The Wych School, Hampstead
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 6 March 2015
The Wych School in Hampstead was started I believe around 1902. In the 1901 census the Headmistress, Cecile M Parker (aged 26), was living in South Hill Park, Hampstead, along with Martha S Suiter of Southport (aged 28), both being described as teachers of the deaf. They must however have been teaching elsewhere, running a day school.
Born in Surbiton circa 1875, in the 1881 census Cecile Parker was, aged only six, already being boarded out in London. In 1891 she was a school boarder at a private school in Hilldrop Road, Islington, with three other Parker girls who I surmise were her younger sisters.
The Wych school taught orally, with an emphasis on lip reading. They held an annual, well attended, open day, as well as regularly having visitors ‘drop in’ to watch the children being taught. Some might be kind and say that ladies of leisure in those times probably thought they were doing what was expected and sociable, others might have a less charitable view.
At any rate, the school seems to have been fairly well supported. At the 1905 summer bazaar, on 11th of July, the aims were –
1 To widen the children’s interests in life.
2 to arouse their sympathy for others, and to awaken the desire to help them.
3 To increase their vocabulary.
4 To teach them the use and value of money in a practical way.
The Bazaar was a great success in every way. The children were the stall-holders, and managed very well with the money. Three stalls were arranged in the drawing room – a large one each for Cecily & Claude, & a small 2nd stall for Cliff. Each stall was draped with pink muslin & the top of each covered with green muslin. Behind each stall we pinned up strips of brown paper, & on this we put up various notices about the articles. Cicely sold all the needlework doyleys, tidies, pincushions, some blotters, [jean’s?] boxes, etc. Claude had on his stall all the arving, boxes of home made sweets, “Turkish” boxes filled with sweets, frames, penwipers, some blotters & photographs of the school.
How do we know this? Well, in in 1956 Ronald Hyett Suffolk Missioner to the Deaf and Dumb, found the school book that Cecile used to record the visitors in the period from December 1904 to February 1906. I suppose if Cecile Parker died unmarried in Norfolk in 1952, that would explain how the book ended up in Ipswich. Martha Suitor died in Cumberland in 1956.
Here is the school as it was in 1911, with the school then at 9 Keats Grove, Hampstead, London:
Cecile Mary Parker Head 1875 36 Female Single TEACHER OF THE DEAF Surbiton, Surrey, England
Meta Suiter Head 1874 37 Female Single TEACHER OF THE DEAF Cumberland, Cumberland, England
Jean Bassett 1891 20 Female Single SCHOOL South Africa – Deaf from 6yrs
Muriel Holmes 1893 18 Female Single SCHOOL York, York, England – Deaf from birth
Dora Hubbard 1897 14 Female SCHOOL Leicester, Leicester, England – Deaf & Dumb
Dora Redhead 1900 11 Female SCHOOL Berlin, Germany – Deaf & Dumb
Lenore Dawson 1902 9 Female SCHOOL Unknown – Deaf & Dumb
Clifford Adams 1896 15 Male Single SCHOOL Lesbury, Buckingham, England – Deaf from 1 yr
Edward John Mansell 1897 14 Male SCHOOL Asti, Sussex, England – Deaf & Dumb
Alex Holmes 1898 13 Male SCHOOL York, York, England – Partially Deaf
Teddy Skuse 1906 5 Male SCHOOL London, United Kingdom – Deaf & Dumb
Lizzie Macbean Servant 1884 27 Female Single MOTHERS HELP WANDSWORTH, England
Rotha Inch Servant 1895 16 Female GENERAL SERVANT DOMESTIC Foxearth, Essex, England
By 1923 the school had moved to Haslemere, and we have quite a few photographs of it there.
1901 Census – Class: RG13; Piece: 121; Folio: 132; Page: 34
1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 603
3 Responses to “The Wych School, Hampstead”
Jill Medlock wrote on 22 November 2020:
Teddy Skuse was my uncle. We are still Deaf and proud today. Long live BSL!
Ben Horwood wrote on 7 February 2021:
Dear Mr Stiles
I believe one of my Great Aunts, possibly Grace Horwood (there are 4 other sisters!), maybe together with her friend and companion whom I know only as Vera, was involved with the school. I’m assuming this is how the album with postcards addressed to Miss Parker and Miss Suiter came to be in my mother’s possession. My mother died some years ago but I have only now got round to sorting out her effects and the PC album came to light. When it did I remembered she mentioned my Great Aunt’s (on my father’s side) link to the school. The PCs date from 1903 to 1916, possibly 80ish. I haven’t counted them but I have read them and they are an interesting mix of personal cards from friends, staff and children also on holiday, a few parents plus a couple of references to how the school has benefitted pupils. It also looks like Misses Parker and Suiter provided pupils going on holiday with a card to be sent back to them on “safe arrival”. If you would like the cards for your archives I would be very happy to get them to you. You have my email address above and mu home number is 01502 676152.
So if, ‘… school signs and motions are almost entirely dispensed with, and lip-reading is reduced to a perfect science and is taught, together with speech, with the most gratifying results’ why are the children are still described as ‘Deaf and Dumb’ on the census?
Either a case of some twisting the truth or having your cake and eating it (with regard to charitable models)?