John Alfred Groom was a London engraver and evangelical preacher, who became concerned with the plight of the poverty-stricken and often disabled girls and women who sold flowers and watercress in the streets around Farringdon Market. His work with them began when he founded the Watercress and Flower Girls' Christian Mission in 1866. A permanent home for the mission was found in Harp Alley and Lord Shaftesbury became its first president. Religious services were held at Foresters' Hall until its destruction in 1890, after which John Groom purchased Woodbridge Chapel, Clerkenwell.
Taking inspiration from the trend for imported handmade flowers, John Groom set up a factory in Sekforde Street, close to the Woodbridge Chapel, where disabled girls could work at making artificial flowers and thus make a living for themselves. The girls lived in houses in Sekforde Street, rented by John Groom. Further factories were subsequently built in Woodbridge Street and Haywards Place. The name of the charity was changed to John Groom's Crippleage and Flower Girls Mission in 1907.
Rising inner London rents forced the charity's council to purchase a large estate in Edgware in 1931 and the whole operation moved there in 1932. In 1965 Edgware opened its doors to male residents. The charity's name changed again in 1969 to John Groom's Association for the Disabled and in 1990 to John Groom's Association for Disabled People.
John Groom was also very concerned for the welfare of deprived and orphaned children. He bought a house at Clacton-on-Sea and built others around it and his orphanage opened in 1890. During World War II the older children from Clacton were evacuated to Davenport House, Shropshire, with the babies being sent first to Edgware and then to Farncote House, Wolverhampton. After the war the older children moved into a new home at Pilgrim's House, Kent, and the babies moved to the new Cudham Hall, also in Kent. In 1956 Charnwood, near Chislehurst was purchased to provide a family children's home with room for 12 children. Thorpe Bay Children's Home was added to the list in 1951 when John Grooms took over a children's convalescent home at Stamford Hill House. The charity's work with children finally ended in 1979.
John Grooms expanded its work with housing for the disabled during the early 1970s, with John Groom's Housing Association becoming a registered charity in its own right. The association's developments have included flats in Princess Crescent, Finsbury Park (1973), Dolphin Court, which was built on the site of the Thorpe Bay Children's Home (1984) and John Grooms Court, Norwich (1989).
The charity has also developed the idea of special holidays for the disabled, with hotels in Minehead and Llandudno, and self-catering caravans and bungalows. It has also been involved with a special Brain Injuries Rehabilitation Unit, Icanho, in Stowmarket, and the HOPE Nursery at Cheshunt which provides horticultural employment and therapy for disabled workers.