In 1921, Margaret Langdon, a prominent Manchester Jewish philanthropist and activist in community care, set up Delamere Forest School as a Fresh Air Home and School for delicate Jewish children in the Cheshire countryside, enlisting the help of others in the Manchester Jewish community.
The residential school catered for pupils from Jewish Communities around the country and aimed to enable them to maximise their potential, increase their self-esteem, and develop their skills and talents within a wholly Jewish environment.
In the late 1960s, when the need for a Fresh Air school declined, the emphasis switched to catering for children with special educational needs who could benefit from individual care and attention in peaceful surroundings while maintaining their Jewish culture and religious practices.
Around 2000, the school started to face growing financial pressures as local authority financial support for SEND children (particularly residential pupils) became tighter.
To reduce overheads and attract more day pupils, the school relocated to Manchester in 2010 to utilise the expertise of the highly experienced Together Trust to manage the school and to be closer to the large established local Jewish community there.
However, the relocation ultimately depended on the early sale of the old Cheshire school site for an attractive price and increasing local pupil numbers reviving. The anticipated property sale collapsed in an increasingly depressed property market and, although pupil numbers grew, that did not happen fast enough.
So, after 90 years, Delamere Forest School sadly had to close in July 2011. The school ensured that all the remaining pupils were appropriately placed for their individual needs in alternative schools.
The Cheshire site was eventually sold at a much reduced price, but left the charity with sufficient funds to allow it to evolve a positive new role, supporting new specialist educational provision for Jewish children with special needs. In 2018 work started on building new homes on the Cheshire site, incorporating memorial stones from the original buildings.
Since then, to reflect that new role, the Charity has operated under the name, “Delamere Charitable Trust” and developed as a promoter of, and funder to, selected specialist SEND service providers.
The charity’s finances have now been stabilised through careful financial control and with the benefit of major legacy income.
For a more detailed early history see “Origins of the School” by David Patchick.