THE house where a pioneering disabilities campaigner lived for decades after being told he wouldn’t survive has been honoured with a blue plaque.

Robin Cavendish, whose story inspired the hit film Breathe, defied all medical expectations after he was struck down by polio in Kenya in 1958, aged 28.

Despite being completely paralysed from the neck down and needing a ventilator to breathe, he went on to improve the lives of countless other disabled people through his inventions and campaigning until his death in 1994, aged 64.

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Wife Diana Cavendish, who once helped her husband ‘break out’ of Nuffield Hospital, unveiled the plaque alongside friends and family in Drayton St Leonard, near Wallingford, yesterday.

Among those who attended the ceremony was actor Andy Serkis, famous for playing Gollum in Lord of the Rings, who also directed Breathe and lives in the village.

He said: "It is a very special day and I feel privileged to be part of this story.

"Robin and Diana Cavendish truly changed the landscape of what it meant to be severely disabled in the 1960s and 70s and were a great source of inspiration to other disabled people to choose life.

"When I moved here I was completely unaware it was the same village where it all happened. It was one of those amazing coincidences that made me want to make the film even more."

Oxford Mail:

Robin Cavendish with his son Jonathan in about 1963.

Mr Cavendish was given months to live after contracting the disease and doctors advised he wouldn’t survive long outside of hospital.

But, with the help of his wife, he came to live in Drayton St Leonard in 1961 and, alongside his friend and Oxford professor Teddy Hall, he developed a wheelchair with a portable respirator so he could be more mobile.

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He then raised the money to manufacture these machines on a greater scale so they could be used by a growing number of disabled people.

In 1972, Mr Cavendish founded Netley Waterside House, a complex on Southampton Water, where severely disabled people could holiday safely with their families.

He was awarded an MBE for his pioneering work in 1975.

Speaking at the ceremony, son Jonathan Cavendish. who produced the film of his father’s life, said: “We're all thrilled. To know this will be here forever in recognition of his achievements is wonderful.

"When we made the film hardly anyone was aware of him. Even I hadn't fully grasped the extent of what he achieved.

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"But since it came out we've had so many letters from people telling us how he has inspired them to love life.

"I'm sure he would be proud, but very surprised, to see this plaque unveiled in his memory."

To continue Robin Cavendish’s work, his family founded the charity, CS Disabled Holidays, which provides funding for holidays for severely disabled people.