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Edward Chidley, Teacher of the Deaf in Old Kent Road and Dublin

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 5 October 2012

Edward James Chidley (1819-1881) was born at Shipston-on-Stour on the 15th of March 1819, the posthumous son of Edward Chidley, a master builder who was killed in a work accident. When he was eight he was sent to the London Orphan Asylum where he stayed for five years. After a period working for a solicitor he entered the Old Kent Road Asylum as a teacher under Thomas Watson. The Rev. Charles Rhind said of him

He was of a most amiable disposition, and we were great friends the whole of the time I was with him at the Asylum, and I never knew him to have had a disputed or angry word with any one. He was very fond of reading, and was nearly always to be seen with a book in his hands. He was considered by the headmaster to be an efficient teacher, and one in whom he placed the most implicit confidence. He was one of that kind of men who said little but did much. (see Obituary)

With him there at the time as fellow teachers were the Rev. William Stainer, and McDiarmid and Large who were later at Donaldson’s Hospital in Edinburgh (see In Memorium p.81).  He remained there for eighteen years then was appointed headmaster of the National Institution for the education of the Deaf and Dumb Poor of Ireland better known from its location near Dublin as the Claremont Institution. He was there for twenty-five years until his death in 1881.

He ran into problems at Claremont. The whole organisation was tied up with meetings and the pupils were expected to learn English history rather than concentrate on acquiring language skills first. Regarding lip reading and oral education

He acknowledged its usefulness in exceptional cases, but in regard to the rank and file of the congenitally deaf it was to Mr Chidley an exploded delusion. He had seen all the successful pupils of Dr. Joseph Watson, who had followed the practice as diligently as anyone could. He had followed it with equal assiduity himself. And if he had abandoned it as not worth the time and trouble, it was not, he said, without reason. He trusted to his own experience. The “combined system,” as a general one, was a palpable failure, and the “pure oral method” a stumbling block.Upon the feasibility and merits of the latter, he entertained doubts, which were little, if anything , short of utter unbelief.He was incredulous of the rigid rejection of signs; he distrusted the tests; the accounts he read were those of a philanthropy without discernment, in alliance with flippancy and plausibility. Qualities which were, in short, the pet aversion of his life he discovered in the “purist” advocacy, much of which was therefore vitiated, and to be rejected as so much rubbish.


Obituary. Deaf and Dumb Magazine, 1881, 9(101), p.69-70. (frontis.)

D.B., In Memorium – E.J. Chidley. Deaf and Dumb Magazine, 1881, 9(102) p.81-2


A Magazine Intended chiefly for the Deaf and Dumb, Vol.3, No. 30, p.86-7

Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1888, 1, 364-374.

British Deaf-Mute and Deaf Chronicle, 1895, 4, 145-146. (illus)

Educating the deaf of Ireland. III. The work at Claremont. British Deaf Times, 1904, 1(10), 217-19. (photos)

POLLARD, R. The Avenue: the history of the Claremont Institution (1816-1978). The author, 2001. (illus)

Annual Reports in Library – 1825-1826, 1829, 1831-1837

Includes report for the Juvenile Association for Promoting the Education of the Deaf and Dumb of Ireland 1830 (within the 1829 main report)

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