This film is part of Free

Learning in Slow Motion

Patients at Epsom’s Manor Hospital learn new skills: an important record of changing attitudes about learning difficulty

Documentary 1961 29 mins Silent



Patients at Epsom’s Manor Hospital learn new skills in this documentary, which reflects – and supports – changes in professional thinking about learning disability. The film was produced by the DATA co-operative (best known for coal industry newsreel Mining Review) in collaboration with the pioneering psychologists Alan and Anne Clarke. At Epsom, the Clarkes were key figures in developing vocational training for people with learning difficulties – and, more broadly, encouraging a shift away from fatalistic attitudes to their potential.

The irony is that a film whose underlying intent is to serve what was then a clinically and socially progressive agenda feels conspicuously today dated due to attitudes and language that jar to modern years. Learning disability is referred to, in the standard, vocabulary of the time, as ‘sub-normality’ and ‘mental deficiency’. All the same, this is an important record. The hospital closed in 1996.