Our journey towards making independence possible since 1979

From a single post-World War II “Cheshire Home” to our multiple residences and services across the London area – Cheshire has come a long way since the beginning. In the last 50 years, we’ve been able to make independence a reality for many individuals and families suffering with physical disabilities. Learn how the work of Leonard Cheshire has grown and progressed over the years.

An assortment of Polaroid photographs of Leonard Cheshire.

Historical Development

Soon after World War II, Group Captain Leonard Cheshire started what has now become a world wide movement. On May 22, 1948, Arthur Dykes became the first resident of a “Cheshire Home”. Arthur Dykes was one of Leonard Cheshire’s fellow airmen and had been discharged from the hospital with no place to go. Leonard Cheshire became a personal attendant to Arthur Dykes in Leonard’s own home – Le Court at Liss in Hampshire.

Realizing that many other persons with similar housing and attendant care needs existed he presented a proposal to the British Government for group homes with attendant care. After a rocky beginning the movement acquired sufficient credibility that Group Captain Leonard Cheshire looked outward towards other Commonwealth countries.

Margaret McLeod, from Toronto, became aware of the work being done by Leonard Cheshire and made contact with the programs in the United Kingdom. This connection led to the beginning of Cheshire Homes in Canada and signing of the Letters Patent incorporating Cheshire Homes Foundation Canada Inc. May 31, 1971. The people signing the letters patent were: Margaret McLeod, Ernest Finlay, Pamela Cluff, John Dixon, Gerard Thompson and George Currie.

The objects of the Letters Patent were to:

  • Provide residential accommodation (to be run as far as possible on the lines of a home and not an institution) for the care, nursing, general well-being and where possible rehabilitation of men, women and children, regardless of creed, who are chronically ill, permanently disabled or who are, or have been, handicapped, especially all cases of those of limited means.
  • In furtherance of the foregoing:
    • To set up Homes for such persons and to provide facilities to enable them to engage in fruitful activities and to become fitted for employment by suitable training;
    • To promote, organize, arrange and participate in conferences and meetings on subjects touching the problems of the disabled and chronic sick and those who are or have been handicapped;
    • To invest and re-invest moneys in such investments as are authorized by the laws of the Province of Ontario for the investment of trust moneys.
    • To raise or collect moneys by way of fees, subscriptions, donations or otherwise, in response to public appeals or otherwise; to accept and receive gifts, bequests, devises and endowments of any kind, whether subject to special conditions or not, and to hold, invest, expend or deal with the same in furtherance of the objects of the Corporation;
    • And to exercise any of the powers from time to time afforded the Corporation by the statute under which it is incorporated and by any other statute, statutes or laws from time to time applicable only in furtherance of the aforesaid charitable purposes.

In Toronto, McLeod House was the first Cheshire Home in Canada. The favorable image it presented fired the imagination of the Ontario March of Dimes, London Regional Director – Mrs. Margaret Elliott.

Now, the Leonard Cheshire Disability Global Alliance assists people with disabilities in over 54 countries worldwide.

For several decades the Cheshire Homes Foundation did remarkable work in developing Cheshire Homes in Ontario, however, due to financial constraints the Foundation was dismantled.

In May 2008 the Leonard Cheshire Disability Global Alliance became a reality with the signing of a constitution in Ethiopia. Canada signed the constitution and work began to bring together the 16 organizations in Ontario who are affiliated with Cheshire.


London Beginning

A meeting of a group of members of the Action League of Physically Handicapped Adults (ALPHA) met in Mrs. Elliott’s office in September 1975. The group led by Nancy Skinner, decided to investigate the possibility of a home in London in the form of a small group home. It was felt that five to ten bedrooms located in the city core was the best concept. This was to be the main thrust for the committee for some time to come.

The people comprising this original committee along with Nancy Skinner were Gloria Stirling, Dave Eldridge, Brian Hanlon, Shirley Govan, Dr. S. Sangal, Jim Hunsberger, Bernice Clifford, Bill Jansen and Bob Loveless.

In June of 1976, two subcommittees were formed: a finance/management committee and a public relations committee to prepare a package on Cheshire Homes.

By July of 1976, the committee had added eleven members who were George Peart, Ralph Shapiro, John Moran, Denise Brown, Margaret Elliott, Kathy Blaney, Bill Smyth, Gail Lamb, Grant Inglis, Harry Reitsma, and Revie Walker. Grant, Cheshire’s legal advisor, drew up letters of patent and the group decided to call the Corporation Cheshire Homes of London Incorporated.

In September of that same year, there was a setback. The Ministry of Community and Social Services informed the group that funding would not be available for two years. Nevertheless, the Board of Directors felt that it would proceed as planned with the hope that funding could be provided once the project was seen as viable. They were persistent in their work and were able to purchase a home on 534 Princess Ave. in London and eight people with physical disabilities moved into that home in 1979.


The Eighties & Nineties

Cheshire grew rapidly in the Eighties. Sam Katz from the Esam Corporation offered the organization units at 120 Cherryhill Place and with some renovations these apartments were made accessible for 19 consumers with disabilities.

With a constant waiting list for Community Assisted Living, Cheshire continued to look for opportunities to create wheelchair accessible housing that had rent subsidy and funding for personal support. The organization built 98 Baseline Rd., West in 1985 and became part of a co-op that built 111 Belmont Drive in 1994.

The need for Community Assisted Living in the counties surrounding London became apparent as well. Cheshire was able to work with the St. Thomas-Elgin Housing Authority to create wheelchair accessible housing at 200 Chestnut St. in St. Thomas which opened in 1999. We worked with a private landlord and renovated apartments at 42 Campbell Court in Stratford which opened in 2000. We also worked with the Oxford County Housing Authority to renovate apartments at 742 Pavey St., in Woodstock which opened in 2001.

The building at 534 Princess Ave. gradually became unsafe for people with disabilities and a new home was built at 559 Topping Lane.

In 1984 attendant services were made available to people living in their own homes through the Outreach Attendant Services program. We offer this service in the five counties of Middlesex, Oxford, Huron, Perth and Elgin.

Community Assisted Living Programs
Start Date
Cheshire 1 (559 Topping Lane, London ) 1979
Cheshire 2 (120 Cherryhill Place, London) 1981
Cheshire 3 (98 Baseline Road West, London) 1985
Cheshire 4 (111 Belmont Drive, London) 1994
Elgin (200 Chestnut Street, St. Thomas) 1999
Perth (42 Campbell Court, Stratford) 1999
Oxford (742 Pavey Street, Woodstock) 2001
Attendant Outreach Services
Start Date
London and Middlesex 1984
Oxford 1986
Perth 1987
Elgin 1987
Huron 1989

The New Millennium

During this new millennium Cheshire continues to have many people waiting for services and we will continue to work to develop those supports. We currently are funded for attendant services by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care through the SWLHIN (South West Local Health Integration Network) and will be working with municipalities to develop any housing. Social Housing was devolved to the municipal level in 2001.

A new program for Seniors was funded in 2010 – Supports for Daily Living for Seniors. This is a pilot program in the City of London to support 30 seniors 24/7.

Leonard Cheshire Disability Global Alliance

Cheshire is a member of the Leonard Cheshire Disability International‘s family of services, as well as, the Leonard Cheshire Disability Global Alliance. There are over 250 Cheshire Homes and services in 55 countries as well as 140 homes and services in the United Kingdom.

Cheshire now has the logo for Leonard Cheshire Disability on its letterhead

Leonard Cheshire Disability Logo

A member of the Leonard Cheshire Disability Global Alliance

As a registered charitable, non-profit organization, we gratefully accept your donations to help improve the services we can provide to the disabled and senior communities.

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