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London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 20 April 2012

London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb (1792-1902) and the Old Kent Road School (1902-1968)

The first free school for deaf children of the poor in the UK, the London Asylum was founded in 1792 by the Rev. John Townsend. Here is a brief chronology.

1792    Opened in Grange Road, Bermondsey.

1809    Moved to Old Kent Road, Southwark.

1840    The streets each side of its grounds were named Townsend Street and Mason Street after its founders.

1862    Some pupils moved to temporary accommodation in Margate.

1875    New building opened in Margate – younger pupils educated in London, older pupils in Margate.

1883    Younger pupils moved from London to temporary accommodation in Ramsgate.

1886    Old asylum demolished and new building for younger pupils erected on its site.

1902    Pupils in London moved to Margate (now the Royal School for Deaf Children, Margate), and building and site sold to the London School Board.

1903    The Old Kent Road School opened, with a school for physically handicapped children on the ground floor and a school for deaf children on the second floor. Properly speaking therefore, this school was a new foundation.

1904    London County Council took over the functions of the London School Board.

1908    J.D.Rowan became headmaster until he retired in 1932 (British Deaf Times, 29 (341-2), 56).

1965    The Inner London Education Authority took over the functions of London County Council when the latter ceased to exist.

1968    The Old Kent Road School closed and a new school, Grove House in Elmcourt Road, Norwood, opened, surviving until 1999.

LCC Old Kent Rd School – Games (click for larger size) I suspect the man on the left is Rowan.

Deaf Pupils Included (among others)

ARNOLD, George (1855-1922) Deafened at the age of 8 and educated at the Old Kent Road and St John’s College, a private school in Margate; on leaving school trained as a tailor with Mr W. Fletcher, tailor to King King Edward VII.

ALLERY, Bernard (1921-93) Team manager and chairman of Lewisham Deaf Football Club; educated at Old Kent Road School and Anerley Deaf School.

ASH, Harry (1863- 1934) Deafened by scarlet fever at 18 months; sent to the London Asylum in the Old Kent Road when he was 11, and later to Margate; designer at the Hogarth Works, Chiswick.

BLOUNT, Hiram (1870?-1932) Deafened at the age of 5; educated at Old Kent Road, London; missioner to the deaf in Plymouth from 1899 until his death in 1932.

DAVIDSON, Thomas (1842-1919) Private pupil of Thomas Watson at the Old Kent Road Institution, who became an artist specialising in naval scenes.

GLOYN, John Pugh  (1830-1907) Son of a London solicitor; deafened between 2 and 3 years old and educated at the Old Kent Road Asylum ; set up in business as a mathematical instrument maker; involved in ‘deaf work’ in a voluntary capacity until 1872 when he was appointed Missionary for the Northern District of the Royal Association for the Deaf and Dumb.

POLCHAR, Mark Michael (1903-94) Pupil at Old Kent Road and Anerley Deaf Schools; founded Clapham Deaf Club’s cricket and football teams in 1925.

(There are references for all the above people  for those interested.)

Further reading:

An historical sketch of the purposes, progress, and present state, of the asylum for the support and education of the indigent deaf and dumb children, situate in the Kent Road, Surrey: with the rules of the society, and a list of its officers and governors. London, March, 1831, see Margate School institutional archive box.

History (up to 1843) The Edinburgh Messenger No.2, p.10-11, 1843

History (up to 1876). Deaf and Dumb Magazine (Glasgow), 1879, 7, 40-43. (illus)

History (up to 1880). Deaf and Dumb Magazine (Glasgow), 1880, 8, 14-26. (illus)

Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1887, 1, 167-78, 197-202.

History, British Deaf-Mute and Deaf Chronicle, 1894, 3, 81-82. (illus)

Teacher of the Deaf, 1904, 2, 29.

British Deaf Times, 1906, 3, 121-25. (photos)

ALLERY, B. Old Kent Road School for the Deaf. The author, 1969 and 1971. (RNID Library locastion: C5664 (REF)

also in: British Deaf News, 1969, 7(5), 148-49.

A mother and her son. British Deaf News, 1997, Jun, 7. (Mrs Creasy and her deaf son John were the inspiration for Rev Townsend’s action; John Creasy trained William Hunter, the Asylum’s first deaf teacher.)

10 Responses to “London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb”

  • 1
    Brief Chronology of the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb « From the Hands of Quacks wrote on 20 April 2012:

    […] Brief Chronology of the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb […]

  • 2
    gordon hughes wrote on 24 May 2012:

    I have some old photos of the laying of the foundation stone of the Margate building in 1871 plus others which I am going to list on ebay australia in the next few days. my user name is gordon6764

  • 3
    Mary Beth Kitzel wrote on 18 September 2014:

    Also see Beaver, P. 1992: A Tower of strength: Two hundred years of the Royal School for Deaf Children Margate. Lewes, Sussex: The Book Guild.
    And Townsend’s Memoirs,
    Townsend, J 1828: Memoirs of the Rev. John Townsend, founder of the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb and of the Congregational School. London: J.B. and John Courthope.
    Both of these contain interesting reporting of the beginnings of the school.

  • 4
    H Dominic W Stiles wrote on 22 September 2014:

    Thanks for the bit about the book! We have it in the library at RNID WTG BVF G
    In fact if you click onto the link with Townsend’s name that takes you to this page of the blog
    which has a link to his memoirs on line.

  • 5
    Marion wrote on 20 July 2016:

    My grandfather was born close to Grange Road, Bermondsey in 1875. He was deaf but certainly knew the deaf alphabet because he taught me! I am assuming that he probably attended this school. Does anyone know of existing records of the pupils 1880-1890? His name was William Terrell.

  • 6
    Mary Beth Kitzel wrote on 29 December 2016:

    Hello Dominic,
    Any chance of accessing the top two in the list above?

    History (up to 1843) The Edinburgh Messenger No.2, p.10-11, 1843

    History (up to 1876). Deaf and Dumb Magazine (Glasgow), 1879, 7, 40-43. (illus)

    I would appreciate the chance to get a gander at those.

  • 7
    Job Platt Barrett, F.E.S., Teacher of the Deaf & amateur entomologist -‘signs turn this dreary world of ours into a “little heaven”’ | UCL UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries wrote on 12 January 2018:

    […] position.  On the 25th of January, 1858 he was engaged by Thomas James Watson and moved to the Old Kent Road Asylum – we are told as ‘the first teacher from the provinces’ (ibid).  He married […]

  • 8
    Chris Verner wrote on 30 October 2018:

    A small entry in The Morning Advertiser, January 19, 1865, announcing the appointment of Robert William Pringle, The Dolphin, 38 Church-street, Bethnal Green as a new governor of the Licensed Victuallers’ Asylum, an institution in Asylum Road, Old Kent Road London. Does anyone know further details about this appointment?

  • 9
    Removed Account wrote on 30 October 2018:

    Not associated with the Deaf – https://pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/People/LVAsylum.shtml

  • 10
    Lenny wrote on 12 January 2020:

    Hi, I think I went to this school in the early sixties, could any one tell if it was a round building, I seem to remember it like that. Many thanks.