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UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


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“To provide a Home for helpless afflicted men”… Tower House

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 2 May 2014

In about 1890 there was a need for accommodation for old and infirm deaf people.  To this end, a ‘cottage home’ was set up in Dorking.  The Rev. Gilby attended the opening by Lady Trevor Lawrence, wife of the horticulturalist, on Friday 11th December 1891.  W. Sleight of Brighton, ‘gave a stirring address.’  Our Quarterly Paper says ‘at present there are only three inmates, brother and sister, imbecile as well as Deaf Mute and ineligible for other institutions” (p.7).

The oldest annual report we have is 1894-5 when it was the “Lawrence Home for the Aged and Infirm Deaf and Dumb”, at 34-35 Falkland Hill, Dorking.  The President was the Duchess of Somerset, the Hon. Treasurer and Secretary was A.R. Hutchins of Percy Lodge, Harrow.  The committee consisted of the Revs. H.C. Sturdy, S.C. Lowry, F. Peacock, Mrs. W.F. Clark, Mrs. Quick, Mrs. H.M. Davis and Mrs. Humphry, while the Hon. Medical Officer was Dr. M.C. Clark.

The Objects of the Home:-
1 To provide a Home for helpless afflicted men whose friends are unable to support them entirely.
2 To provide Religious Instruction for the Deaf and Dumb in Dorking and its neighbourhood, about twenty in number.

At that time there were only three inmates –

A brother and sister, William and Barbera Rose, towards whose maintenance the Dorking Guardians contribute 10s. a week for the two. They are of low intelligence and have never had any teaching. They cannot understand the finger language. the rule as to receiving men only has been relaxed in this instance, for reasons that seemed sufficient to the committee. The other inmate is a quiet and orderly old of 72, Charles H. Baxter, who came to us on August 17th from the Holborn Union, on the recommendation of Mr. Gilby and his missioner, Mr. Gloyn. His conduct is in all respects good, and he gives no troubl, but makes himself useful.

One might say the same of Gilby, who was constantly busy with his work in London and on various committees, yet paid the home three visits in the year.  Another visitor was Miss Rhind, the Rev. Rhind‘s daughter.

In April 1900 the home moved to “a very much larger and more commodious house in Wathen Road, known as ‘Whitford Lodge.'”  Charles Baxter was still going strong, but Barbera Rose was now boarded out by the Dorking Guardians (Workhouse).  They took a five year lease.

Some time before 1911 the home moved to Wennington in Essex, and the next report we hold is from 1911.  The lease was to run to June 1914, and we are told it had been for seven years so perhaps they moved there around 1906/7.  The new patron was Princess Alexis Dolgorouki, and the greatly enlarged committee included Sir Arthur Fairbairn, The Rev. Gilby, Arthur Doncaster, Samuel Bright Lucas, and W.R.L. Lowe – in other words a number of Deaf people connected with St. Saviour’s Church in Oxford St. and the R.A.D.D, and with hearing people on the committee as well.  Inmates were taken on from various Boards of Guardians in London, as well as Leeds, Reigate and Norwich to mention a few.

Across the Thames to the south, a suitable house was found at Erith.  At 130 feet above the river, Tower House was near the “Vickers Son & Maxim” factory we are told.

Below we see the house in the 1950s.Tower House 4 001

To raise funds to restore the home a bazaar was held at Claridges’s on May 13th and 14th 1914, with the ‘great and the good’ – wealthy members of society – manning the stalls.  The nett profits were £865 9s 9d.  The new patron was H.R.H. The Princess Henry of Battenberg, the President The Earl of Chesterfield, and Selwyn Oxley (see an earlier blog item) had got himself onto the committee.  We have a brochure of the bazaar and Gilby mentions it.

In 1917 there were 40 inmates, and there was some damage in 1918 “owing to a serious explosion last February, about two miles away” – the famous Silvertown explosion.

Tower House 3 001The reports are absent from 1924-51, but we have a massive minute book that covers 1907-1943, hand written, then a second, from 1943-58,  at which point the N.I.D. took it over.  This second minute book in fact was first used a the minute book for the Managers of the School Board Evening Classes for the Hackney Division in 1882-4, before type-written minutes are stuck into the ledger.  The home closed around 1961/2 and the residents were transferred to a new home in a hotel in Crowborough, Sussex.

[Article updated 14th August 2017]

Annual reports for the Lawrence Home for the Aged and Infirm Deaf and Dumb Dorking; 1894/95, 1896, 1899, 1900

Scraps, Our Quarterly Paper No.1 Jan 1892, p.6-7

Wennington House Home for Aged & Infirm Deaf and Dumb Men; 1911, 1912, 1913

Tower House Home for Aged & Infirm Deaf and Dumb Men; 1914, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1957

Minute books 1914-57

The Great Wennington Bazaar, Ephphatha, 1914 No.22, p.291-5

Click images for a larger size. These are from 1924 when Selwyn Oxley visited.

Tower House 2 001 Tower House view 1 001


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