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Another private deaf school, another ardent oralist – John Barber, “a man of sincere religious fervour whom we all respected”

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 11 August 2017

Teacher of the deaf John Barber, was born in the village of Edenham, Lincolnshire in 1836.  I have no details of his early life, but according to his marriage certificate his father was a farmer, George Baker.  By 1861 he was a schoolmaster at the village of Irby in Lincolnshire.  I have not tracked him down in any earlier census returns but that could be because of transcription errors ‘hiding’ his name – or perhaps I gave up looking too soon.  By 1866 he was living in London.  I have no idea how he came to be involved with deaf education, but in that year he founded his private school, and married Lois Elizabeth Taylor, the daughter of a clergyman.  At that time he was living in Southgate (north London).  Sadly she died in early 1872.  In the 1871 census he was living at Fairview Lodge, Edmonton, as a ‘teacher of the deaf and dumb,’ but with only one pupil listed as living in, Robert Burrell, who was not recorded as deaf (however see below).

In 1875 he married Amy Smith Hodges, and they had three children, and by the time of the 1881 census, they were established at ‘Inglefield,’ Edgware Road.  This is perhaps the same as the address, ‘Inglefield,’ Christchurch Avenue, Brondesbury, N.W. where the school was until 1903.  In that year – see below – they moved nearby to 186 Willesden Lane, though that building has since been lost to redevelopment.

The 1881 list of pupils and teachers includes the following – William Burrel, who was the younger brother of Robert, and Beatrice, their sister.  Note the widespread origins of the pupils.

Margaret A. Rossiter Assistant 23 1858 Female Governess Teacher Of The Deaf Ceylon, East Indies
Ethel Marion Robinson Assistant 20 1861 Female Teacher Of The Deaf Wymondham Leicestershire
Annie G. Boultbee Scholar 16 1865 Female Scholar Leeds Yorkshire
Edwin Docharty Scholar 15 1866 Male Scholar Lanarkshire
William Burrell Scholar 15 1866 Male Scholar Fornham Suffolk
Ada S. Russell Scholar 13 1868 Female Scholar Islington Middlesex
Merton J. Mansfield Scholar 12 1869 Male Scholar Notting Hill Middlesex
Augusta Challis Scholar 12 1869 Female Scholar Buckhurst Hill Essex
George B. Challis Scholar 10 1871 Male Scholar Buckhurst Hill Essex
Frederick W. Talbot Scholar 11 1870 Male Scholar Batley Yorkshire
Beatrice Burrell Scholar 10 1871 Female Scholar Fornham Suffolk
James Hudson Scholar 11 1870 Male Scholar Scarborough Yorkshire
Wilfred Docharty Scholar 9 1872 Male Scholar Lanarkshire
Adelina Glasgow Scholar 10 1871 Female Scholar Marylebone Middlesex
Katie Mannering Scholar 6 1875 Female Scholar Islington Middlesex

In 1891 they had thirteen pupils, but in 1901 only three.  Ethel Marion Robinson was still a teacher living and working with Barber in 1903.  It seems that in the late 19th century, women teachers often remained unmarried.  I wonder why that was – perhaps it has to do with attitudes to women in work, or perhaps it provided a woman with some freedom from the constraints of a Victorian marriage.  Ethel died of pneumonia, in 1905, aged only 44.

She was one of the earliest Members, by examination, of the College of Teachers of the Deaf; and she joined the Union of the Teachers of the Deaf on the Oral System at its commencement, ansd was frequently present at its meetings in which she took a deep interest.

She won the affection of her pupils by her unwearied kindness […] (Teacher of the Deaf, 1905)

By 1911, he was living at 45 Fordwych Road, Cricklewood, with two deaf pupils, one from Ireland and one born in India, presumably to an army or civil service family.  In the National Bureau’s Deaf Handbook for 1913, the school was established at 41 Plympton Road, Brondesbury, a three-floored terraced house.

Barber died in 1919.

For some tome past he had been an invalid and unable to attend the meetings oif the National College of Teachers of the Deaf and the Pure Oral Union.
Mr. Barber succeeded Mr. Ackers as Chairman of the Pure Oral Union, and upon the conclusion of his term of office he was unanimously elected a Vice-President of the Union. […]
Mr Barber did excellent work in his school at Brondesbury, and his old pupils revere the memory of their teacher and friend. (J.F.W., 1919)

Gilby mentions him in passing – “Mr. J. Barber, of Brondesbury […] who took private oral pupils: a man of sincere religious fervour whom we all respected” (Gilby memoir p.55)

It would make a really interesting dissertation project for a student with an interest in Deaf Education to look at the census returns of pupils & see what became of them.  Perhaps we could compare them with pupils from poorer backgrounds at public institutions.  For example, in 1911 Beatrice Burrel was unmarried and living with her parents (her father was a ‘farmer and director of companies) and her older brother Walton Robert – we assume ‘Robert’ in the 1871 census – was also there working as a photographer.  Yet another Deaf photographer!  But, that they were living at home, makes me wonder how well they were able to communicate outside the family.  Beatrice died within living memory, in 1956, and her brother Walton Robert in 1944.  There were two other deaf siblings – as well as William, there was Maud.  They were living together, and all the children seem to have been single.

Walton Robert’s photos are in the Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds Branch.

When we write this blog, we never quite know where it will end up!  If you know more about the Burrels, do contibute below.

Private school advertsObituary Notice, Teacher of the Deaf, 1905, 3, 266

J.F.W., Death of Mr J. Barber, Teacher of the Deaf, 1919, 17, 120.

1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 2376; Folio: 104; Page: 2; GSU roll: 542962

1871 Census – Class: RG10; Piece: 1342; Folio: 56; Page: 34; GSU roll: 828284

1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1362; Folio: 38; Page: 12; GSU roll: 1341330

1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1044; Folio: 152; Page: 32; GSU roll: 6096154

1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 1224; Folio: 54; Page: 1

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 634

Beatrice Burrel & Walton Robert Burrell

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 10646; Schedule Number: 4

William Burrell and Maud Clare Burrell

1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 10633; Schedule Number: 15

http://www.gritquoy.com/genealogy/getperson.php?personID=I4669&tree=001Master