World's first Paralympic heritage centre opens in Stoke Mandeville

The world’s first Paralympic Heritage Centre has opened at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic movement.

The heritage centre is a small museum which tells the story of how the Paralympic movement began in the 1940s at Stoke Mandeville Hospital when Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann encouraged wounded veterans to play sport as an aid to rehabilitation from spinal injury.

A ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of the National Paralympic Heritage Centre

A ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of the National Paralympic Heritage Centre

This led to local competitions such as the Stoke Mandeville Games and to the Paralympic Games which today attracts international support and a global broadcast audience of more than four billion people.

Displays at the museum celebrate the stories of the Paralympians, hospital staff and the local Aylesbury community who played a large part in setting up the early games.

Previously held in storage the tickets, medals, sports kit, photographs and programmes can now be seen by the general public.

Items on display for handling include a goalball, a para-hockey blade, the latest Ottobock running blade and wheelchairs from the 1950s right up to the present day.

The National Paralympic Heritage Centre, based at Stoke Mandeville

The National Paralympic Heritage Centre, based at Stoke Mandeville

The heritage centre features audio description and British sign language on all videos and screens, braille sheets alongside the displays and large print booklets - it is accessible for wheelchairs and visitors with guide dogs and there are designated 'quiet times'.

Throughout the year there are special events planned including family activities, Meet the Paralympian and sign language tours, plus tours and talks are available for schools and groups throughout the year.

Clare Newman, PR executive at Ottobock running blades said: “The exhibition is wonderful – the interactive features with the touch screens, especially for the racing wheelchairs display, was particularly informative.

"Ottobock has been a proud technical partner of the Paralympics for more than 30 years so to be a part of this exhibition, with our running blade as part of the display, is a real honour.”

Eva Loeffler, daughter of Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann said: “Congratulations on the wonderful display you have produced.

"It is a superb tribute and tells the story perfectly.”

Vicky Hope-Walker, project manager at the National Paralympic Heritage Trust said: “We are delighted to open this accessible high quality small museum celebrating this important local, national and international history.

"It tells the story of the Paralympics from its birth in 1948 through to today, with displays on Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a timeline, wheelchair sport and celebrations.”

The heritage centre is supported by the British Paralympic Association, WheelPower, British Wheelchair Sport, Aylesbury Vale District Council and Bucks County Council with grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund, AIM Biffa Award ‘History Makers’ Programme, Rothschild Foundation, Aylesbury Vale Community Chest, Heart of Bucks and the Welcome Trust.