Speaker: Jane Smith
15 February 2022
You have probably seen the gated development called Guild Close in Cropston but have you ever wondered why it has that name? At our February meeting, Jane Smith explained that from 1925 to 1992, the Leicester Guild of the Crippled operated a holiday home on the site. Despite having a name that is objectionable by modern standards, the Guild was pioneering in the support that it gave to disabled people in the early part of the 20th century, long before there was any welfare state to provide for them.
The Guild was formed in 1898 and initially ran social evenings for disabled people at the Bishop Street Methodist Church in Leicester. Many such people had previously been bed-ridden and kept out of sight at home but they came to the events by whatever means they could, and the Guild would provide crutches, wheelchairs and spinal carriages for those in need. In 1909 the Guild opened its own Guild Hall on Colton Street, which was one of the first buildings in the country to be designed for disabled access. There, it was able to offer religious services, concerts, slide shows and classes such as artificial flower making, which enabled the members to earn an income. An Honorary Surgeon gave advice on treatment. There were rail excursions to the seaside, largely funded by factory workers, while in the early days of motoring the well-to-do members of the Leicestershire Automobile Club arranged outings by road.
(You can find footage of classic cars collecting passengers from the Guild Hall at the MACE Archive).
In 1923, the Guild bought the site in Cropston from the estate of Sarah Jane Hind and the holiday home was opened 2 years later. From each Easter to Christmas, it offered free accommodation to Guild members, who were looked after by a matron and a small staff. The home had a garden with views of Bradgate Park and a summerhouse that could be rotated according to the weather. Many groups from local villages would raise funds for the home or provide volunteers, entertainment or other support to residents. Among them were Anstey Toc H, the Mothers’ Union, Cropston Sewing Circle, Thurcaston Flower Arranging Class and the handbell ringers. The home also had close links with Cropston Chapel. This was often the Guild members’ only chance of a holiday: they would return to the home every year and were very appreciative of the care they received there.
During the 1980s, the Guild faced financial hardship because of rising costs. The limitations of transport and parking at Colton Street became a problem and there was reduced demand for holidays in Cropston as wider opportunities became available for disabled people. A plan was made to demolish the holiday home and build new headquarters, respite accommodation and sheltered housing on the site, to be paid for by the sale of the Guild Hall. However, no buyer could be found so in 1995 it was reluctantly decided to sell the Cropston site instead. The land was bought by David Wilson Homes, who used it to build the 12 private dwellings that we see today.
Following a merger and several changes of name, the Guild is now called Mosaic 1898. It continues its work providing advocacy, support, opportunities and care for disabled people in Leicestershire.