Published Monday, 1st February 2021
Sutton Council & Sutton Mencap collaborate on book inspired by 500 year old Whitehall Historic House
Situated in the heart of Cheam Village in the London Borough of Sutton, Whitehall Historic House is a 500-year old timber-framed Tudor building. Its original use is debated, although some suggest it was a meeting or council house once visited by Queen Elizabeth I. What is certain, is that prior to its doors opening as a museum in 1978, Whitehall has, over the years, been a home to many people.
In early 2020, Sutton Mencap, a charity working to improve the lives of people with a learning disability and their carers, were invited to imagine what life would be like if they lived in this unique setting. Working closely with Sutton’s Councils’ cultural services and storyteller Richard Neville, participants explored stories and ideas with the aim of developing a creative and inclusive output that could be widely shared. Over the course of four creative workshops, the group made themselves at home by exploring every part of the house and its history. They looked at photographs of the families who had previously lived there; imagined themselves as residents of the house; and even created and illustrated their own ghost adventure story.
The result of their exploration is At Home in Whitehall: An Alternative Guide to Whitehall Historic House, a collection of collages and drawings produced by Sutton Mencap, inspired by their experience of Whitehall Historic House in Cheam. In the preface of the book, Councillor Nali Patel states:
“The race between abled and disabled can only be narrowed when put on a common platform and handled equally. Sutton Cultural Services are working to provide a conducive platform for those living with different forms of disability, proving that disability is not inability.”
Councillor Nali Patel
The electronic version of the book, published by The Caper Press, is now available to freely borrow from digital lending platforms across the The Libraries Consortium, while the physical version of the book is available to borrow across Sutton Libraries. An enhanced digital version featuring audio will also be available later this year.
“It is through this kind of co-creative work that Sutton’s museums and libraries become platforms for meaningful dialogue and creative expression. This book offers an original, lively interpretation of one of the borough’s oldest historic buildings, successfully demonstrating that Whitehall Historic House is not a static space, but constantly shaped by Sutton’s contemporary communities. I was lucky enough to open the newly refurbished Whitehall during my term as Mayor. It is a place I really enjoy visiting and hope this new book will add to that enjoyment for everyone.”
Councillor Steve Cook
“Building relationships within our local community is especially important for Sutton Mencap. The project we took part in helped us to build a special friendship with Whitehall. Our service users really enjoyed each session. Marina, Richard and team made each session fun and interesting. We all fell in love with Whitehall and its history and look forward to more engaging projects.”
Adult Services Manager, Sutton Mencap
At Home in Whitehall has been produced as part of Know Our Place: Saving and Sharing Whitehall, a £1.9m National Lottery Heritage Fund project from the London Borough of Sutton with support from the Friends of Whitehall.