The Northbrook Community Trust has been concerned with the care and support of children and young people in Devon since 1836, initially as a Refuge for girls and boys discharged from prison. In 1854, the Refuge combined with the Devon and Exeter Reformatory School for Boys, which began in Brampford Speke, just north of Exeter. In 1955 the school also accommodated the boys from Farringdon House Approved School, and moved to Whipton, when it was renamed Northbrook House School.
This closed in 1983. Child care and educational provision continued on the site in partnership with Devon County Council, who assumed overall responsibility for its management and maintenance. The School evolved into the Northbrook Community Home, which educated and cared for boys and girls. This was later known as Heath Barton.
In a different part of the site owned by Northbrook School, the Atkinson Secure Unit was built in the 1980s. The Unit is managed by a Board of Managers and the Trustees of the Northbrook Community Trust take an active role in its governance. The Atkinson Unit is now seen as an example of excellence within the secure estate, and a model of therapeutic and restorative justice which make a real difference to the lives of young people.
The name Northbrook Community Trust was adopted in 1995, when the objects and constitution of the Trust were revised and updated. In 1996, most of the land comprising the old Boys Reformatory was sold to raise funds for the Trust, and the interest from the capital raised is now available for grants in accordance with the Trust’s charitable objectives.