The Trust

Barnwood Trust is a charitable foundation which derives its income from a portfolio of investments.  We are not a fundraising charity.

The Trust was set up over 200 years ago to support people with mental health problems living in Gloucestershire. Today, we help thousands of people every year and we are a financially independent organisation so we do not do any fundraising. But what really sets us apart today is our focus on building belonging across the county – recognising the contribution everyone makes to Gloucestershire.

Being so long-established – and rooted – doesn’t prevent us from being innovative; indeed, innovation has been a hallmark of the Barnwood approach since 1860.

The origins of the Trust begin in 1794, but to cut a long story short our ‘recent’ pioneering history begins with Barnwood House, a former ‘gentleman’s residence’, which was opened as a public hospital for the ‘care and treatment of the mentally ill’ in 1860.

From the very start, Barnwood House Hospital had a philanthropic dimension, with wealthier patients subsidising those of more moderate means.

The level of care and respect for all patients was exceptional; all rooms had open fireplaces and were warmed by hot water pipes, supplied by boilers in the basement; even the sewerage system was held up as a model of good asylum practice.

This was quite extraordinary in the earliest years, when people with mental illness were more often regarded as an encumbrance; confined to poor houses or forced to share the fate of criminals in prison cells.

The hospital thrived through the latter years of the nineteenth century and after World War Two, Barnwood House Hospital became a centre for research into the biochemistry of the brain. William Ross Ashby, psychiatrist and pioneer of cybernetics, built his ‘homeostat’ machine in a laboratory at Barnwood House, which in the 1950s, was ‘the closest thing to a synthetic brain so far designed by man’.

However, as the 1950s and 60s marked a fertile era for scientific exploration, rising research costs coincided with a downturn in patient numbers – and income – as more people took advantage of improved care provided free by the State.  As a result, the main hospital closed in 1967 and the majority of the estate was sold.

The following year, a smaller nursing home was opened at the Manor House. The first of our sheltered housing bungalows opened in 1981 and from the early 80s the Trustees embarked on a comprehensive grant giving programme.

Today’s Trustees continue to promote the values pioneered by our founders; dignity of the individual, mutual respect and quality of life for all.

Governance and accountability

Barnwood Trust has a Council of Governors drawn from applications from people across the county.  The Governors appoint Trustees to the Board from among their number.  We currently we have 37 Governors and 12 Trustees.

The Trustees are responsible for agreeing the Trust’s strategic direction and the plans to implement it, and for ensuring that the management and administration of the Trust are properly carried out.  They also appoint the Chairman and Deputy Chairman.  The Trustees delegate implementation of the Trust’s strategy and policy, and day-to-day operations, to the Trust Chief Executive.