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Stoke Mandeville: the Wolfson Hall and Stadium

Dr Ludwig Guttmann FRS ©Godfrey Argent Studio

The overwhelming success of the 2012 London Paralympic Games, following the Olympics of the same year, was a vindication of the movement that had commenced in 1948 at a previous London Games. Then, Dr Ludwig Guttmann FRS (1899-1980) organised a wheelchair-athletes sporting contest at his Stoke Mandeville-based spinal therapy unit which shadowed the official Olympic opening ceremony. But what had commenced as a method of treating wounded servicemen in 1944 gradually evolved into a fully-fledged movement and by 1960, the initiative of Guttmann and his patients had culminated in the first Paralympic Games in Rome.

The original Stoke Mandeville Games continued and in 1967-1968, Ludwig Guttmann involved the Wolfson Foundation in the creation of a purpose-built stadium under the auspices of the Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund. A Wolfson grant of £100,000 followed, unanimously supported by the Wolfson Trustees, and the construction programme was hurried through in time for the Games’ anniversary.

Therefore, a mere 21 years after the first arrows were launched by a handful of pioneering archery athletes, HM Queen Elizabeth II was able to open the Wolfson-funded Stoke Mandeville Stadium for a new generation of sportsmen and sportswomen.

Explore the archives

  • WF/256/1a, b, c
    Letter from Sir Ludwig Guttmann, Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund, 11 October 1967, to Lady Edith Wolfson, 74 Portland Place, London
  • WF/256/3
    Memorandum, Gilbert Monckton, 2nd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, The Wolfson Foundation, 2 November 1967, to Leonard Wolfson
  • WF/256/5
    Letter from Sir Ludwig Guttmann, Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund, 3 November 1967, to Gilbert Monckton, 2nd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, The Wolfson Foundation
  • WF/256/9
    'Application for a grant for the building of a sports hall as part of a National Sports Stadium…’ from Ludwig Guttmann, Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund, 8 January 1968, to Gilbert Monckton, 2nd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, The Wolfson Foundation
  • WF/256/16a, b
    Letter from Sir Ludwig Guttmann, Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund, 15 February 1968, to Gilbert Monckton, 2nd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, The Wolfson Foundation
  • WF/256/18
    Letter from Sir Ludwig Guttmann, Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund, 15 May 1968, to Gilbert Monckton, 2nd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, The Wolfson Foundation
  • WF/256/30
    Letter from Sir Ludwig Guttmann, Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund, 20 May 1969, to Leonard Wolfson, The Wolfson Foundation
  • WF/256/37
    Letter from Arundell Rea Leakey, The Wolfson Foundation, 28 October 1969, to Sir Sir Ludwig Guttmann, Paraplegic Sports Endowment Fund
  • WF/256/56a, b, c
    Programme, ‘The Official Opening of The Stoke Mandeville Sports Stadium for the Paralysed and other disabled by Her Majesty The Queen’, 2 August 1969 (cover, with pages 1 and 2, portraits of the Queen and Sir Ludwig Guttmann FRS)
  • WF/256/57
    Photograph of Queen Elizabeth II presenting trophies to competitors at the Stoke Mandeville Sports Stadium, 1969, with Sir Ludwig Guttmann FRS