The founder

Samuel Bosanquet wearing an eye patch


In 1799, four philanthropists took a trip to Paris.  

They were there to visit the world’s first school for the blind, established by Valentin Haüy in 1785 to educate blind people in skills and trades. Haüy was a formidable linguist and a keen social reformer, who had been inspired to set up the school after seeing a crowd bullying a group of blind beggars during a festival. Just a year after setting up the school, his pupils were playing orchestral music at the Palace of Versailles for King Louis XVI. The school would later go on to educate Louis Braille. 

By the time our four philanthropists visited, King Louis XVI had lost his head, Valentin Haüy had been in and out of the revolutionary prisons, but the school was still thriving. It was this visit that inspired them to set up their own school in London. 

The founder who was the driving force of the new school was Samuel Bosanquet III. Bosanquet actually had a visual impairment himself. We do not know what the impairment was, but we know that there were problems with his birth that left him blind. Fortunately, most of his sight survived, but he had very poor sight for his whole life. Official portraits show him as fully sighted, but a miniature exists that shows him wearing an eye patch over his right eye. It is probably his lived experience that led him to campaign for people with sight loss.