in the world and it wasn’t long before he switched his attentions to a far more lucrative line of work: property development.
By the interwar years, he had amassed an impressive portfolio of properties in London’s West End, as well as several sprawling suburban and country estates. It was on one of those country estates; Friningham Manor, near Maidstone, Kent, that Thomas’ chauffeur misfired a rifle during a shooting party and shot his boss in the eye.
Doctors at Maidstone Hospital managed to save his sight, but the incident is thought to have inspired Thomas’ decision to bequeath his estate to founding an organisation dedicated to helping people with sight loss.
Upon his death in 1935, aged 75, Thomas stipulated in his will that a large proportion of his estate go towards the purchase of “a suitable piece of land, with or without buildings…to provide a suitable institution for the care, welfare and instruction of the blind.”
To read about what happened next see our history section.