14 October—15 April 2018

Brave Poor Things: Reclaiming Bristol’s Disability History

Disability history and architectural history have a longstanding relationship which has influenced the social landscape, as well as the fabric of our cities and the lives of the individuals within.

Accentuate’s national project History of Place has explored 800 years of history over eight different sites around the UK. This has culminated in three exhibitions in Bristol, Liverpool and London.

M Shed’s exhibition tells the story of The Guild of the Brave Poor Things, founded in 1894, its members and its headquarters.

This pioneering building, which still stands today in Old Market, is thought to be the UK’s first purpose-built for disabled people in 1913.

The Guild was set up by Victorian philanthropist Ada Vachell (herself deaf from childhood due to scarlet fever) in 1896. It provided a social space and a hub for crafts and apprenticeships for disabled children and adults, based on the model of the original Guild created in London.

The Guild’s 100-year lifespan saw huge changes in social attitudes towards disability. But how far have we really come – and how much further is there to go?

Exhibition includes BSL interpretation, audio description, and tactile features.


BSL gallery tour
Saturday 16 December, 10am – 11am
A special event as part of UK Disability History Month. Explore Bristol’s disability heritage with Honesty Willoughby who worked on the BSL (British Sign Language) for the exhibition. There will be a chance to ask questions and share your thoughts on the topics raised.

The tour will start at 10am and will last 45 minutes, with 15 minutes for questions following. Please meet at M Shed reception. If you have any access requirements please let us know.

To book a place please email grace.swordy@accentuateuk.org


Find out more about the exhibition on our blog. Visit the History of Place website for more on the project.

Accentuate logo, History of Place logo, HLF logo