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History

1875

In the 19th century, the majority of people in Macclesfield worked in the silk industry. Much of the work was detailed and complex, for example the threading of hand loom harnesses. This was generally carried out in very poor lighting conditions and inevitably this had a detrimental effect on people’s sight. As a result, many became unemployable. The Local Authority acknowledged this problem and in doing so founded the ‘Society of Home Teaching for the Blind’ and a committee of caring women was formed in 1875 when there were 80 blind people registered in Macclesfield.

The objective originally was to visit the blind in their homes or in the workhouse and to improve their quality of life by teaching them to read books, mainly religious works, produced in ‘Moon’s Simple Embossed Type’ (a predecessor of Braille based on the standard alphabet).

1875

In the 19th century, the majority of people in Macclesfield worked in the silk industry. Much of the work was detailed and complex, for example the threading of hand loom harnesses. This was generally carried out in very poor lighting conditions and inevitably this had a detrimental effect on people’s sight. As a result, many became unemployable. The Local Authority acknowledged this problem and in doing so founded the ‘Society of Home Teaching for the Blind’ and a committee of caring women was formed in 1875 when there were 80 blind people registered in Macclesfield.

The objective originally was to visit the blind in their homes or in the workhouse and to improve their quality of life by teaching them to read books, mainly religious works, produced in ‘Moon’s Simple Embossed Type’ (a predecessor of Braille based on the standard alphabet).

1926

As the Society progressed over the following years the Committee began to teach further skills such as knitting and crocheting. With additional outside help basket weaving, rush seating, piano tuning and even coal sack making were introduced and blind people began to obtain worthwhile occupations. As more saleable items were being produced it became obvious that permanent premises were essential and consequently 15 Queen Victoria Street was purchased in 1926 for a sum of £560. This became the central base and part of the building was converted into a suitable workroom. It was during this time that outings and monthly socials were arranged and these have continued up to the present time with just a short break during the war years.

1926

As the Society progressed over the following years the Committee began to teach further skills such as knitting and crocheting. With additional outside help basket weaving, rush seating, piano tuning and even coal sack making were introduced and blind people began to obtain worthwhile occupations. As more saleable items were being produced it became obvious that permanent premises were essential and consequently 15 Queen Victoria Street was purchased in 1926 for a sum of £560. This became the central base and part of the building was converted into a suitable workroom. It was during this time that outings and monthly socials were arranged and these have continued up to the present time with just a short break during the war years.

1933-1963

In 1933 the Society officially changed its title to the ‘Macclesfield Society for the Blind’. Electricity was duly installed at 15 Queen Victoria Street and in 1950 the premises were officially classified as a ‘workshop for the blind’. Direct employment was provided here for blind people right up until to 1963.

1933-1963

In 1933 the Society officially changed its title to the ‘Macclesfield Society for the Blind’. Electricity was duly installed at 15 Queen Victoria Street and in 1950 the premises were officially classified as a ‘workshop for the blind’. Direct employment was provided here for blind people right up until to 1963.

1974-1989

The shop continued to sell items produced by blind and visually impaired people until 1974, when some very significant changes took place.

Firstly, as a result of the passing of the Local Authorities Social Services Act, the Society’s role changed and it no longer acted as agents for the County Council as all statutory obligations were taken over by the Social Services.

Secondly and far more positively, a team of dedicated volunteers founded the Macclesfield & District Talking Newspaper for the Blind – the first of its kind in the north of England. Initially sending out news items to its listeners recorded on cassette, it has progressed with technology on to CD’s and more recently memory sticks. Now over 40 years old it continues to provide a valuable service to its listeners.

black and white image of members stood around a table in the 1983

1974-1989

black and white image of members stood around a table in the 1983

The shop continued to sell items produced by blind and visually impaired people until 1974, when some very significant changes took place.

Firstly, as a result of the passing of the Local Authorities Social Services Act, the Society’s role changed and it no longer acted as agents for the County Council as all statutory obligations were taken over by the Social Services.

Secondly and far more positively, a team of dedicated volunteers founded the Macclesfield & District Talking Newspaper for the Blind – the first of its kind in the north of England. Initially sending out news items to its listeners recorded on cassette, it has progressed with technology on to CD’s and more recently memory sticks. Now over 40 years old it continues to provide a valuable service to its listeners.

1990-2014

As the 20th century was drawing to a close the Society realised that the needs of people were changing again. Therefore in 1990 a home visiting scheme was started and in 1997 in order to make better use of the premises the building was completely refurbished due to a generous legacy left to the Society. The opportunity was taken to install a modern recording studio for the Talking Newspaper on the top floor that had been the old workroom. This refurbishment meant the Society was able to provide a proper resource centre where visually impaired people were welcome to come for advice and information. They could also try and buy a wide selection of aids available to help maintain their independence.

With the kind help and permission of the Macclesfield District General Hospital an information desk was started at the Eye Clinic. Run by volunteers from the Society it offers advice and understanding to people diagnosed with sight loss.

people in a studio recording for the talking newspaper

1990-2014

As the 20th century was drawing to a close the Society realised that the needs of people were changing again. Therefore in 1990 a home visiting scheme was started and in 1997 in order to make better use of the premises the building was completely refurbished due to a generous legacy left to the Society. The opportunity was taken to install a modern recording studio for the Talking Newspaper on the top floor that had been the old workroom. This refurbishment meant the Society was able to provide a proper resource centre where visually impaired people were welcome to come for advice and information. They could also try and buy a wide selection of aids available to help maintain their independence.

With the kind help and permission of the Macclesfield District General Hospital an information desk was started at the Eye Clinic. Run by volunteers from the Society it offers advice and understanding to people diagnosed with sight loss.

people in a studio recording for the talking newspaper

2014

East Cheshire eye society members on a walk

Thanks to generous donations from our members and the public, along with community organisations such as The Rotary Club and supermarkets including Waitrose & Sainsbury’s, the Eye Society was able to undertake a further refurbishment of its resource centre in 2014.

This refurbishment means that as well as demonstrating and selling the more traditional aids such as handheld magnifiers, we are also able to demonstrate more of the technology available to assist people with visual impairment, such as talking computer software and electronic magnifiers.

2014

Thanks to generous donations from our members and the public, along with community organisations such as The Rotary Club and supermarkets including Waitrose & Sainsbury’s, the Eye Society was able to undertake a further refurbishment of its resource centre in 2014.

This refurbishment means that as well as demonstrating and selling the more traditional aids such as handheld magnifiers, we are also able to demonstrate more of the technology available to assist people with visual impairment, such as talking computer software and electronic magnifiers.

East Cheshire eye society members on a walk

2018

In October 2018 we changed our name to ‘East Cheshire Eye Society’. This name better represents the geographical area that we provide services within, and so makes it clearer to people who might want to access our support. It also helps in discussions with potential sponsors and donors. The change is to the name only, and all of our services, financial arrangements and the area we cover stay exactly the same.

2018

In October 2018 we changed our name to ‘East Cheshire Eye Society’. This name better represents the geographical area that we provide services within, and so makes it clearer to people who might want to access our support. It also helps in discussions with potential sponsors and donors. The change is to the name only, and all of our services, financial arrangements and the area we cover stay exactly the same.

The Eye Society has come a long way since 1875, but we continue to operate with the same core objectives as the original founders, namely helping to improve the lives of visually impaired people. By recognising the ever changing needs of people with sight loss and the development of new aids and technology we hope, with the continuing support of our invaluable team of volunteers, to continue providing this service for many more years to come.

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