The Story of WESC Foundation

3 February 2020

Once upon a time…

… in the city of Exeter in the year 1838, The Blind Institute was founded. Blind children and adults came from all over the south west to learn and be cared for. They were taught academics and trade skills, like piano tuning and basket weaving, that were thought to be appropriate for people with sight loss.

When the Second World War ended, a school in Bristol for partially sighted children closed down. The Blind Institute took over responsibility for these children as well as the blind they already cared for and became the West of England School and College.

An old black and white photograph of The Blind Institute in 1838

The Blind Institute in 1839

In 1949 we moved house…

… from the city centre to the beautiful green-field site we now live on. Building began on the 14-acre site and in 1966 our blind and partially sighted children aged 5-16 moved in.

More big changes were to come! In the 1980s our college opened to educate students aged 16 and over, many of whom went on to university. We built St David’s House in 1991 and became the first purpose-built facility in the whole of the UK designed to care for visually impaired young people with additional disabilities.

As the years went on this policy of inclusion increased and now all of our young people have complex needs in addition to their visual impairment.

Laying the first foundation stone on the WESC Foundation campus in 1965

Laying the foundation stone of our new building in 1963

In 2013 we changed our name…

… from the West of England School and College to The WESC Foundation. We also drew the attention of The Royal Family. HRH The Duchess of Kent became our royal patron and in 2008 she handed over her duties to HRH The Duchess of Cornwall who served as our patron until 2018.

The WESC Foundation is now known as a place of highly specialized knowledge, welcoming visitors from all over the world who learn from our expertise.

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall unveiling a plaque at the opening of Cornwall House

HRH Duchess of Cornwall opening Cornwall House, one of our residential accommodation houses, in 2015

And WESC Foundation lived happily ever after…

… as a charity that cares for and improves the lives of those with visual impairment. At over 175 years-old, we are one of Exeter’s oldest charities with a reputation that reaches beyond UK borders. What began as The Blind Institute has grown into a specialist centre offering school and college level education, five charity shops, specialist CVI research, a training centre, and adult services.

A photograph of the WESC Foundation sign outside reception

WESC Foundation sign outside reception




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