X Close

UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


Information on the UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


Deaf artist, Rupert Arthur Dent, and Jane Besemeres

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 7 June 2013

Rupert Arthur Dent (1853-1910) was born in Wolverhampton in 1853, son of a Stafford solicitor, William Dent, and his wife Jane.  In 1861 the family included nine children who had a governess, Miss Jane Besemeres.  Rupert Dent was deaf from birth, and his obituary (British Deaf Times 1910 Vol.7 p.57-9) tells us that one of his father’s sister’s was also deaf and very artistic.  Rupert A Dent 001As early as eight years old he showed artistic talent, observing and drawing animals.  Perhaps the governess was just for the daughters or the younger children as we are told that Arthur was educated at the Old Trafford (Manchester) Institution under Alexander Patterson, then Wolverhampton School of Art.  Aged 23 he became a Royal Academy student and began exhibiting.  The Royal Academy was not appreciative of animal paintings but his artistic treatment and naturalism was recognised as having great merit.

Dent senior 001Dent dogs 1 001

Fond of history and interested in antiquities, Dent was also philanthropic, holding a Sunday afternoon class for Deaf people in Wolverhampton.  His forte was clearly his dog painting, but he also painted miniatures  – see below – and landscapes.

In February 2012 one of his paintings was sold for $4,750 in New York.

Jane Besemeres (1827-1905) was born on London.  She remained a family friend of the Dents after she left her post as governess (she was a visitor there according to the 1871 census return), and went on to be both a teacher, author and found the Staffordshire Mission to the Deaf (1886).  It may well be that working with Rupert Dent inspired her interest in Deaf education and mission work.  Our Monthly Friend for January 1906 suggests that it was teaching ‘a Deaf boy’ that taught her about “the nature of the Deaf and their peculiar needs”, and we might speculate that the boy was Rupert.  She started a small school for Deaf children, recruited the Deaf missioner Agar Russell (himself a fascinating character).  She founded a ‘Home for Deaf and dumb Girls’ in 1902 at 80 Compton Road.  The Dent family were represented at the funeral and donated £5 to a memorial fund.

Jane Besemeres 001

4 Responses to “Deaf artist, Rupert Arthur Dent, and Jane Besemeres”

  • 1
    Ken Crompton wrote on 12 June 2013:

    Jane Besemeres was a sibling of one of my forebears, William Besemeres, who migrated to Victoria, Australia in the early 1850’s and who also spent some years at Dunedin in New Zealand.

    Another sibling of Jane was John Daly Besemeres, the playwright.

    Jane’s parents were John Besemeres, a London merchant and his wife Harriot (or Harriet) Hoare.

    John Besemeres and Sons operated a warehouse in Houndsditch, London supplying clothing and other requisites, particularly for those travelling to and working in India and in the Australian colonies.

    Harriot died on 24 Sep 1833 within days of the birth of her sixth child. Jane was only 5 years old when this tragedy occurred.

    John re-married in 1840.

    See also this Web site for information on Jane Besemeres –

  • 2
    Lilia Beckett wrote on 7 August 2013:

    My Great Uncle was the missionary Agar Russell mentioned above! I would love more information on him and photographs if possible of him or the school.

  • 3
    H Dominic W Stiles wrote on 7 August 2013:

    RUSSELL, Agar (1865-after 1944)
    Deafened at the age of 12; 1881-86, trained as a teacher of the deaf at the Llandaff School; appointed missioner at the newly-established Church Mission to the Deaf and Dumb in South Staffordshire and Shropshire, based in Wolverhampton, where he remained until his retirement in 1926. A copy of his Reminiscences written in 1944 can be seen in the RNID Library.

  • 4
    Phil Dent wrote on 29 August 2013:

    Rupert Arthur Dent was my Great Great Uncle.
    I would be interested to know if you have more information about him, other than that above. I would be happy to share what knowledge I have of the Dent family and Jane Besemeres.