“My advice to the young men is, ‘study your trade and learn to do well.'” – Augustus W. Argent, Deaf Printer
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 29 January 2016
There is nothing spectacular or unusual to say about today’s subject. He seems to have lived a particularly ordinary life. Augustus William Argent was born on the 19th of December 1846 in Fetter Lane, Fleet Street. He became deaf aged two, through scarlet fever (Ephphatha 1898 and 1911 census). Aged nine (1856) Augustus went to the Old Kent Road School (Ephphatha 1898). His father Isaac was a printer compositor, and Augustus followed him into that trade when he left the Old Kent Road Asylum, being apprenticed to Messrs. Graham and Lowe. That firm went bankrupt so he finished the last four years of his apprenticeship at Spottiswoode and Co. printers, remaining there for a total of 53 years (Ephphatha 1917 p.496, Ephphatha 1898). During the latter part of his apprenticeship we are told that he found his English deficient,
so he resolved to devote his spare time to mastering the language with the aid of a dictionary. He often sat up half the night reading and studying the meaning of every word.” (Ephphatha 1898).
In his memoir Gilby says of him “Language excellent but no speech.” (p.146)
When he retired, he said, “My advice to the young men is, ‘study your trade and learn to do well.'” (Ephphathat 1917, p.497).
In 1871 he married a deaf lady, Catherine Oliva Broughton (1849-1922), and they had a large family (eight children according to the 1911 census), including two sons who became compositors, one of them serving in the Boer War and one wounded in the First World War (ibid p.497). In 1881 they were living at 4 Waite Street, Camberwell, and according to the 1911 census, when they were living at 26 Constance Road, East Dulwich, she had lost her hearing aged 3 (circa 1852/3).
Augustus died in 1917. In his obituary, Willian Raper said of him, “His influence for good was very great, and he will be much missed in London.” (p.497)
He was an ernest temperance worker, and was to be seen sometimes in connection theewith at the late Mr.J.P. Gloyn’s centres in North London. In former days he was a prominent figure at the debates and lectures at St. Saviour’s, Oxford Street, W., and the Rev.W. Raper has quite a collection of old syllabuses containing Mr. Argent’s name and subjects. He worked under the the Revs. S. smith, C. Rhind, and W. Raper, with latterly the Rev. F.W.G. Gilby as superintendent-chaplain.
Ephphatha (First Series) 1898, vol.3 p.
1851 Class: HO107; Piece: 1527; Folio: 203; Page: 41; GSU roll: 174757
1861 Class: RG 9; Piece: 220; Folio: 8; Page: 13; GSU roll: 542594
1871 Class: RG10; Piece: 426; Folio: 8; Page: 10; GSU roll: 824633
1881 Class: RG11; Piece: 698; Folio: 50; Page: 15; GSU roll: 1341163
1891 Class: RG12; Piece: 485; Folio: 45; Page: 27; GSU roll: 6095595
1901 Class: RG13; Piece: 517; Folio: 78; Page: 35
1911 Class: RG14; Piece: 2472