Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards

A Colony for Epileptics


In January, 1893, I received a letter from Lord Mayor Knill, inviting me to a meeting at the Mansion House to promote the welfare of epileptics. As I had given some attention to the subject, I replied, and said: "I am prepared to present the National Society for the Employment of Epileptics with a suitable farm of not less than a hundred acres, and with buildings convenient for the purpose. I make the offer for several reasons, and among them may be mentioned that such people, smitten with infirmity, are entitled to practical sympathy from their healthier and wealthier fellow-countrymen ; that, as a rule, epileptics are unable to fight the battle of life; that, being removed from towns, and employed in light and agreeable occupations in garden or farm work, they would, with suitable recreations, improve in health and enjoy existence; and also because England, with its many advantages, should not be behind Westphalia, or any other nation or province, in shielding and assisting such children of misfortune." The offer was accepted and acted on.
The gate way to Chalford St Peters After adequate inquiry, and with the co-operation of the newly-formed National Society, I purchased a productive farm of 135 acres at Chalfont St. Peters, a healthful and picturesque part of Buckinghamshire. I have since erected on the farm, which is now called a colony, a house for the accommodation of twenty-four epileptic men, a similar house for epileptic women, a house for the accommodation of the same number of boys, and a similar house for epileptic girls, another house for epileptic men, 12 and a central administrative building.
Other houses have since been erected by other generous donors. It is encouraging to know that this blended moral and industrial enterprise has, from the moment of its inception, made steady and substantial progress, and there is good ground for belief that it will make similar progress for many years. It supplies a conspicuous national want, and carries with it an all-round blessing-a blessing to the hundreds of colonists who work and play there, and a blessing to the community.
Epileptics are particularly entitled to practical sympathy, and the best way for their friends, county councils, or poor-law guardians to show that sympathy is to help them to become members of colonies like that at Chalfont, where they can perform agreeable labour in the open air, assist to get their own living, and in so doing promote their physical and mental health ; where they can sympathise with each other in their misfortunes, and, in times of emergency, render each other aid, as they do gladly; where they can get and enjoy many of the advantages of home life with prospects of improvement and recovery. Home for epileptic women, Chalford St Peters
Though epilepsy may be classed among brain diseases, epileptics are capable of doing the highest kind of intellectual work. The late Sir Andrew Clark said, at the Guildhall meeting referred to, that "many of the ablest men born into the world, from Sir Isaac Newton to Charles Darwin, were, as children, sickly and unlikely to live. I say the same thing about epileptics. I do not say that Mahomet and Napoleon did much for the good of the world; but they were undoubtedly great men, and each gave to his age ideas which led into new channels of thought. Mahomet and Napoleon, nevertheless, were epileptics."
Home page
Buildings in Devon and Cornwall
Passmore Edwards Hospitals and Homes in London and South East Counties
Passmore Edwards Libraries and Art Galleries in London and South East Counties
Miscellaneous Gifts and Donations
Passmore Edwards autobiography, A few Footprints
Please contact me
April 18, 2005
Acknowledgement of contributions and  copyright
© Dean Evans 2003