Our Story

The Big Dig!

We do things differently. We’re a charity that marries the best of social enterprise with volunteering and philanthropy and we never stop looking forwards.

We believe so strongly in the achievements of the people we support that we also run a major visitor attraction and more than a dozen social enterprises staffed by those same people to showcase exactly what they can do. And these activities support our fundraising, creating a great virtuous circle.

Our Vision

We want to help people with disabilities to become full and active citizens. We will develop skills, find and provide opportunities for them to gain employment in local communities. Our innovative approach to activities and support will encourage more independent and fulfilled lives for everyone involved.

Our £4 million appeal

Raising vital funds to provide care, training, jobs, independence and opportunities for adults with learning disabilities now and in the future.

Our Story


Paul and Alistair were among the first workers at the original site;

“Over the years we’ve seen a lot of change. All this used to be just grass, we just had a caravan, two staff, and six volunteers. There wasn’t even any power or water and it was really cold some days. We had to build an outside toilet, dig the trench for the water supply from the main road and make soup from some of the vegetables we had grown on an old camping stove.”

In 1978 three parents, Mavis Miles, Susan Evershed & Paddy Whiteside confronted the issue of a post school-career for their sons by deciding to set up the Aldingbourne Country Centre Charity. It began with negotiations for a 15 acre, 12 year lease in the grounds of Aldingbourne House and ambitious plans to create a centre for adults with learning disabilities that offered real purpose.

With the support of Chichester Lions, Mencap, the Round Table, the Basil Shippam Trust and Chichester and West Sussex County Councils, planning approval was granted and the first five trainees arrived on 4th December 1978… along with a hefty covering of snow.

After much hard work, Lavinia Duchess of Norfolk officially opened the site as patron on 22nd September 1979 and since then we have focused on providing life-skills training, education and real-world opportunities for as many adults with learning disabilities as we can.

In 1982, our first residential services centre, Milton Lodge, was opened to provide expert care and support for local people as well as from further afield and still stands as a highly rated and respected centre today.

A name change to the Aldingbourne Trust in 1991 reflected our expanding operations.

Today, the Aldingbourne Trust provides a range of services for more than 550 people with learning disabilities including autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Down’s Syndrome as well as for people who also live with physical disabilities. We operate more than a dozen social enterprises as part of our forward-thinking approach to providing opportunities alongside  residential care services, supported living and outreach services for people in their local communities.

Our story would not have been possible without the tireless commitment and contributions of hundreds of staff and volunteers. People like Len Dixey who was crucial in helping to develop the Country Centre site from 1979 right up until his retirement in 2006.  And of course, Paul Alistair and Chris who still give their time and love to help a new generation of adults with learning disabilities to have better opportunities than they did when they left school.

Our plans for the Future

In 2014 and beyond, challenges for disabled people are significant. Benefits are being cut, state-provision of help and support is harder to find and charities that have filled those gaps in the past are struggling to find the money to continue.

Our plans for the future focus on ensuring that the Aldingbourne Trust will be able to continue to support the people, employers, families and carers that need us. We will think differently and work towards 6 key aims:

One size fits one - we tailor approach to individual needs

  1. Deliver more opportunities, more benefit to local communities and more sustainable revenue through social enterprise
  2. Influence local and national policy-makers to ensure that the voices of the people we support and their families are listened to
  3. Be more efficient across all of our activities – not cut services; deliver them smarter
  4. Innovate to succeed. Focus on solutions and thinking differently so that we can keep helping those that need us
  5. Prove to society that adults with learning disabilities can make a huge contribution to their communities when they have the opportunity and the right support
  6. Collaborate more closely with families, carers, local and national partners to deliver the right outcomes