History of mosaic

Established in 1898 as the Guild of the Crippled, mosaic has gone through 4 name changes, the last being in 2000 when we became mosaic: shaping disability services (often known as mosaic). The last change of name came about following an open competition when we received 227 entries.

A lot of people ask us what the name ‘mosaic’ means, is it an acronym? We see mosaic as a good description of the organisation – each person, each service contributes to mosaic as a whole but together they make up more than the sum of the parts. mosaic’s strength is that it is so diverse. People also ask us why our title is all in lower case; the only reason for that is to make it distinctive and different from any other organisation. ‘*mosaic*’ should also be in bold; few people get it all right.

mosaic’s history is really in two parts:

  • its building
  • its services

Both are a fundamental part of mosaic.

The Building

Between 1907–1909, the ‘Guild’, as it was known then, raised over £6000 to purchase the land, freehold, pay for the construction of the Guild Hall on Colton Street in Leicester and furnish the whole building. The aim of the Management Committee was that any building would be built “free of debt”. This is what they achieved. The money raised covered the running costs for a number of years while the organisation became fully established.

The Guild Hall was designed as a social centre and was the first to be built in England. With about 2000 sq. ft. of floor space, the Guild Hall was made up of three rooms, a balcony and a kitchen. There was also a stage. For a building designed in 1907 the Guild Hall was a prestigious example of accessibility and there are many buildings in Leicester, newly constructed, that do not have that level of accessibility. The Guild Hall is a significant part of the social history of Leicester. The Guild Hall was flat to enter, with wide doors including double doors at the front of the building. There was a spacious hall where the socials were held. There were two other meeting rooms which were also very large.

At this time, many disabled people used spinal carriages or wicker wheelchairs (from whence the term, often used in a derogatory manner, ‘basket chair’ came). The Guild Hall could accommodate more than 150 in the main hall. The balcony and the stage weren’t accessible but they were designed specifically for non-disabled people. On the back wall, above the stage, was a very large painting of the healing of the sick by the Apostles on the steps of the pool at Bethsada. The painting was by a reknown local artist, Roland Barker. Rumour was that all the faces of the characters depicted were actually portraits of local dignatories.

The area the Guild Hall was built in was very different in those days – surrounded by small terraced housing. At that time the Guild owned 5 houses which were rented to disabled people. Charles Street, now a thoroughfare, was then a lane.

Over the years the area has changed; the houses were knocked down to be replaced by factories. Charles Street became one of the main streets of Leicester with shops all along it.

By 1916, money had been raised for an industrial training hall was built called the Queen Alexandra Industrial Training Hall; this was next to the Guild Hall. This recognised the difficulty that disabled people had in getting employment. It produced rugs, woodwork, paper flowers and a range of craft work. Eventually, a shop was set up in Charles Street for the sale of the work produced. Because this was before the benefits system was established disabled people were able to take a share of income earned. This building eventually became the AA building on Charles Street.

In 1925, money was raised to build a holiday home situated in the rolling countryside within sight of Old John in Bradgate Park. At that time the village of Cropston could be considered to be a holiday destination but now is a part of an extended city of Leicester. Until 1992, Cropston Holiday Home was a flourishing home for disabled people for whom finding accessible accommodation for a holiday was very difficult. In 1992, the Trustees had to take a very difficult decision to sell the home. It no longer met the requirements for a residential home and the cost to upgrade it was prohibitive, beyond our reserves.

In 1997 it was finally sold. The Trustees set aside the money raised from this building to go towards the purchase of another building at some point in time. This decision was not liked by the older members of the Guild who had fond memories of holidays there. The site was sold for prestigious housing now called Guild Close in Cropston. In our meeting room at Oak Spinney Park we have an original watercolour painting of the holiday home.

In 1992, the Guild hall was registered as a Grade 11 listed building which actually ‘sounded its death knell’ as a working building for mosaic. Once listed, there were a lot of restrictions as to what changes could be made to the building e.g. the kitchen couldn’t be upgraded because the original copper urn was there. The door handles could not be lowered because they were an integral part of the original building. We could not install electric doors and of course the parking was very limited. Again the Trustees took the hard, business decision to sell the Guild Hall. There was a great deal of sadness about this because so many disabled people and their families had grown up with the Guild Hall as part of their lives. The decision was taken that the money from this sale would be put with the money from Cropston Holiday Home to purchase a new building in keeping with the 21st Century.

A building as old as the Guild Hall had many artefacts, some of historical significance and some just junk. Many of the historical items went to the Leicestershire Museums at Snibston Discovery Park. The grand piano was housed at Melton Baptist Church until it finally went to the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick in Derbyshire where it is in daily use. The organ went to an organ restorer for renovation. Plastic chairs went to St Gabriels Church Hall and a number of bits and pieces were either sold or given to charity shops. As the time came to move we did not know what to do with some things so they went into storage at a Trustee’s factory.

In 2010 when our “history” came out of storage we were amazed about what we had put out of sight 8 years previously, 1,000 copies of “From Strength to Strength”; some arts and crafts furniture; crockery from Cropston Holiday Home; and old wheelchair and loads of old records. There was a “grandmother” clock and a wall clock from the Guild Hall. We had to be very careful about not just storing things for the sake of it.

Naively the Trustees hoped we would be able to find another building very quickly, within the two years we were allowed to stay at the Guild Hall rent-free. However, we were forced to move to 2 Richard III Road as tenants. We were there 8 years!!

However, history was never far behind us and our offices were, where legend had it, the bones of Richard III were thrown into the river after the Battle of Bosworth. A plaque on the bridge next to the building recorded this. Little did we know that as soon as we moved from Richard III Road, then the bones of Richard III would be dug up in a Social Services car park.

Oak Spinney Park where we are now based brings us full circle from the Guild Hall; it has large spacious rooms and great access. This time it has good parking and office space. While we waited a long time the Trustees felt it was worth the wait to own our own building, freehold, “free from debt”.

Our Services

While elsewhere on this website are details of our current services, it is important to note that the Guild of the Crippled was set up basically to challenge the social isolation and loneliness that disabled people experienced; loneliness that caused depression and aggravated any illness. Living conditions were hard and the opportunity to get out of the house was a boost to mental health and physical recovery for some people. Some people would argue that for many disabled people things have not changed very much.

A big service that was established in the early days of the Guild was a Visiting Service; we still have one. There were groups that people attended; they still do. The Guild organised day trips and holidays; we have the Overstrand Bungalows.

Before the establishment of the NHS disabled people had to pay for a visit to the doctors, to see a physiotherapist, to get a wheelchair or spinal carriage. One of the major services that the Guild offered was free doctor’s surgery, free wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs, free physiotherapy and access to a specialist surgeon. The Guild was a radical organisation, and still is.

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There are big changes being proposed by Leicester City Council that will affect the some of read more about this

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Focus on: Journey to Employment (J2E)

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