Langdon Down


John Haydon Langdon Down (1828-1896) was born in Torpoint, Cornwall.  He qualified in pharmacy and took a degree in medicine at the London Hospital Medical School.  In 1866 Langdon Down described and researched the condition known as Down Syndrome, which has been the official definition by the World Health Organization since 1965.  He opened Normansfield Hospital in May 1868. It became the “Training Institution for  Imbeciles, a Private Home for the care, education and treatment of those of good social position who present any degree of mental deficiency”.

His goal was to run Normansfield as a family home and educate residents. He also introduced music and drama therapy. Langdon Down believed that people with a learning disability had real potential. Langdon Down was seen as liberal and advanced for a Victorian gentleman. In those days Normansfield was highly approved of.

Langdon Down was married to Mary Crellin. She was in control of the day tot day organisation of Normansfield.  Their sons Reginald and Percival took over the management of the hospital. It remained under control of the Langdon-Down family for 102 years.

In 1951 the Langdon Down family decided to sell Normansfield as it was no longer possible to run Normansfield as a private institution. In the following years many problems occurred due to bad management and poor standards of care and poor conditions of the facilities. This led to a strike in 1976 and an inquiry into the conditions at Normansfield in 1978.

I would like to thank the Langdon Down Centre Trust for providing the photograph of Langdon Down.