A Deaf tailor to King Edward VII – George Arnold of Windsor (1855-1922)
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 13 October 2017
George Arnold (1855-1922) was born in Wimborne, Dorset. He lost his hearing at the age of eight, being described in the 1901 census as ‘stone deaf,’ and was then educated at the Old Kent Road and St John’s College, Margate, under the personal tuition of G. Banton and the headmaster, Richard Elliott. The 1881 census says he was ‘Deaf after birth, not dumb’ so he had spoken language. On leaving school, he trained as a tailor with Mr W. Fletcher, tailor to King Edward VII. In 1880 he married Amelia Bartlett, of Preston, Dorset then aged 18. According to the 1901 census, she was partly deaf.
The article about Arnold in The Messenger says that “on leaving school he chose the trade of a tailor and has been with with Mr. Fletcher, tailor to H.M. the King, H.R.H. Prince Christian, &c., for over twenty years. Besides making various clothes for the King, he made clothes for the late Emperor Frederick of Germany, while the latter was staying at Windsor Castle, as well as for other Royalties.
In the 1891 census he was being visited by Henry S. Gander, a fellow Deaf tailor. I wonder if Gander was looking for work, or perhaps he was just a friend from the same trade with a similar background? Had he been staying with the Arnolds on a longer basis it would probably have said he was a ‘boarder.’ Thanks to information provided by Deaf historians Norma McGilp and Geoff Eagling, we can say something more about Gander.
Harry Stonestreet Gander, was baptized on the 17th of November, 1867, in Hove, Sussex. His parents John and Sarah Ann Gander. At the time of the 1871 census he was living at 27 Osborne St, Hove, where he was a pupil at the Brighton “Deaf and Dumb Asylum.” He had lost his hearing through from scarlet fever’, and his father was a gardener. At the Brighton Institution, his Admission number was 438. He was living at Cliftonville, Sussex at the time of his admission in 1877. Geoff Eagling says, “Reverend Fully paid on his behalf £8-0s-0d per year, this is lower than the normal school fee of £10-0s-0d. Perhaps he was a day pupil. No date of leaving but would be around 1882-83 when he was around 14-15 years old. Private pupil at the time was £50-0s-0d, a lot in those days.” I cannot be sure when Harry died. There seem to be a fair number of Ganders in Sussex, but there is a death notice for Lewes in 1910, a Harry Gander aged 42, that could fit. If you find out or know please make a note below.
Arnold was an amateur conjurer, and was in demand to provide entertainments. In the Brighton Gazette for the 7th of January, 1904, Arnold performed at a New Year party held at the Brighton Institution, presided over by Sir Arthur Fairbairn, and William Sleight, who was headmaster. I wonder if Arnold or Gander made clothes for them? He also acted as a stand-in missioner to his local Deaf community, for example in the South Bucks Standard for the 24th of October 1912, we read that the Bishop appointed him to take Sunday services when the Rev. A.H. Payne moved to Liverpool.
As a young man, he had been a very good athlete. Roe tells us he ran a mile in 4 mins 47 secs, at Fordingbridge, near Salisbury, and a half-mile in 2 mins 10 secs at Winton.
George Arnold died in 1922, at Clewer, near Windsor, aged only 67. His wife Amelia had died His obituary in Ephphatha said “Mr. Arnold abounded in energy, good spirits and social magnetism; he was an optimist, a humorist, a man who relished life.”
I cannot say whether any of his clothes survive, but perhaps they do in some museum or in the Royal Collections. It is also possible that there are surviving accounts and other correspondence that might be of interest to those wanting to research this subject.
MACKENZIE, G. King Edward’s deaf mute tailor. Messenger, 1902, 5(5), 83-84. (photo)
Obituary, Mr George Arnold, Ephphatha, 1922 p.701
Roe, W.R. Peeps into the Deaf World, 1917, p.2-3
1861 Census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 1339; Folio: 40; Page: 15; GSU roll: 542798
1881 Census – Class: RG11; Piece: 1195; Folio: 94; Page: 13; GSU roll: 1341293
1881 Census (Henry S. Gander) – Class: RG11; Piece: 1077; Folio: 55; Page: 39; GSU roll: 1341254
1891 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1013; Folio: 34; Page: 23; GSU roll: 6096123
1901 Census – Class: RG12; Piece: 1013; Folio: 34; Page: 23; GSU roll: 6096123
1911 Census – Class: RG14; Piece: 6718; Schedule Number: 175