Seashell Trust has been providing first-class educational provision for children with learning disabilities for nearly 200 years. Our story has evolved from that of a small school for deaf children to a multi-site national charity with a school, college and 17 residential homes. This is the story of how we have helped thousands of children to reach their potential.

19th Century

Our history begins in the mid 1820s when the founders of our original charity, Robert Philips and William Bateman, opened their school for deaf children in rented premises in Salford. At the time, just 14 children (eight girls and six boys) were given publicly funded places at the school. Demand soon soared, prompting the opening of our first purpose-built school in Old Trafford on 21 June 1837 – the same day Queen Victoria ascended the throne.

An infant and upper school soon followed but it wasn’t until 1894 that state education provisions were finally extended to deaf children. Three years later, the school was proudly bestowed with the royal patronage of Queen Victoria during the year of her diamond jubilee. A fitting acknowledgement for the decades of educational service provided by the school and its staff, not to mention a neat full circle.

20th Century

Our close ties with the University of Manchester saw pupils studying in Deaf Education take up teaching practice at the school from 1920. Following the Second World War, the school moved premises to its current site in Cheadle Hulme. Known as ‘The Royal School for The Deaf’ at the time, an increasing number of deaf children with additional needs, whose needs could not be met elsewhere, began to join the school.

As local authorities became more adept at catering for the needs of deaf children, a decision was made to open a new special unit within the school for children with more complex needs in 1972. Just seven years later and the school had switched to solely focussing on pupils with additional and complex learning difficulties. Year-round provision came in 1986, with a specialist Deafblind or Multi-Sensory Unit installed in 1990.

21st Century

Having operated as the ‘Royal School for the Deaf and Communication Disorders’ to better reflect the school’s changing cohort, our charity was reconstituted as Seashell Trust in 2008. The name is a tribute to the conch shell emblem that signifies the cochlear or inner ear. Seashell operates Royal School Manchester and Royal College Manchester and still enjoys royal patronage from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Since becoming Seashell, we successfully undertook a wholesale transformation of our residential housing with the construction of 17 new residential homes and in 2018 launched a brand-new all-weather sports pitch for our students and the wider community. In 2020, we were granted consent for the development of a new £50 million school and campus for future generations of children with special educational needs and disability.

Contact Seashell Trust today

For more information about Seashell and the work we do, please get in touch on 0161 610 0100 or email You can make a difference today by making a donation to Seashell. With your support, you are helping to change the lives of the children and young people we care for. Thank you!