UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


Lettsom’s ‘Hints designed to promote Beneficence, Temperence & Medical Science’

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 18 July 2014

John Coakley Lettsom (1744–1815) was a Quaker philanthropist, botanist, natural historian and doctor, author of  Hints designed to promote Beneficence, Temperence & Medical Science which we have in the library.  He was another of those 18th century men who makes one feel inadequate, so wide were his interests and works.  He was the founder of the oldest medical society in the United Kingdom, the Medical Society of London.  Born in the British Virgin Islands, Lettsom (also Lettsome) trained as a doctor at St. Thomas’ in London before returning to Tortola where he freed the slaves he had inherited.  Among other things he promoted use of the mangel-wurzel and wrote a book on entomology.  The Wikepedia article on him quotes this rhyme he is supposed to have penned about himself,

I, John Lettsome,
Blisters, bleeds and sweats ‘em.
If, after that, they please to die,
I, John Lettsome.

Lettsom was friends with Benjamin Franklin and corresponded with George Washington (DNB), and Erasmus Darwin.  The DNB entry tells us,

Lettsom was an ardent believer in the benefits of useful knowledge, medical advice, and moral exhortation, and a tireless writer on such topics; he produced books and pamphlets against drunkenness, for example, and on the evils of tea drinking. In The natural history of the tea tree with observations on its medical qualities, and effects of tea-drinking (1772) he argued that the habit made society enervated and effeminate.

In the three volume Hints, which were originally published in 1801, were reprinted (our edition) in 1816, is full of fascinating essays and beautiful illustrations.  Chapter titles include, ‘Hints respecting the Immediate Effects of Poverty’ from which the illustration next is taken (click for larger size); Morning walk

Hints respecting Female Character, and a Repository for Female Industry; Hints respecting the Cowpock; Hints respecting a Substitute for Wheat Bread etc.

The reason we are interested in the books is due to Lettsom’s essay on the Old Kent Road Asylum, which was co-founded by the Rev. Henry Cox Mason (illustrated in silhouette below), namely Hints respecting the Support and Education of the Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor.  Click onto the link to read his short chapter on the asylum, including a list of pupils (whether from 1801 or 1816 I cannot say).
Rev Mason

Lettsom’s Hints (Google eBook)

“the deaf [...] were specially liable to consumption for want of properly exercising their vocal organs”: Edmund Symes-Thompson

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 11 July 2014

Edmund Symes-Thompson (1837-1907) was born in Keppel Street in London, in the house next door to that where Anthony Trollope had been born in 1815.  His father Dr Theophilus Thompson F.R.S. (1807-60) was one of the founders of the Brompton Hospital, where he was an expert in Consumption, and according to his DNB entry “is credited with being the person who introduced cod-liver oil into England”, no doubt endearing him to generations of children then yet unborn.Edmud Symes Thompson

Edmund followed his father into the medical profession, training at Kings College London where he won several prizes.  He too went to work at the Brompton Hospital and became an expert in chest diseases.

In addition to his work as a doctor, he was Professor of Physic at Gresham College and lectured there for many years.  Although some of his ideas seem bizarre now, he was was accepting of the scientific discoveries of his lifetime, but sought to reconcile them with his deeply held religious beliefs.  He expressed this through membership of the Guild of Saint Luke, an organisation founded by some surgeons in 1868.  At it height it held annual services in St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey attended by large numbers of the medical profession.*

Symes-Thompson subscribed to the view that Deaf people were more likely to suffer from pulmonary diseases than the hearing, promoting those views at the Milan Congress in 1881 (Esmail p.245).  Here is the Symes-Thompson Milan paper.  After his death his wife gathered together materials to produced  a book about his life called Memories of Edmund Symes-Thompson M.D., F.R.C.P. A Follower of St. Luke In it we can read about the origins of the Ealing College for Training Teachers of the Deaf and Symes-Thompson’s links with that organisation.

The college was oralist, founded by Benjamin Ackers, and we have mentioned it before as it features strongly in the promotion of the ‘German’ system in the late 19th century.  Mrs. Ackers contributed a short history of the Society to the Mermories -

An English gentleman of high abilities, the late Mr. Arthur Kinsey, was sent by Mr. Ackers to Germany and elsewhere and thoroughly trained, and then in 1877, with the warm sympathy and aid of Dr. and Mrs. Symes-Thompson and other friends of the deaf, the ‘Society for Training Teachers of the Deaf and for the Diffusion of the German System’ was formed. Dr. Symes-Thompson threw himself the more heartily into the scheme because, as Senior Physician to the Brompton Hospital for Consumption, his long and keen observation led him to note that the deaf – in those days not taught to speak – were specially liable to consumption for want of properly exercising their vocal organs. The following year the Training College for Teachers of the Deaf, with Mr. Kinsey as Principal, was opened at Ealing, with a small practising school attached; for, needless to say, students cannot be trained unless they can see how deaf children are taught, the way in which sounds have to be developed, ideas drawn out, and language imparted.

Edmund Symes-Thompson was a member of the Society for the remainder of his life, ending as Chairman.  It may be instructive, if slightly shocking to a modern reader, to see quite how determined the Society was to stop children signing – this ‘Appendix C’ below comes from the 1906 report, the year Symes-Thompson died.

appendix c

In 1899 Charles Mansfield Owen, who was a member of The Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb, wrote a pamphlet where he set out his opposition to the views on oralism and societies for the deaf, that Symes-Thompson had expressed to the English Bishops in a circular letter on Missions to the Deaf and Dumb.  Owen wrote “His letter (however unintentionally), is likely to do considerable injury to the cause of these Missions” and proceeded to give answer in the Spiritual Care of the Adult Deaf and Dumb.

We should note that despite Symes-Thompson’s interest in the deaf, I cannot find a mention of him in Neil Weir’s Otolaryngology: An Illustrated History  and he was not an otolaryngologist.  It would be interesting to see what his contemporaries who were otolaryngologists made of his ideas regarding deafness.

Over to the researchers!

*I can find no evidence of this particular guild after the 1920s of some newspaper reports of the annual service.  Perhaps it ended with the Second World War.



Esmail, Jennifer, Reading Victorian Deafness. 2013

T. B. Browning, ‘Thompson, Theophilus (1807–1860)’, rev. Kaye Bagshaw, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/27277, accessed 3 July 2014]

E. Symes-Thompson, Memories of Edmund Symes-Thompson, M.D., F.R.C.P.: a follower of St. Luke (1908) – Our copy is signed by the authoress, Lilla Symes-Thompson, and inscribed to the Bishop of Gibralter

Deaf Bakers in Cornwall

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 3 July 2014

Unattributed photograpgh form the period around 1920, showing Deaf bakers in Cornwall.

Deaf Bakers

Deaf Miners in Bishop Auckland ca.1920

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 27 June 2014

Time constraints mean a picture post only today.  By an unknown photographer, but in the Oxley photographs, is this nice image of Deaf miners from ca. 1920.  Someone out there may know who they are.  Where are they working?  I would guess they are loading mined coal onto the narrow gauge railway before it went on to a larger railway wagon.  If you can tell us anything about the picture please tell us.

Deaf Miners


I see there is still a Deaf Club in the Bishop Auckland -



“Her countenance was full of intelligence”…

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 20 June 2014

The General Institution for the Instruction of Deaf & Dumb Children at Edgbaston eventually became the ROYAL SCHOOL FOR DEAF CHILDREN, Birmingham. 


Established in 1812, it was the first provincial institution founded in England.  The school opened in 1814 as the General Institution for the Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Children, with Thomas Braidwood (grandson of Thomas Braidwood, the pioneer of deaf education in the UK) as its first headmaster.  In the first report for 1814, we read of its origins;

In the autumn of 1812, a Lecture was delivered in the Rooms of the Birmingham Philosophical Institution of the Deaf and Dumb. To illustrate some of the principles of this art, and, at the same time, afford an example of their efficacy in practice, the Lecturer introduced a deaf and dumb child*, to whose instruction his friend, Mr. Alex. Blair, and himself, had given considerable attention.

The audience at the lecture were much interested by this little child. Her appearance, indeed, was remarkably engaging. Her countenance was full of intelligence, and all her actions and attitudes, in the highest degree, animated and expressive; while the eagerness with which she watched the countenances of her instructors, and the delight with which she sprang forward to execute, or rather to anticipate their wishes, afforded a most affecting spectacle.

[...]  The great obstacles to her improvement were now, in some degree, removed.  She could read and write,; and, by the use of signs, she could communicate her own sentiments, and comprehend those of others.  [...]  the Lecture excited a very general desire, that some means should be found of completing what had been so ably begun [...]

*The name of the child is Jane Williams.  She was, at that time, eight years old, and has been deaf and dumb from her birth.

The Institution was founded as a result of meetings that followed this lecture.

I have scanned a list of the pupils from the 1828 annual report – it is always fascinating to see if one can find out what became of them.

Pupil list 1828

Annual reports for 1814, 1829, 1831, 1832, 1834, 1838 -1844, 1847, 1850-1858, 1860-1863, 1865-1887, 1888/89-1994/95, 1896/97, 1898, 1900-1905, 1907-1914, 1916-1921, 1923-1935, 1936/37-1962/63

Historical notes of our institutions. III. The Birmingham Institution. Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1888, 1, 307-314.

British Deaf Monthly, 1901, 11, 293, 295, 297. (photos of classes – these photos, and others, also appear in the annual reports for the 1900s, which also include illustrations of the school buildings))

Birmingham tragedy. British Deaf News, 1984, 15(6), 1.

TOBIN, M. The Royal School for Deaf Children, Edgbaston. Talking Sense, 1985, 31(2), 6-7. (History and photos)

Edgbaston classroom rebellion, 1826.  British Deaf News, 1998, Mar, 7.

French Soldiers learn to lip read, circa 1920

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 13 June 2014

In the British Deaf Times for March-April 1922 (p.21) we read that the Duke and Duchess of Portland attended a tea for deafened ex-servicemen in Nottingham.   The former soldiers followed proceedings by lip-reading.

The lip-reading classes held in Nottingham and Mansfield have afforded instruction to 173 ex-service men, and keen disappointment is felt at an intimation the the Ministry of Pensions is likely to stop the grant, for there are many more afflicted who need similar instruction. Some 230 men in the East Midland region have been reported to Nottingham, and there are about 60 more known to be deaf, but who have not been reported. [...]
It is impossible to over-estimate the benefit offered. The high percentage of ex-service ment in this region is considered to be due to the fact that Medical Boards and aural specialists have been particularly keen in recommending cases, and that the teachers here have a happy faculty for teaching deaf men.

There is a fair bit of material on deafness in the military in the First World War and all the way through to modern conflicts, but no one has as far as I am aware written anything about the scale of the problem in the post war years and how people managed to cope.

The photographs here show a teacher in France working with deafened soldiers in Nantes. We do not know the name of the teacher, but I believe he would be easily identifiable, so if you know who he is please add a comment below. The pictures show, in a pre-audiometric testing era, the ways in which hearing was tested and lip-reading taught.

French soldiers 6

Deaf soldiers Nantes 1 001The idea in the first image is to test the ability to lip-read from an angle.French Soldiers 4French Soldiers 3

French soldiers 2French Soldiers 5Here we see various hearing tests. Finally Deaf Soldier Nates 3 AH 001I particularly wonder why lip-reading ancient history was one of the lessons!

“He has been out of work long time”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 6 June 2014

The years after the Great War were difficult for Deaf people, as the absence of so many men in the armed forces provided opportunities for employment for them as it had for women, then lost as those soldiers were demobbed.  Schools were fairly good at training people so that they would have an opportunity to get a trade and either work for themselves or find employment.  Bootmaking was high on the list of such trades for boys.

This picture of a certain W.P. Fone of & Siddon’s Rd, Hartington Rd, Tottenham (which of the two he is I cannot say) was clearly intended as an advertisement.   On the reverse in pencil it says,

He has been out of work long time
He is going to try make boots repair at home in garden. They are very good nice repair.

It is possible that the photo is by Hallett.bootmakers 001  We cannot be sure of the date but I am confident it is 1918 or later.  I have not identified his first name (William? Walter?) and as we cannot be sure of his age and when he lost his hearing that makes him harder to find in the census returns.  If you can identify him or find his name in a list of pupils at a Deaf School, please leave a comment.

Click onto the image for a larger size.

A Deaf Chauffeur circa 1920

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 30 May 2014

This picture by an unknown (deaf) photographer – probably one of the four we have mentioned here before – is from circa 1920.  Now the numberplate seems clear, and XA is a Kirkcaldy number.  If that is so then that prefix was used from 1920-26.  We think it is a bus or a perhaps a charabanc.  It has headlamps but no obvious headlights.  What is the ‘Deaf Chauffeur’, as the picture is entitled, actually doing?  Is it just a pose, pretending to be doing something – which is what photographers so often do (it is not the camera which lies, but the cameraman!)…

I think this is from a deaf club or social group’s day trip.


If you think you can work out the actual vehicle please put a note in the comment section.  Someone out there who is a Commer Car fan will know!


Noise Action Week – Recent Articles on Noise and Health

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 22 May 2014

This week two awareness weeks coincide, both within our area of interest and coverage, namely Deaf Awareness Week and Noise Action Week.

Deaf Awareness Week is themed this year on “Equality In Communication For All” .

Noise Action Week “is an annual opportunity to focus the attention of communities on the problems excessive noise can cause for us all – at home, at work, at study and at leisure.”

Below is a list of recent articles on various aspects of noise and health, from noise mapping, to noise pollution and environmental noise.  Click on the links for abstracts or access to full articles where available:

Kephalopoulos S et al.  Advances in the development of common noise assessment methods in Europe: The CNOSSOS-EU framework for strategic environmental noise mapping.  The Science of the Total Environment, 2014 Jun 1;482-483:400-10. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.02.031. Epub 2014 Feb 28.

Kim, S.J.et al.  Exposure-Response Relationship Between Aircraft Noise and Sleep Quality: A Community-based Cross-sectional Study  (2014) Osong Public Health and Research Perspectives, Article in Press 

Turunen, M.et al.  Indoor environmental quality in school buildings, and the health and wellbeing of students (2014) International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health,  Article in Press

Hooper, R.E.  Acoustic shock controversies  (2014) Journal of Laryngology and Otology, Article in Press

Holzman, D.C.  Fighting noise pollution: A public health strategy (2014) Environmental Health Perspectives, 122 (2), pp. A58

Banerjee, D. et al.  Association between road traffic noise and prevalence of coronary heart disease (2014) Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 186 (5), pp. 2885-2893

Basner, M. et al  Auditory and non-auditory effects of noise on health (2014) The Lancet, 383 (9925), pp. 1325-1332

Sygna, K. et al.  Road traffic noise, sleep and mental health (2014) Environmental Research, 131, pp. 17-24

Seltenrich, N.  Wind turbines: A different breed of noise? (2014) Environmental Health Perspectives, 122 (1), pp. A20-A25.

Thomas Davidson, Deaf Artist – “he became a kindly hearted, liberal thinker”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 16 May 2014

Thomas Davidson, R.A. (1842-1919), was an artist of great skill.  He specialised in historical naval scenes, and also created memorable paintings illustrating the work of Emily Brontë .   He had a close association with St. Saviour’s Church in Oxford Street, London, including  being part of the Deaf and Dumb Debating Society, the R.A.D.D., and on the Committee of the Charitable and Provident Society for the Deaf and Dumb (Ephphatha).

Gilby says in his as yet unpublished memoirs, “The Men and women who were the backbone of the social club at St. Saviour’s, and who were very often seen there, were Thomas Davidson, the artist, Samuel Bright Lucas (son of Mrs.Margaret Lucas, foundress of the British Womens Temperance League), C W. Moore, the wood engraver, a friend of Brangwyn and other artists, W. Emerton the Emersons, W. H. Boughten, H. G. G. Ayshford, the wood engraver, and Hay Taylor.”

Davidson was born in London on 17th of January 1842, son of ‘Thomas Davidson Esq. of Hyde Park Corner’ (Deaf and Dumb Magazine).*  The family came originally from Kelso in Scotland (British Deaf Mute).  Losing his hearing aged four, young Thomas was sent as a private pupil to Thomas Watson, at the Old Kent Road Institution, then afterwards to a ‘hearing’ school in Clapham.  He is said to have thought oral education important.  He attended the School of Art at Marlborough House, (later home to the Prince of Wales) “under the two Whichelos” according to Gilby (Ephphatha).  He also studied under “Mr. Carey of Bloomsbury, Mr. Leigh of Newman Street, and Mr. Alex. Johnston of Fitzroy Square” before going to the Royal Academy for ten years (Deaf and Dumb Magazine).  The British Deaf Mute puts a Mr. Hatherly in there as well and I expect that it would be possible to research all these people to put Davidson’s development as an artist into context.  Thomas was also the winner of Royal Academy silver medals, and in 1868 he shared a studio in Paris with Claud Calthorp, “attending M. Bonnett’s atelier”.

Davidson Nelson 001

Davidson married in 1871 and had a large family with his wife Charlotte Douglas McHeath, who was also an exhibited artist.  In 1881 they were living at 82 Park Road, Hampstead.  His second son Douglas became a student at the Academy, while other children became an architect and a ‘news correspondent in Holland’.

Davidson died in Walberswick in Suffolk where he had retired, in November 1919.

“Looking towards the Altar, and on the right, a great picture by Thomas Davidson (himself deaf and dumb) called Ephphatha dominated the Church and decidedly was its principal adornment.  We give an illustration of this picture, though the reproduction by no means conveys a proper idea of the glorious golden sunset which fills the rear ground.” (Gilby, Memoirs)

st. saviour's interior

In Peeps Into the Deaf World, Roe quotes Davidson,

All the deaf should read a great deal, and that will give them more knowledge of the world, past and present. I am a great reader, and have read history, biography, books on travel, religion, and novels, besides the daily newspapers, and it is a great comfort – this reading – to one who is deaf, and to whom little is said.

In his obituary (Ephphatha), Gilby says that his “opinions and methods in art were conservative, but in many ways he was in advance of his time, and he became a kindly hearted, liberal thinker.”

The picture of Davidson here is by his friend C.W. Moore (Deaf and Dumb Magazine, 1879)


British Deaf-Mute, 1895, 4(40), 66. (illus)

Deaf and Dumb Magazine, 1879, 7(82), 152-54. (illus)

W.R. Roe, A distinguished deaf-mute artist, Peeps into the Deaf World, 1917, p.262-7 (illus)

F.W.G.G[ilby], Mr. Thomas Davidson, Ephphatha, 1920, no.45 p.576

* Thomas Davidson  This website lists his father as George, but as he is listed as Thomas Davidson Junior in the list of subscribers to St. Saviour’s (for 1861-2) on the same page and at the same address as another Thomas Davidson, it seems clear that that website is in error.  We are grateful to Dr. W. J. Lyons for this information.