“urging that the Library should be transferred to Manchester” – The Arnold Library book loans register (1899-1922)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 12 September 2014

Among the curious mix or archives and books in the library, we have this interesting register that was used to record loans of books by the Arnold Library (1898-1922).  This was the library of the National Association of Teachers for the deaf (N.A.T.D.).  The nucleus was formed by the collection of the late Rev. Thomas Arnold, with additions from Mr J.Howard, Dr William Stainer and others.  In 1905 the librarian was a Mr J.D. Rowan of the Deaf Schools, Versailles Rd, Anerley, which is in south east London.   It seems to have remained there until 1912 when it was taken over by the National Bureau for the Promoting the General Welfare of the Deaf and housed in their rooms at Holborn.

In 1921 we read in The Teacher of the Deaf that there were arguments in the N.A.T.D. over whether the library should stay there.  “A discussion ensued, Messrs. Craig, Greenslade, and B.P. Jones urging that the Library should be transferred to Manchester, while Miss Croghan, Messrs. Addison, Brown and Ince Jones, spoke in favour of the Committee’s recommendation.”  The decision went against a move at that time, but by April 1922 the idea was back on the agenda, being urged now by A.J. Story.  It was agreed to open negotiations and on September 16th the Library Committee reported that the sale was completed for £350.  The sale seems to have been at the time when the National Bureau was at its weakest, just before it was revived.  I believe some books that were not required by Manchester were retained.

Early borrowers of books include Miss E.F. Boultbee, who borrowed Van Praagh’s Lipreading, Miss Bodily who borrowed Peet’s Language Lessons, Frank Barnes, and A. Farrar (a former pupil of Arnold) who borrowed a variety of historical material including the 1880 Milan Congress report.  Below I chose pages from 100 years ago – click for a larger image and see what J.H. Haine of the Hugh Myddelton School and W.C. Roe of Derby were borrowing in the months at the beginning of the Great War.

Arnold LibraryThe Arnold Library Fund, British Deaf Monthly Vol.7, No.79, May 1898

The Teacher of the Deaf, Vol.19 (various issues with the committee reports), Vol. 20, p.57, 157

National Institute for the Deaf Medical Scrapbook, circa 1935

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 5 September 2014

As a conduit & clearing house for information on all aspects of hearing loss and deafness, the National Institute for the Deaf (N.I.D., now Action on Hearing Loss) was careful to gather information or stories that encompassed these topics in the popular press and in academic journals to which they had access.  This scrapbook from 1935 is illustrative of this.  It contains cuttings from a wide variety of papers and journals on medical aspects of hearing loss and deafness.  As it was the 1920s, when the topic of eugenics was extremely popular, many of the stories touch on that, some in favour and some against.

In one image we read about the huge number of Germans who were being sterilised, in the other we see sterilisation arguments in the British press.

Another story from 28th of march 1935 in the Daily Express, says that the Rotherham Schools Medical Officer, Dr. A.C. Turner

believes that more than 1,000 of the children under his care have varying degrees of deafness – but their class-rooms are too noisy for him to find out!

Recently his department bought a portable audiometer – a delicate instrument used in the testing of hearing – and his assistants have been going from school to school searching in vain for a room quiet enough to use the apparatus.
“Before the audiometer can function accurately we must have a room with perfect quiet,” Dr. Turner told me.

“We cannot find one! Each room we have tested has had so many distracting noises that the recordings are incomplete.

“I am advocating an aural clinic in which the audiometer could be installed in a sound-proof room.”

Perhaps someone in the Rotherham area interested in medical history could find out more about Dr. Turner and see if or when he got his room.

Click onto the images for a larger scale view.

scrapbook 1 scrapbook 2

Roe Memorial House for the Adult Deaf, Derby 1936-?

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 29 August 2014

Roe Memorial House for the Adult Deaf seems to have been founded in 1936/7, at 93 Friar Gate, Derby.  It employed a resident superintendent who was

trained for work amongst the deaf, understanding their needs, and able to deal with them [...] to help in the placement of a boy or girl on leaving school or to seek for work for an unemployed deaf man or woman, and generally to ensure that everything possible is done to enable the deaf to share in the opportunities open to those who can hear.

Roe House is also a Social Centre where the deaf can meet for games and recreation and where Religious Services are presented in a form which can be understood by a deaf congregation.  During the course of the year the Superintendent, who is provided with a car, has travelled some ten thousand miles up and down the County in connection with visiting and placement work.

Dr W.R. Roe (1849 -1920) who founded the Royal Institution for the Deaf in Derby and was headmaster of  the Derby school was the person being commemorated.  The house, now offices, has hardly changed on the outside.  Derby has been said to be the capital of the Deaf in England.*

Roe was also Vice Chairman of the National Association for Teachers of the Deaf 1905.  His son William Carey Roe succeeded him as headmaster.  Roe has left us a number of interesting works including his Peeps into the Deaf World.  In it we have items about former pupils telling us a little about them and how they were successful in life after school, as well at stories about deaf people around the world.  I am not clear when Roe Memorial House closed – if you know please leave a comment.WR Roe

Roe memorial house*Derby is described as “England’s capital city for deaf people” in the Derby Evening Telegraph, Oct 1999 -

Backing for sign language. Derby Evening Telegraph, 1999, 16 Oct, 14

Roe Memorial House Annual Reports 1938, 1942, 1949, 1954, 1955

Portrait. Teacher of the Deaf, 1913, 11(63), frontispiece.


“Social purity work” – Dunbar Lodge, Maternity and Rescue Home for Deaf and Dumb Girls, 1927-1938?

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 8 August 2014

Dunbar Lodge, 20 Kings Avenue Clapham,the Maternity and Rescue Home for Deaf and Dumb Girls was founded by the Royal Association for the Deaf and Dumb in 1927.  It had its roots in 1924 “the year a Committee was first appointed to deal with the question of making special provision for Deaf and Dumb girls in this branch of Social purity work” (Annual Report 1929-30).  It aimed to rescue and house “Deaf and Dumb unmarried mothers and their babies, and [...] other Deaf and Dumb girls in moral danger” (see various annual reports).  In March 1929 there were eight girls and seven babies.  “The girls stay at least one year and longer if it is thought necessary” (Annual Report 1929-30).  In addition to annual reports we have two minute books that cover the period up to 1938.   They cover all sorts of issues including building work, for example on 18th December 1929 we read that

A letter was read from the Architect giving estimates for various items in his original report. It was decided to authorise Miss Daniels to have the tiles and gutters attended to and the Baby Shelter re-roofed with asbestos but not to proceed with the other items.

We can only hope that mesothelioma was not a consequence in those babies.Dunbar Lodge

Although of the nature of these minutes, covering delicate issues that include illegitimacy and having the names of some of the women concerned might make us consider that early parts of the minutes are closed records, they pretty quickly started to refer to the inmates by number, thus ensuring anonymity.  An early Medical Officer for the home in 1929 was a Dr. Janet McGill.  I am sure it would be possible to find out more about her from a medical directory of the appropriate date.  That same year the home was visited by H.H. Princess Marie Louise who “spoke most feelingly to the guests, assembled in the garden, of the handicap of Deaf and Dumbness, and of the need which the Home was supplying.”  In the 1937/8 report we read that

The Home is financed by payments made for the girls  and their babies by those responsible for sending them to the Home, usually Public Assistance Committees, and by the grant from the L.C.C., these represent, roughly, two thirds of the total cost, leaving the final third, about £350 to be met by subscriptions and donations. The Committee decided last year to raise the charge made for the maintenance of the girls but it is impossible to raise it sufficiently to cover the whole cost and the Committee therefore appeal again for increased supposrt in the for of subscriptions and donations, an additional £250 p.a. is needed.

As we see, it was not a cheap place to keep running.  The 21st January 1938 minutes say there was an accumulated deficit of £1,213!  Without checking the R.A.D.D. annual reports I am not clear when the home closed, but wonder if the war was the final nail?  The building is gone now.

Click onto this page from the minutes where we read the shocking news that nurse Masters had joined the Church of Rome!

Minutes Dunbar Lodge

Annual Reports 1928-38

Minute books 1929-38



A card from Yvonne Pitrois, Deaf Writer (1880-1937)

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 25 July 2014

Yvonne Pitrois was a deaf writer whose name became known in the Anglophone Deaf community in Britain, the USA and Australia through her articles in newspapers such as the British Deaf Times.

Yvonne PitroisAlthough she was born hearing, on 18th of November 1880, at the age of six she became deaf after suffering from sunstroke we are told (Roe), and her sight was also severely affected for many years.*  She was however taught to read and write by her mother, who remained Yvonne’s companion until she died in 1927.  Her works began to appear in periodicals when she was seventeen, and we are told by Roe that she became a member of the Société des Gens de Lettres.  Roe says,

She considers that the deaf of England and the United States are better off than those of France, for in the latter country there are very few who interest themselves in the spiritual and temporal welfare of the deaf as a class.  This specially applies to the adult deaf, and she points to the fact that there is only one Protestant clergyman – M. Vigier, of Paris – a former teacher of the deaf, who is really doing satisfactory mission work among the Protestant deaf.

Her background was Huguenot.

During the Great war she worked hard for the Deaf of France and Belgium uprooted by the war, and was afterwards decorated by the King of Belgium (Hartig, p. 94).  From 1913 to her death in 1937, she published and edited La Petite Silencieuse.  We have a complete set in the library.  The last edition was a ‘special issue’ after her death, with photographs and biographical notes.  It says,

Son ardent patriotisme lui a inspiré des récits qui apportèrent  aux heures sombres de 1914-18 un regain de courage aux soldats dans la tranchées, un peu de baume aux meurtrissures des pauvres mamans, des fiancées deuillées, des veuves solitaires! (La Petite Silencieuse, Noel 1937, p.7)

From the postcard below, we can see that in 1919 Pitrois began to act as an ‘agent’ for Selwyn Oxley, obtaining books and journals for his growing ‘Ephphatha’ Library, which was a forerunner of our collection.

After discussing what she will do in obtaining and sending him, material, she writes,

Thank you very much to take in hands the cause of these poor deaf old people in Brussels. I should be very pleased to see you! but I fear that you will be quite disappointed with me, for I live as an hermit and never mix with anyone – either hearing or deaf, my work take up all my time and it is entirely done by correspondence. My heart was nearly broken when I heard of the passing away of Miss D.S. Wise! **  What a loss for our silent world!
With Kind Regards
Yvonne Pitrois

Click for a larger size.

Pitrois postcard

*Hartig says this happened when she was aged seven (p.78).

** Dorothy Stanton Wise, Deaf Sculptor (we hope to cover her in a future item).

Roe, W.R., Peeps into the Deaf World, London, 1917, p.347-8
Hartig, Rachel M.,  Crossing the divide : representations of deafness in biography, Washington, 2006

La Petite Silencieuse 1913-37

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.