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Our History

Old drawing of Eliza Harrison

Our long history in Sheffield began 160 years ago, when two local ladies, the Harrison sisters, Ann and Eliza Harrison became involved. They were the daughters of local manufacturer, Thomas Harrison, who built Weston House that we now know as Weston Park Museum. Following the death of Ann, Eliza remembered her sister’s particular interest in, and pity for, the blind. Eliza established a permanent benefit for the blind. One year later, she founded the blind institution with a small committee of women. The rest is history… 

A brief history of some of our charity's milestones: 


Old photograph of building on West Street

The first workshops opened on West Street on the 17th September 1860 in what appear to be rather dilapidated buildings. This was the beginnings of the charity then known as 'The North of England Manufactory for the Blind', with a change of name on 21st December 1882 to 'The Sheffield Institution for the Blind'.

Old black and white photo of blind and partially sighted people making brushes The workshops provided training in trades like brush, basket and furniture making to provide blind people with employment.


Black and white photo of the exterior of the old school on Manchester Road The “School for the Mental and Industrial Training of the Young Blind” opened on Manchester Road. Children were taught a range of skills to prepare them for work.
Old black and white photo of children at school making baskets After offering a full programme of education, in its last forty years operated by Sheffield City Council Education Department, the school closed in 1997 with children integrated into mainstream schools.


Old black and white photo of a group of residents from Overend Cottages Overend Cottages in Crosspool were purpose built for the organisation and provided accommodation for blind people in a small terraced complex of houses and flats.
Black and white photo of the exterior of Overend Cottages Photo of the cottages as originally built, before housing was built on the opposite side of Selborne Road.


Old drawing of the building on West Street

The old workshops were replaced by a new building on the same West Street site with the new building opening on 20th April 1906.


Image of Royal Arms Following a visit by King George V, we became known as The Royal Sheffield Institution for the Blind.


Black and white photo of the exterior of Cairn Home for elderly blind people Cairn Home in Crosspool opened in 1935 to provide residential care for elderly blind people and is still in use today.


Black and white drawing of exterior of SRSB’s Mappin Street Centre in 1935 The Mappin Street Centre first opened to provide an entertainment centre for blind people and head office accommodation.
Black and white photograph of singers entertaining SRSB clients Over the years through until 2007 a range of other activities and services were also provided at the centre.
Photograph of carvings outside centre The carvings by Philip Lindsay Clark were saved from this building and are still in place outside the new building to this day.


Black and white photograph of the front of Cairn Home showing the 1959 extension alongside the original 1935 building Cairn Home extended to also accommodate 12 elderly blind women.


Image of 1960 Centenary Brouchure The Royal Sheffield Institution for the Blind, as we were still known at that time,celebrated its 100th Anniversary. 


Photo of clients at Cairn Home in the 1980s Cairn Home completely refurbished, all bedrooms being fitted with en-suite facilities.


Previous SRSB logo To reflect the change in the way the organisation was developing the charity also became a company limited by guarantee and changed its name to The Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind.


Photo of current lounge area at Cairn Home for elderly blind people Cairn Home Extension completed and Overend Cottages were completely refurbished.


SRSB Centre SRSB’s new Mappin Street Centre opened.
Photograph of Carin Home garden Cairn Home opens its new sensory garden.


Photo of HRH The Earl of Wessex chatting to clients during his visit to SRSB HRH The Earl of Wessex, KG KCVO, Prince Edward, officially opened the new Mappin Street centre on 18th February.
SRSB's 150th Anniversary Logo SRSB celebrated its 150th Anniversary with a variety of events throughout the year, culminating in a Masquerade Ball on 17th September, the same date that the first workshops were opened in 1860.


Screen shot of the new SRSB website We launched our updated website in order to provide better information for our clients and supporters as part of our rebranding and new marketing strategy.


Photograph of the Earl of Scarbrough We appointed our first Patron, the Earl of Scarbrough.


We launched our new Mobile Information Unit in 2014 as part of our continued expansion and service development. The Mobile Information Unit is part of our Community Engagement work in Sheffield and South Yorkshire.


Rotherham Sight and Sound centre Our Rotherham Sight & Sound centre opened in August 2017. This new service was established after we were contacted by Rotherham Council who had reviewed their service provision for people with a sensory impairment and wanted to partner with SRSB to develop their service provision across the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council area. This is a sensory service delivering services to people with a visual impairment, deaf people, both hearing aid users and British Sign Language (BSL) users, as well as people with a dual sensory loss (deafblind).
Photo of the club house from a previous event

We'd love you to join our golf teams at Abbeydale Golf Club in July

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Photograph of a meeting in the centre

Please visit our Client Events page for all the latest telephone, online and in person events

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Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind links