The National Society for Epilepsy,
Chalfont, St Peter

Bust of John Passmore Edwards

Formerly the National Society for the Employment of Epileptics.


The National Society for the Employment of Epileptics was founded in 1892 as a result of an initiative by Doctors at the National Hospital for the Paralysed and the Epileptic, The Ladies' Samaritan Society of Queen Square and the Charity Organisation Society, to provide a home, or homes, for epileptics able to work but unable to find employment due to their illness. At this time epileptics might be admitted to poorhouses, gaols, hospitals or asylums. In the asylums epileptics were not segregated from the general insane and were subjected to the same harsh "treatment". The percentage of epileptics in some asylums could be as high as 20%. The alternative was the workhouse, where conditions were conditions were such that it was the choice of last resort for the majority of the "deserving poor", which included the sick, the handicapped and the elderly, all of whom could not maintain the lowest form of living without assistance. The brief story of one such future resident at Chalfont can be found here
In January 1893, a meeting was held, presided over by the Lord Mayor of London, where it was resolved that "It is expediant to establish in England a colony for epileptics capable of work, on the same lines, as far as circumstances shall render advisable, as the Industrial Colonies successfully carried on near Bielefield in Germany and elsewhere". The Lord Mayor, after announcing several handsome subsriptions said that he had received a letter from Passmore Edwards in which he offered to purchase for the Society a "suitable and conveniently situated farm or station of about 100 acres, with the necessary farm buildings and cottages". Enclosed with the letter was cheque for £1000 and a promise to pay the reminder when the farm was selected.
In 1894 the Society purchased a farm in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire, establishing the Chalfont Centre for Epilepsy. Passmore Edwards contributing £5000.
Passmore Edwards remained closely involved with the Society's work at Chalfont St Peter, funding the provision of five homes and an administration building within the next 6 years, and in recognition was made a Vice President of the Society.. Additional land was purchased and new buildings were funded by other generous donors.
The name of the society was changed to the National Society for Epilepsy (NSE) in 1907. The NSE has provided residential care and public education from that time at its Chalfont site and, since its beginning over a century ago, has been the largest UK epilepsy charity that supports research and provides care for those with epilepsy.
In 1972, following a report by the Department of Health on the care of patients with epilepsy, a new NHS treatment unit was established at the Chalfont Centre, specially for patients with severe and complicated epilepsy. This Unit, the Special Assessment Unit, was run jointly by the National Hospital and the NSE and is the origin of the current NHS clinical inpatient and outpatient service for epilepsy at the Chalfont Centre.
The following pages are mainly using material extracted from A Caring Community: A Centenary History of the National Society for Epilepsy and Chalfont Centre 1892-1992- by Jean Barclay. © National Society for Epilepsy


Buying the farm
The first Passmore Edwards House
Eleanor House
Another home for elipletic men
Milton and Pearman Houses
Following Passmore Edwards lead many homes were funded by others.
The final house to be funded by Passmore Edwards for the Colony.
Acknowledgement of contributions and  copyright
© Dean Evans 2006
January 7, 2007
Home page
Passmore Edwards buildings in Cornwall and Devon
Libraries and Art Galleries in London and South Eastern Counties
Hospitals and Homes in London and South Eastern Counties
Miscellaneous gifts and donations
Passmore Edward's autobiography " A Few Footprints"