It was a big thing back in the 1940s. Because nobody had expected them to ever sit up. Those men who had been wounded during the War had maybe been lying in a hospital bed for three or four years without moving.

Joan Newton, nurse at the Centre from 1948 to 1952

National Spinal Injuries Centre Timeline

Panel for the NSIC Timeline at the Paralympic Heritage exhibition

1830s: First hospital established as a ‘cholera’ hospital built away from residential areas to avoid the spread of disease.

1939: Buildings added for civilian wartime casualties. Few civilians are treated and the site begins is used for the rehabilitation of military casualties.

1943: Government approached Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann to establish the National Spinal Injuries Centre here, which opens 1st February 1944.

1948: First ‘Stoke Mandeville Games’ held coinciding with the London Olympics. They became an annual event.

1952: The first ‘international’ competition at Stoke Mandeville when a team from the Netherlands competes.

1960: The IXth International Stoke Mandeville Games, now seen as the first Paralympic Games, are held in Rome.

1961: Dr Guttmann founds the Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund leading to a specialist stadium at Stoke Mandeville opened by the Queen in 1969.

1979: Weather damages the Centre and it is decided to close it. Patients protest, including chaining themselves to radiators. The decision is reversed, and fundraising begins for a new Centre.

1983: The new National Spinal Injuries Centre is opened by HRH the Prince of Wales.

Showcase 1

Object captions:

  1. The Cord Journal for Paraplegics, 1952 - this copy of The Cord features plans for the first International Stoke Mandeville Games in 1952, to become known later as the Paralympics.
  2. The Cord, 1963 - with Dr Guttmann's support patients set up The Cord in 1949 as a means of keeping in touch. It became international, continuing today under a different name.
  3. The Cord 21st Anniversary Issue, 1963.
  4. 'Aspects of Patient Care' Booklet, 1968 - from the outset the National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) was continuously looking for improvements in patient care.
  5. Nursing Mirror, 1975 - this edition featured the NSIC and its sports rehabilitation for spinal injuries.
  6. Order of Service for the funeral of Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann, 1980 - Dr Guttmann's funeral took place in London and was featured in the national papers.
  7. National Spinal Injuries Centre, Children's Badge - these badges were given to child patients. The triangle design reflects the roof of the Centre.
  8. Dr Guttmann's Teaching Slides - Dr Guttmann's innovative work and that of his successors influenced the care of spinal patients internationally.
  9. Ear Nose Diagnostic Kit - an early ear, nose and throat examination kit from the NSIC.
  10. Christmas Card signed by Dr Guttmann - this card features the early Stoke Mandeville Stadium built for Wheelchair sports.