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Norwood (charity)

Norwood, known legally as Norwood-Ravenswood, is a UK charity established in 1785 in the East End of London. Its name comes from its long running home for Jewish children, Norwood Hall, in the south London suburb of West Norwood which opened in 1863 and closed in 1961.

Area served
United Kingdom
Key people
Dr Beverley Jacobson, Chief Executive
1,250 staff, 1,500 volunteers
Early origins of Norwood as a boarding school

In 1996, it merged with Ravenswood, a Berkshire-based charity for people with learning disabilities, to create one of the largest welfare organisations within the British Jewish community.

Norwood currently provides hundreds of services supporting vulnerable children, families & people with learning disabilities, within the Jewish and wider communities in London and the South East.

These specialist services are delivered by 1,200 staff and supported by 500 volunteers.

Norwood's Patron is HM The Queen and its Patron of Children's Services is Cherie Blair.

Simon Cowell with a Norwood service user at the Annual Dinner 2010

The charity's celebrity supporters include Simon Cowell, Elton John, David Furnish, Sir Philip Green, Roger Daltrey, Theo Paphitis, Tom Conti and Piers Morgan.


In 1795, brothers Abraham and Benjamin Goldsmid began campaigning for funds for a major Jewish poor relief scheme. Twelve years later they were able to use the funds to establish the Jews’ Hospital in Mile End. Following the death of the Goldsmid brothers, Queen Victoria's uncle, Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, became the Hospital's first royal patron in 1815.

In 1831, the Jews’ Orphan Asylum was established in Leman Street. Originally, just seven children were housed at the Asylum, but over the decades that number grew and by 1860 it housed 60 orphans. During the same period, the Jews’ Hospital was becoming overcrowded, with 100 boys and 40 girls enrolled by 1860. In 1866, the children were transferred from the Jews’ Hospital to new premises at Norwood, South London. In 1876, the Jews’ Hospital had merged with the Orphan Asylum, and the children from the latter also moved to Norwood. The numbers of Jewish children at Norwood increased from 159 in 1877 to 260 in 1888, and because of the increased demand, many had to be turned away.

The institution was renamed the Norwood Jewish Orphanage in 1928. During this period, it became known to a wider audience due to a high-profile annual day trip to Southend organised by the London Taxi Drivers' Fund for Underprivileged Children.

During World War II, the children were evacuated to homes in Worthing and Hertford and the building was used by the London Fire Brigade as a training centre. After the war, the number of children at the Orphanage started to decline as they became more integrated within the community.

In 1956, the name was again changed to the Norwood Home for Jewish Children.

Ravenswood was established in 1953 in Berkshire by a group calling themselves the Jewish Association of Parents of Backward Children. Its initial mission was to provide care and education for four 11-year-old boys. After the acquisition of a second home and a farm five years later, the Ravenswood Foundation was formed.

In the latter half of the 1950s, nine family houses were built or acquired by Norwood in South London with the aim of giving children a homely environment. The old Orphanage became redundant and was eventually demolished in 1963. The Norwood family homes were moved to North London and eventually closed one by one, with the last one closing its doors in 1992.

In 1985, Norwood opened its first registered residential home for adults with learning disabilities. Five years later, the Kennedy Leigh Children and Family Centre in Hendon was opened, offering practical advice and support to families living with learning disability or facing social disadvantage. The centre also housed Binoh, Norwood's education and therapy service that supports children with special educational needs.

In 1996, Norwood merged with Ravenswood, and opened family centres in Redbridge and Hackney. It was called Norwood Ravenswood for six years before finally changing its name to Norwood in 2002.

In January 2008, Cherie Blair officially opened Wellbeing at Bearsted, a centre offering health and wellbeing services to the local Orthodox Community in Hackney. In June 2008, The Hope Charity, a London-based organisation supporting children with special educational needs, joined Norwood's umbrella of children and family services. Norwood also opened a new integrated nursery in Hendon in September 2008, accommodating children who have disabilities or require additional support, as well as providing a first-class facility for children who have no special needs. In 2008 and 2009, two new specialised facilities were completed at Ravenswood.

The Tager Centre is a home for adults who have a range of autistic spectrum conditions, while the Pamela Barnett Centre houses adults with profound and multiple learning disabilities.

In March 2009, Norwood joined forces with Brighton care home, Sussex Tikvah. In April 2010, The RD Crusaders WorkHub in Stanmore was officially opened. The facility offers a range of services to help adults with learning disabilities learn new skills and, potentially, find paid employment.


Children and family servicesEdit

Norwood has three Family Centres located in Hackney, Hendon and Redbridge, which provide a range of support services to children and families in the local community.

Wellbeing at Bearsted in Hackney offers health services to the local Orthodox community.

The Hope Centre enables children with special educational needs to reach their full potential, using a range of techniques including the Feuerstein methodology.

Binoh, a special education and therapy service, works with children under 18 with specific educational needs to enhance their learning and improve their self-esteem.

Buckets & Spades Lodge is a short break service for children with learning and physical disabilities. It offers residential stays in a well-equipped house with round-the-clock professional care and a range of stimulating activities.

Unity is a recreational play and youth service for children with disabilities. Unity runs holiday schemes at Norwood's Family centres in Hendon and Redbridge, as well as after-school clubs and residential holidays.

Family Support includes a social work team and provides multidisciplinary support to families experiencing a variety of social or domestic problems, including divorce, abuse, parenting, disability and illness, addiction and finances.

The charity also provides domestic and inter-country adoption services.

Adult learning disability servicesEdit

Norwood Adult Services

Life Long Learning Services offer a programme of skills and opportunities for life through individualised learning in London, Berkshire and the South East.

Supported Employment works with adults with learning disabilities and enables them to access work. The service is based at the new RD Crusaders WorkHub in Stanmore, which was officially opened in 2010 by Roger Daltrey and members of the rock super group the RD Crusaders, who helped fund the project.

Links offers leisure, recreation and holiday opportunities for adults with learning disabilities.

Supported Living provides support to adults living in their own homes across London and Berkshire.

Norwood has 11 Registered Care Homes in the heart of local communities in the South East, concentrated in Redbridge, Harrow, Barnet and Brighton. Ravenswood in Berkshire provides accommodation to 140 adults with learning disabilities in 13 registered care homes. The Karten Centre at Ravenswood is a learning hub supporting adults with learning disabilities to learn new skills and earn qualifications through computer-aided learning.


Norwood Corporate Fundraising Event

Fundraising is vital to Norwood as many of its services receive little or no government funding at all. Norwood needs to raise £12m every year.


Norwood Challenges offer a range of sponsored sporting events for all ages and abilities. Norwood pioneered the international sponsored events 20 years ago and over 10,000 people have participated in a Norwood Challenge since 1992.

Police team doing Capital to Coast Bike Ride

Norwood runs Challenges suitable for all levels of experience, ability and all ages. Previous international event destinations have included Northern Thailand, Kenya, South Africa, India, Croatia, Israel, Italy, Austria, Vietnam & Cambodia, Prague and the Sahara Desert.

External linksEdit