“By education he understood the development of all the best parts and powers of the creature” – Benjamin Hill Payne & the Cambrian School
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 9 October 2015
Benjamin Hill Payne was born on the 23rd of January 1847. He lost his hearing after an attack of scarlet fever aged 10 (Ephphatha 1896). Payne attended the Ranelagh School in Athlone (since closed and sadly the buildings torn down as recently as 1991), then worked as a teacher at Dublin’s Claremont Institutionfor 16 years, before moving to Swansea. At Swansea he became the principal after the resignation of Alexander Mollison in 1875 (ibid), or 1874 according to Raper’s obituary in BDT p.129. He remained there for 40 years. Benjamin Payne’s wife, Miss Passant (d.1921) was also Irish born, from Slane, and she worked at his side as a matron in these schools.
The 1896 article tells us that at the Cambrian school,
Good manners and the little amenities of life are well taught indeed, and there is a refreshing spirit of bon camaraderie apparent between the Principal, his staff, and the children – an air of genial homeliness that surely is of benefit to one and all. Mr. Payne is thoroughgoing. His word is law in the school and none can command more cheerful obedience. […]
That our friend is a past master in matters educational, goes without saying. Both methods are used at his school. He believes in adapting the method to the pupil rather than the pupil to the method. (ibid)
The Cambrian School was formed after a public meeting held by the Mayor in Aberystwyth on 1st of February 1847, and on July 24th the first class was held with two boys at a house in Pier Street under Charls Rhind (see Jones, 1985). The school took more pupils, between the ages of nine and thirteen, and in 1848 there were eight pupils. In 1850 the school moved to Swansea, firstly at Picton Place then later in a new building at Graig Field in 1857 (ibid).
In his memoir, F.W.G. Gilby calls the Paynes ‘dear old friends’, and comments on their value as educators:
The Sleights, father and sons, Edward Townsend of Birmingham, the Paynes of Swansea, Alexander Melville, with Samuel Smith of London, and his brother W.B. Smith of Bristol were the firm stalwarts for the finger alphabet plus signs, and it is not sufficiently known and appreciated how very many splendidly equipped deaf went forth into the world after having been educated by them. (p.145)
He told William Raper of the long hours he had spent with Blomefield Sleight and others drawing up the B.D.D.A. constitution (1926). In retirement Payne helped out running the R.A.D.D. when the Rev. G.J. Chetwynd joined the Officer Corps. Raper tells us, “He was an attractive and elegant signer, and liked plenty of space whenever addressing an audience.”
His sermons were well thought out and interesting, but of late were inclined to be somewhat too long. He would forget the time and apologize for this afterwards. (BDT obituary)
Raper says that Payne wrote,
“The B.D.D.A. is not a mission, nor is it concerned soley with after-care. Its concern is the whole class and all that concerns them. It promotes, and has founded, missions and helped them, and is especially interested in education. It did a good deal to enlighten the public years before the Bureau was founded, and its influence on the teachers and education, though unacknowledged, is apparent today … I have lived with and taught the Deaf in Institutions for 56 years. And I say there are evils – necessary evils at present, but evils – evils out of which it is possible good may come.” (ibid)
We can see Payne’s thinking as early as 1877, when he spoke at the 1877 Conference of Headmasters of Institutions at the Strand in London. I will just quote a few lines, in his discussion of the new oralist versus traditional manualist schools:
By education he understood the development of all the best parts and powers of the creature; instruction was simply specific information. Compare the title of the Association for the Oral Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb with that of the noble old Institution in which he qualified – the National Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb Poor. In that they had all the difference. (ibid, p.106)
Mr & Mrs B.H. Payne, Ephphatha 1915, p.385-6 (pic)
Raper, William, Benjamin Hill Payne, Ephphatha 1926 Autumn, p.1025
Raper, William, Benjamin Hill Payne as I knew him, BDT 1926, vol. 22 p.129-30
Mr Benjamin Hill Payne, BDT 1926, vol 22 p.108
ROYAL CAMBRIAN RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF, Swansea (1847-1950)
LLANDINDROD WELLS RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF (1950-1971)
JONES, H. An outline of the historical development of the school for deaf children in Wales. Association Magazine (BATOD), 1985, May, 9-10.
Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1893, 3, 193-198.
Photo. Wales Hi, 1996, 3(3), back cover.
Royal Commission on the Blind, Deaf and Dumb, 1889. Vol. 2, Appendix 28, 289.
Llandindrod Wells School. Silent World, 1959, 14, 148-51.
Llandindrod Wells Residential School for the Deaf. Wales Hi, 1996, 3(2), 6.