The History of Disability in Surrey

The History of Disability in Surrey is a collection of short films produced by the Freewheelers Media Group with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. We began work in early 2013 and over the next many months explored, researched and filmed.

Because of privacy issues, we focused on stories about people and disability from a hundred years ago or more. Stories from the Surrey History Centre fed into dramatic monologues which we have included in the mix of films on this DVD.

When we began the project we had ideas about how terrible conditions were for people who were sent to the Victorian asylums. When we finished filming some months later we had begun to think more broadly about how life was for the disabled and the mentally ill.


1. Introduction with Julian Pooley of Surrey History Centre

We started filming when we first met Julian Pooley from the Surrey History Centre in Woking. He came to see us at our base in Leatherhead and then we made the first of a number of trips over to Woking where he and his staff showed us round, guided us through the miles of shelving and acres of dusty shelves.

2. Dramatic Monolgue with Rachel Mold

3. Dramatic Monologue with Wendy Hempkin

4. James Pullen, Modelmaker

James Pullen is a famous modelmaker that had worked with wood to make model ships and made repairs to the asylum furniture.

5. Tour of the Epsom Cluster with Rachel Gadsden

We made this film with Rachel Gadsden, an award-winning and incredibly busy disabled visual artist. Five large hospitals also known as asylums were located near Epsom and served large numbers of patients. They have mainly become smart new houses but in their day The Epsom Cluster was one of the places outside London that took people that could not cope with the outside world.

6. John O’Donohue, Service User

John is a published author with personal experience of mental health care services from the 1980s.

7. Treloar’s School/College/Trust

This co-educational school and college is an old hospital and now represents the peak of what can be achieved in disability education and care.

We wish to thank Julian Pooley and the Surrey History Centre in Woking for providing amazing support to us on our journey through this project. We have met some great people, read some very old books, looked at ancient photographs, and thought about how people lived with their disabilities and difficulties long before the Welfare State, DLA, and the latest round of cuts.

Production Team
The Freewheelers Media Group: Ems Dooley, Rachel Mold, Wendy Hempkin, Sam Keelan, Peter Messer, Daniel Galliford, Jamie Stewart, Luke Tye, Troy Robertson Johnson, Jamie Bensted, Sonas Musana, Daniel Tromp Yvonne Bieri (volunteer), Gary Thomas (Filmmaker), Chris Haydon (Media Tutor)