X Close

UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries


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


“when we talk about Deaf and Dumb we use a misnomer” – Ladies Christian Homes for Deaf & Dumb Children

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 19 March 2015

The Ladies Christian Homes for Deaf & Dumb Children From Four Years of Age, on the Oral System were first established in 1875.  The first home was in Pentonville Road, North London, between Angel and Kings Cross.  Other branches were to follow in rapid succession so by 1880 there was a home at 6 Victoria Park Square near Bethnal Green, and one at 171 Grange Road, Bermondsey.  Several more opened in the following years.  The homes emerged from the founding of the London School Board after 1871, as there was insufficient provision for the education of Deaf children in London, with 300 not receiving any education (Woodford, 1999).  William Stainer of the Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb, was approached to begin classes at Bethnal Green, in the Wilmott Street Board School with five pupils (ibid).  Children attended and boarded for the week days, but went home at weekends.  Doreen Woodford’s 1999 article is well worth reading, but despite consulting records at the London Metropolitan archive, it seems she could find none of the annual reports for these institutions.

Stainer home 2It may well be then that this single report, with what was the earlier name of the homes, is one of the few of their records that survive.

The 1881 census shows the children were almost all girls – there are only two boys –

Harriet Mealey Servant (Head) Widower 54 female  Housekeeper Datchit Nr Windsor
Alice Ensor Boarder  25  female  Assistant School Teacher Hackney Middlesex
Sarah Barnes Servant  16  female  Gen Servant Clerkenwell Middlesex
Eleanor Rivers Boarder  12  female  Scholar Penge Surrey
Beatrice Allen Boarder  14  female  Scholar Marylebone Middlesex
Mary Welch Boarder  14  female  Scholar St Lukes Middlesex
Elizabeth Johnson Boarder  13  female  Scholar Finchley Middlesex
Ellen Mays Boarder  9  female  Scholar Kensington Middlesex
Alice A. Hale Boarder  9  female  Scholar Rugby Warwickshire
Steller ? Frost Boarder  12  female  Scholar  Chiswick Middlesex
Emily Shelford Boarder  6  female  Scholar  Highbury Middlesex
Emily Harris Boarder  7  female  Scholar  Barnstaple Devon
Emily Alderton Boarder  6  female  Scholar  Blackheath
Eliza Sparrowhawk Boarder  17  female  Scholar  Hackney Middlesex
Sarah Pufferd Boarder  Younger Than 1  female  Fulham Middlesex
Margaret Jarvis Boarder  7  female  Scholar  Battersea Surrey
Beatrice Underhill Boarder  12  female  Scholar  New Cross Kent
Abraham J. Webb Boarder  9  male  Norwood Surrey
Ernest F. Howard Boarder  9  male  Warwickshire

In 1881 Stainer was living at 1 Gore Road, Hackney, and had a number of private pupils (I have excluded details of where they were born for reasons of space) –

William Stainer Head Widower 53 Male Curate St Matthews Beth Gr & Inst Deaf & Dumb School Bd For Lndn
Macdonald Campbell Boarder 18 Male Articled Asst Teacher (School Master)
Ann Honey Servant Widow 66 Female Housekeeper Domestic Serv
Mary A. Miller Servant 54 Female Housemaid Domestic – Deaf & Dumb
Jane Faulkner Servant 19 Female Housemaid Domestic
Samuel Smith Boarder 26 Male Scholar – Deaf & Dumb
William P. Turner Boarder 13 Male Scholar – Deaf & Dumb
Horace E. Sharp Boarder 13 Male Scholar – Deaf
William Randale Boarder 11 Male Scholar – Deaf & Dumb
Gerard Hiel Boarder 7 Male Scholar – Deaf & Dumb
Florrie Mann Boarder 9 Male Scholar – Deaf & Dumb

Doreen Woodford pointed out in her 1999 article, that most of the sources of material on the Stainer Homes, at least early on, is partial.  Stainer was behind the Deaf Quarterly News  and as he “was one of the original promoters of the “Conference of Headmasters”, as well as being on nearly every committee, including some internal ones, most of the evidence is biased.” (Woodford 1999).

In the proceedings of the meeting, Mr. Sydney Buxton said (p.5 of 1880 Annual Report), in a particularly dull passage announcing his Oralist intentions –

I am afraid I have no special claim upon your attention for I have no particular information to give with reference to the work that is going on.  The only information I can place before you has been from attending the Committee of the School Board which has reference to this special work.  I think after the remarks of the Chairman with reference to the Report that no addition is required from me with regard to it, what he said with respect to the Oral Teaching shows that when we talk about “Deaf and Dumb” we use a misnomer.  This is rather a pity.  “Deaf and Dumb” has become a common phrase, but in point of fact, excepting a few children who have a malformation of the mouth, no child is really dumb.  Every child can really be taught to speak if sufficient attention be given to it. […] At the Conference held in Milan, the large majority of the members were of the opinion that the Oral System was infinitely better than the Manual System, and that it was the only true scientific way by which to teach the Deaf and Dumb.  The London School Board has now, after trying the two systems, practically adopted the Oral System in all its schools, and it would be a good thing if it went a little further, and declared that the Oral system [sic] was the best.

Further on, the Rev. Septimus Hansard, of St. George’s in the East adds his ha’pennyworth –

Think how fifty years ago these deaf children were left to grow up as idiots! It never entered the heads of people to educate the Deaf and Dumb.  After some time it is true education was provided for the Deaf and Dumb, but only for those who had reached nine or ten years of age, and these institutions exist to this day.  But the little ones were left to drift into imbecility. […] I have known Mr. Stainer for many years, he has devoted his life to this work.

Stainer was Hansard’s curate at this time in Bethnal Green.  Hansard looks to be a very interesting person – taught by Arnold at Rugby and F.D. Maurice in London and involved in the ‘Surplice Riots’ of East London.  Indeed, “he was a schoolfriend at Rugby of Thomas Hughes, who based the Tom Brown’s Schooldays character of Holmes the praepostor, ‘one of the best boys in the school’, on him.” (St. George’s in the East website)

The homes later went into a decline and were eventually closed.

STAINER HOMESStainer home 1

The Ladies Christian Homes for Deaf & Dumb Children , Fifth Annual Report, 1880

LAISHLEY, R. Report on deaf-mute institutions. VIII. London Board Schools and the Rev. W. Stainer’s Homes. Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1888, 1, 300-305.

Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1888, 1, 320.

WOODFORD, D.E. The rise and fall of the Stainer’s Homes. Deaf History Journal, 1999, 3(2), 27-38.



Census returns for 1881 – Class: RG11; Piece: 353; Folio: 4; Page: 2; GSU roll: 1341076

Class: RG11; Piece: 312; Folio: 106; Page: 59; GSU roll: 1341067

 St. George’s in the East website  [accessed 19/3/2015]

Comments are closed.