Our History

One of the oldest and longest-serving charities in Gloucestershire

We are proud to be one of the oldest and longest-serving charities in Gloucestershire – and in the UK.  We have been supporting local blind and partially sighted people for more than 160 years.

Our history mirrors the history of the UK – we were formed in the Victorian “Golden Age” of philanthropy, just before the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), and changed our name to Gloucestershire County Association for the Blind in response to national social changes after World War One.

We continue to develop and refine our services, whilst remaining true to our history and values.  Our modern services – such as advice on how to use tablet computers or smartphones – are still based on our desire to support and empower local people affected by sight loss.

Here is a bit more about our history:

We trace our history back to 1858, when our organization was formed as the Cheltenham Home Teaching Society.  This society was formed to provide meaningful occupation for blind people living in the town, and to teach them to read.

The society opened workshops at Clarevill House, 47 Winchcombe Street in Cheltenham.  The workshop produced a variety of baskets and wickerwork, and continued in existence right up until the 1950s.

In 1896, we changed our name to Cheltenham and Gloucestershire Society for the Blind.  And in 1920, we became Gloucestershire County Association for the Blind.

In 2013 we rebranded as Insight Gloucestershire.  A number of local sight loss charities rebranded around this time, acknowledging the fact that very few conditions lead to total blindness.  Our aim continues to be to support people affected by sight loss.

Some key milestones

List of donations from 1866

  • In 1966 we hit the milestone of having more than 1,000 blind and visually impaired people on our register. Our numbers have continued to grow since then.
  • In 1989, we purchased our first telephone and answer machine, enabling us to provide support over the phone for the first time.
  • In 1991 our first text-to-speech machine was given to us, enabling people with a visual impairment to the office and use the machine to read letters.
  • In 1994 we launched an appeal to purchase 81 Albion Street. Our resource centre opened in 1996 and is still based in this building in central Cheltenham.
  • In 2006, volunteers for the Gloucestershire County Association for the Blind received a Queens Award for Voluntary Service.
  • 2007 saw our first information point outside Cheltenham.
  • In 2023 we joined forces with Sight Support West of England, combining our management team to create savings and efficiencies.  A shift in strategy saw us open 9 new information and social hubs across the county.