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Activity 13 - Geography of mental deficiency institutions in Great Britain


To gain an understanding of the location and distribution of long-stay mental deficiency (MD) institutions in the UK.

Curriculum area(s)

  • Year 7 upwards
    • ICT
    • Geography
    • History
    • Citizenship

Suitable for adults with learning disabilities?


Learning outcome(s)

  • To use Google Maps to get specific information.
  • Understand the factors impacting on the distribution of MD institutions.
  • To compare distribution of population with distribution of institutions in the UK.
  • To examine local history.
  • Identify the local historical geography of MD institutions.
  • To gain some understanding of what these institutions were like to live in.

Time required

30 mins - 120 mins



  1. Class discussion on the geographical factors that might lead to the location of MD institutions.
  2. Use Google Maps of Institutions of over 200 inmates.
  3. (i) Compare distribution of red dots for institutions and population density maps; (ii) Compare blow-up of Greater London and pattern; (iii) Examine difficulties relatives might have visiting.
  4. Using Activity 13/Resource 1 from the Resources section above, pick an institution nearest to where your school/college is located and examine information contained on information box for this point on the map.

Ideas for follow up

Visit the remains of an old hospital. Use online and local archive material to produce a display of the hospital and the lives of those forced to live there.

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Contact us

About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

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