Mount Pleasant

By Carol Walton and Laurie Stonehouse


Claremont Road, Mount Pleasant.

Searchlight was founded in 1933 by Miss Muriel Powell, who for several years had been matron of the Bishopstone branch of Chailey Heritage. She had cared for disabled children until they reached the age at which they would leave school, but there seemed to be no place for them in the able-bodied world. Miss Powell was determined to help by attempting something quite new. With her savings she bought a bungalow next to the old Searchlight battery above Newhaven, and with three disabled young men as her staff, went into business making jam and sweetmeats. Wartime rationing put an end to this and Miss Powell turned to handicrafts and chair caning, for which the Searchlight workshops are now well known.

Searchlight quickly grew, and in 1947 a new building was opened which provided a workshop for 36 disabled men. Another building was opened in 1951 by Her Grace the Duchess of Norfolk who became Searchlight's patron, and in 1958 a building for recreational purposes was added. Money was then raised to provide buildings and care for the disabled men when they retired, or could no longer work. Today there are three residential houses which accommodate around 47 men and women with physical and learning disabilities, and a day centre that enables them to undertake a variety of activities. Everyone, staff and clients alike, contribute to and benefit from the sense of community which exists there.

Photo:Muriel Powell - Founder of Searchlight Workshops

Muriel Powell - Founder of Searchlight Workshops


Photo:Original Searchlight Bungalow - c1933

Original Searchlight Bungalow - c1933


Photo:Searchlight Workshops from Station Road - c1950

Searchlight Workshops from Station Road - c1950


Photo:Residents of Searchlight in Claremont Road - c1950

Residents of Searchlight in Claremont Road - c1950


Photo:Construction of Powell House - 1956

Construction of Powell House - 1956


Photo:Drove from Searchlight - 1956

Drove from Searchlight - 1956


Photo:Muriel Powell meets the Queen - c1962

Muriel Powell meets the Queen - c1962


Photo:Webb House Building Appeal - 1986

Webb House Building Appeal - 1986


Photo:Constructing Webb House - 1986/87

Constructing Webb House - 1986/87


Photo:Opening day for Webb House - April 1987

Opening day for Webb House - April 1987


Photo:Princess Michael of Kent Visits Searchlight - April 1987

Princess Michael of Kent Visits Searchlight - April 1987


Photo:Searchlight Workshops - 2009

Searchlight Workshops - 2009

L Stonehouse

Photo:Searchlight - 2009

Searchlight - 2009

L Stonehouse

This page was added by Laurie Stonehouse on 09/10/2009.
Comments about this page

The Royal visit was in July 1962. Her Majesty has only been here the once, as far as I know.

By Andy Gilbert
On 15/10/2009


In the picture of the residents of the workshops, the chap in the electric wheelchair second from the left is Jock Brown. He used to visit us at Southdown Road when we first moved there.
Neill Jupp

By Neill Jupp
On 18/12/2009

The Queen's visit was in July 1962 - possibly the 15th I believe. I know this as I've recently discovered a postcard from Newhaven in July 1962, where the person writing mentions "Been here (Newhaven) this morning and seen the Queen and Duke twice. Could have touched the car both times".

By Dominic Ashman
On 03/01/2010

When we came home from school, there were often some of the residents seen in photo 4 at the bottom of the hill awaiting for a "push up".This, we were glad to do and Miss Powell always rewarded us from what seemed like a "huge" jar of sweets. She was a lovely, kind, and caring lady, well worthy of her becoming a "This is your Life" subject. Several years later, some of these men formed a pop group and I think they called themselves the Cruisers?. I dont remember all their names but I do recall Alan being the singer and Brian playing a guitar. Alan's favourite song was "Roses are Red". I am sure that William Still and other "Mount Kids" will remember those days with affection.

By Colin Brandon
On 06/06/2010

I remember. I will never forget Morris running up & down the drove. A group of ladies who were known as "the wooly hat gang". Ken Porter. father of my best friend Nigel who would park his electric 3 wheeler in garages where Anthony house was built & have to make his way to Kings Avenue on his crutches, rain or shine. My mother, Jean Spiers was the matron at Anthony house until her retirement. At that time it was occupied primarily with thalidomide children. I am told that I had the honor of a kiss on the top of my little head from the Queen when she visited Searchlight.

By Simon Spiers
On 17/12/2010

How could I forget the "Wooly Hat Gang"?! They lived on Denton Rise (just below the Guiness Trust) and I used to deliver the newspaper...if they heard you slip it through the box, they would all jump up, start screaming and run towards the front door. "Its my turn!" . I wonder what happened to them...

By Stuart Winton
On 09/03/2012

Muriel Powell was my grandmother's sister. She was one of ten children.

By Janet Westhorp
On 11/09/2018

My father's cousin Andrew Caulfield was at Searchlight for many years until his death in 1999. I wonder if anyone remembers him or can identify him in the 1950's photo please.

By Geraldine Murphy
On 21/02/2019

I lived next door to the Searchlight. We got notices before the queen came that we shouldn't hang washing out that day. On the positive side they repaired all the awful potholes in our road before her visit. The Duke forgot the name of what he was 'opening,' which was the East Wing. He said, "I hereby open this East.....thing." As a kid I often played billiards with the residents, and sometime pushed them into town for a walk. 

By Rod Baker
On 25/05/2020

I was one of the two Air Cadets who were the Guard of Honour at the entrance to Webb House when HRH The Duchess of Kent officially  opened it. She was lovely and spent time talking to us. I have some photo’s of this day and wonderful memories. I also worked at Searchlight after volunteering there as part of my Duke of Edinburgh Award. 

By Claire Hoadley (nee Bonfield)
On 03/04/2022

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